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Proteus is one of the two gentlemen of Verona. At the outset of the play, he vows to be deeply in love with Julia. His emotions for her tie him to Verona, and he refuses to travel with his best friend Valentine, who is headed for the court of Milan. Ironically, Proteus' father soon insists that his son go to Milan to be "tried and tutored in the world." Proteus does not protest his father's wishes and makes plans for his departure. He goes to Julia and romantically pledges his eternal love and trades rings with her as a symbol of the constancy of their devotion to one another.
In Milan, Proteus' fickleness quickly surfaces. He almost immediately falls in love with the beautiful Silvia, betraying both Valentine and Julia. His selfishness is also seen. In order to clear the way for his own pursuit of Silvia, he betrays Valentine by telling the Duke of his plans to elope with Silvia. As Proteus has hoped, the Duke banishes Valentine from Milan. Proteus immediately begins to woo Silvia. He advises the Duke to demean Valentine to his daughter so that she will forget him; then he volunteers to be the one to slander his best friend to her. Proteus also tricks Thurio into paying for musicians to serenade Silvia while Proteus himself woos her for his own. Silvia, however, is horrified that Proteus has so easily forgotten Julia. In order to make himself look better, he lies to Silvia and tells her that Julia is dead.
When Proteus hears of Silvia's escape from Milan he follows her. In the forest he rescues her from the outlaws only to begin wooing her roughly. He tells her that he will have his way with her no matter what. Valentine, who is in the forest out of sight, watches and listens in disbelief. Caught red-handed, Proteus is overcome by a sense of guilt and pleads forgiveness. Julia, who has been a silent witness while disguised as the page Sebastian, faints. When she recovers, she produces the two rings that Proteus immediately recognizes as those he has traded with his beloved. He begs forgiveness from Julia and is reconciled with her. Despite his villainy, the play concludes happily for Proteus.