Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
The plot in The Two Gentlemen of Verona is structured around the pairing, the separation, and the reunion of the two gentlemen, as well as their involvement with two ladies. The structure of the plot is a simple one. Act I contains the introduction. All of the major characters are introduced, and the differences of the two gentlemen are depicted. Act II introduces and advances the conflict of the play. Valentine falls deeply in love with Silvia, the daughter of the Duke of Milan. Proteus says his farewells to Julia, his true love, for his father is sending him to Milan. After he arrives in Milan, Proteus quickly forgets Julia and falls in love with Silvia as well. The remainder of the act mainly focuses on the villainous transformation of Proteus. At the end of the act, a lovesick Julia makes preparations to leave for Milan to find Proteus, her true love.
Act III complicates the plot further. Proteus, hoping to further his own pursuit of Silvia, betrays Valentine's plan of elopement to the Duke. As a result, Valentine is banished. In Act IV, Valentine encounters the bandits and is forced to become their leader. In Milan, Proteus attempts to woo Silvia for himself, but is clearly rejected as her suitor. Julia arrives in Milan to discover Proteus' betrayal of their love. She disguises herself as a page (Sebastian) and serves Proteus.
Act V moves through its scenes very quickly. Silvia runs off to join Valentine in the forest and is captured by the bandits. Proteus follows her and arrives in time to snatch her from the bandits. He then tries to force his love upon her as Valentine looks on, hidden out of sight. Valentine confronts his friend and questions his betrayal. Proteus begs for forgiveness, and the faithful Valentine obliges. The Duke arrives on the scene and gives his daughter's hand in marriage to the valiant Valentine. Julia forgives Proteus, and they also plan a wedding. The plot obviously ends in comedy, and as always, Shakespeare has tied up all the loose ends. Unfortunately, the ending seems contrived with the ends being tied up too quickly.
Finally, there is much repetition in the play to help hold everything together. Valentine goes to Milan; Proteus follows. Proteus tearfully bids farewell to Julia; Launce, with exaggeration, bids farewell to his dog, Crab. Proteus quickly betrays Julia by seemingly forgetting her; in a like manner, he betrays Valentine by falling in love with Silvia and disclosing to the Duke her plans for elopement with Valentine. The Duke judges Silvia's suitors on the basis of their wealth and social status; Launce judges his milkmaid on the basis of her money. Julia follows Proteus to Milan; Silvia follows Valentine to the forest. Valentine is captured by the bandits; Julia is captured by the bandits. Proteus rescues Silvia from the bandits; Valentine rescues Silvia from Proteus. Silvia and Valentine are reunited and again pledge their love; Julia and Proteus are reunited and pledge their love. The parallels are obvious and intentional. Shakespeare uses them to further the action and bind the plot into a unified whole.