The Two Gentlemen of Verona is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1589 and 1593. It is considered by some to be Shakespeare's first play,[a] and is often seen as showing his first tentative steps in laying out some of the themes and motifs with which he would later deal in more detail; for example, it is the first of his plays in which a heroine dresses as a boy. The play deals with the themes of friendship and infidelity, the conflict between friendship and love, and the foolish behaviour of people in love. The highlight of the play is considered by some to be Launce, the clownish servant of Proteus, and his dog Crab, to whom "the most scene-stealing non-speaking role in the canon" has been attributed.
Two Gentlemen is often regarded as one of Shakespeare's weakest plays. It has the smallest named cast of any play by Shakespeare.
William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "the Bard"). His extant works, including collaborations, consist of some 39 plays,154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.
SCENE I. Verona. An open place.
Enter VALENTINE and PROTEUS
Cease to persuade, my loving Proteus:
Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits.
Were't not affection chains thy tender days
To the sweet glances of thy honour'd love,
I rather would entreat thy company
To see the wonders of the world abroad,
Than, living dully sluggardized at home,
Wear out thy youth with shapeless idleness.
But since thou lovest, love still and thrive therein,
Even as I would when I to love begin.
Wilt thou be gone? Sweet Valentine, adieu!
Think on thy Proteus, when thou haply seest
Some rare note-worthy object in thy travel:
Wish me partaker in thy happiness
When thou dost meet good hap; and in thy danger,
If ever danger do environ thee,
Commend thy grievance to my holy prayers,
For I will be thy beadsman, Valentine.
And on a love-book pray for my success?
Upon some book I love I'll pray for thee.
That's on some shallow story of deep love:
How young Leander cross'd the Hellespont.
That's a deep story of a deeper love:
For he was more than over shoes in love.
'Tis true; for you are over boots in love,
And yet you never swum the Hellespont.
Over the boots? nay, give me not the boots.
No, I will not, for it boots thee not.
To be in love, where scorn is bought with groans;
Coy looks with heart-sore sighs; one fading moment's mirth
With twenty watchful, weary, tedious nights:
If haply won, perhaps a hapless gain;
If lost, why then a grievous labour won;
However, but a folly bought with wit,
Or else a wit by folly vanquished.
So, by your circumstance, you call me fool.
So, by your circumstance, I fear you'll prove.
'Tis love you cavil at: I am not Love.
Love is your master, for he masters you:
And he that is so yoked by a fool,
Methinks, should not be chronicled for wise.
Yet writers say, as in the sweetest bud
The eating canker dwells, so eating love
Inhabits in the finest wits of all.
And writers say, as the most forward bud
Is eaten by the canker ere it blow,
Even so by love the young and tender wit
Is turn'd to folly, blasting in the bud,
Losing his verdure even in the prime
And all the fair effects of future hopes.
But wherefore waste I time to counsel thee,
That art a votary to fond desire?
Once more adieu! my father at the road
Expects my coming, there to see me shipp'd.
And thither will I bring thee, Valentine.
Sweet Proteus, no; now let us take our leave.
To Milan let me hear from thee by letters
Of thy success in love, and what news else
Betideth here in absence of thy friend;
And likewise will visit thee with mine.
All happiness bechance to thee in Milan!
As much to you at home! and so, farewell.
He after honour hunts, I after love:
He leaves his friends to dignify them more,
I leave myself, my friends and all, for love.
Thou, Julia, thou hast metamorphosed me,
Made me neglect my studies, lose my time,
War with good counsel, set the world at nought;
Made wit with musing weak, heart sick with thought.
Sir Proteus, save you! Saw you my master?
But now he parted hence, to embark for Milan.
Twenty to one then he is shipp'd already,
And I have play'd the sheep in losing him.
Indeed, a sheep doth very often stray,
An if the shepherd be a while away.
You conclude that my master is a shepherd, then,
and I a sheep?
