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Act IV, Scene 4
Launce is sent to Silvia with "a little jewel" of a dog as a present from Proteus. When the small dog escapes from him, Launce sends his incontinent Crab as a substitute. The mischievous Crab immediately steals Silvia's capon's leg and wets the floor under the Duke's table, crimes for which the animal will be severely punished. Launce steps in and takes the blame in order to save his dog's hide. Launce then asks Crab, "How many masters would do this for his servant?" Proteus is not so merciful to his servant Launce. The master scolds him for losing the small dog and for sending Crab in its place. Launce defends himself and his decision, reasoning that since Crab is ten times larger that the lost dog, the gift of Crab was obviously greater.
Hearing that Proteus has lately parted with his servant, Julia, in disguise, enters his service as his page Sebastian. She seizes the opportunity to comment on the irony of Proteus' love: "She (Julia) dreams on him that hath forgot her love; you dote on her (Silvia) that cares not for your love." Sebastian (really Julia) is commissioned to give a ring (the one that she had given Proteus) to Silvia in exchange for her picture. Julia, disguised as Sebastian, calls upon Silvia, who rejects Proteus' advances. She does, however, agree to send her picture to Proteus, as she has promised.
Julia, delighted over Silvia's rejection of Proteus, describes the forsaken Julia to Silvia and enlists her sympathy. At the end of the scene, Julia is left with her rival's portrait that will be "worshipp'd, kiss'd, lov'd and ador'd" by her faithless Proteus. She tries to discredit Silvia through the picture, stating "the painter flattered her." As Julia tries to deal with her hurt, it is a poignant closing scene.
Launce strolls in with Crab to deliver an amiable comic monologue, but the intended message is serious and demands attention. Launce accepts the blame for his dog's misbehavior in order to save the animal from punishment. He is more noble than his master, who unmercifully berates Launce for losing the gift dog and substituting the beloved Crab in its place.
The humorous scene about Crab is followed by a scene filled with dramatic intensity. Julia, working as Proteus' page Sebastian, must run unpleasant errands for her master; even these odious tasks do not diminish her love for him. When Proteus sends the ring she has given him as a token to Silvia, Julia cannot hide her hurt and criticizes the master for deserting Julia; but she faithfully delivers the ring to Silvia, who she finds to be a mild, beautiful, and gentle woman. Julia is delighted when Silvia rejects the ring and says she is appalled that Proteus has sent it, for "his Julia gave it him at his departure." Julia, still in disguise, seizes the opportunity of the moment and pretends to know Julia. She tells Silvia of the misery of the forsaken Julia and gains her sympathy for her.
It is important to note Julia's invented tale of her performance as Ariadne, who is a legendary heroine of Greek mythology and the prototype of the woman abandoned by her lover. Sebastian's invented tale ultimately leads up to the revelation of her suffering as Julia. It also arouses Silvia's compassion.
It is also important to note that in both this scene and the previous one, the nobility of selfless behavior is praised, one in a serious scene and the other in a comic one. Sir Eglamour has devoted his life to the memory of his beloved, who died at a young age. Because he has grieved over lost love, he understands Silvia's plight and selflessly agrees to accompany her on her mission to find the banished Valentine. In a like manner, Launce, who is devoted to Crab, saves his dog and takes the punishment himself. The evil Proteus could never understand such noble thoughts and actions.