Why then, my horns are his horns, whether I wake or sleep.
A silly answer and fitting well a sheep.
This proves me still a sheep.
True; and thy master a shepherd.
Nay, that I can deny by a circumstance.
It shall go hard but I'll prove it by another.
The shepherd seeks the sheep, and not the sheep the
shepherd; but I seek my master, and my master seeks
not me: therefore I am no sheep.
The sheep for fodder follow the shepherd; the
shepherd for food follows not the sheep: thou for
wages followest thy master; thy master for wages
follows not thee: therefore thou art a sheep.
Such another proof will make me cry 'baa.'
But, dost thou hear? gavest thou my letter to Julia?
Ay sir: I, a lost mutton, gave your letter to her,
a laced mutton, and she, a laced mutton, gave me, a
lost mutton, nothing for my labour.
Here's too small a pasture for such store of muttons.
If the ground be overcharged, you were best stick her.
Nay: in that you are astray, 'twere best pound you.
Nay, sir, less than a pound shall serve me for
carrying your letter.
You mistake; I mean the pound,--a pinfold.
From a pound to a pin? fold it over and over,
'Tis threefold too little for carrying a letter to
But what said she?
[First nodding] Ay.
Nod--Ay--why, that's noddy.
You mistook, sir; I say, she did nod: and you ask
me if she did nod; and I say, 'Ay.'
And that set together is noddy.
Now you have taken the pains to set it together,
take it for your pains.
No, no; you shall have it for bearing the letter.
Well, I perceive I must be fain to bear with you.
Why sir, how do you bear with me?
Marry, sir, the letter, very orderly; having nothing
but the word 'noddy' for my pains.
Beshrew me, but you have a quick wit.
And yet it cannot overtake your slow purse.
Come come, open the matter in brief: what said she?
Open your purse, that the money and the matter may
be both at once delivered.
Well, sir, here is for your pains. What said she?
Truly, sir, I think you'll hardly win her.
Why, couldst thou perceive so much from her?
Sir, I could perceive nothing at all from her; no,
not so much as a ducat for delivering your letter:
and being so hard to me that brought your mind, I
fear she'll prove as hard to you in telling your
mind. Give her no token but stones; for she's as
hard as steel.
What said she? nothing?
No, not so much as 'Take this for thy pains.' To
testify your bounty, I thank you, you have testerned
me; in requital whereof, henceforth carry your
letters yourself: and so, sir, I'll commend you to my master.
Go, go, be gone, to save your ship from wreck,
Which cannot perish having thee aboard,
Being destined to a drier death on shore.
I must go send some better messenger:
I fear my Julia would not deign my lines,
Receiving them from such a worthless post.
SCENE II. The same. Garden of JULIA's house.
Enter JULlA and LUCETTA
But say, Lucetta, now we are alone,
Wouldst thou then counsel me to fall in love?
Ay, madam, so you stumble not unheedfully.
Of all the fair resort of gentlemen
That every day with parle encounter me,
In thy opinion which is worthiest love?
Please you repeat their names, I'll show my mind
According to my shallow simple skill.
What think'st thou of the fair Sir Eglamour?
As of a knight well-spoken, neat and fine;
But, were I you, he never should be mine.
What think'st thou of the rich Mercatio?
Well of his wealth; but of himself, so so.
What think'st thou of the gentle Proteus?
Lord, Lord! to see what folly reigns in us!
How now! what means this passion at his name?
Pardon, dear madam: 'tis a passing shame
That I, unworthy body as I am,
Should censure thus on lovely gentlemen.
Why not on Proteus, as of all the rest?
Then thus: of many good I think him best.
I have no other, but a woman's reason;
I think him so because I think him so.
And wouldst thou have me cast my love on him?
Ay, if you thought your love not cast away.
Why he, of all the rest, hath never moved me.
Yet he, of all the rest, I think, best loves ye.
His little speaking shows his love but small.
Fire that's closest kept burns most of all.
They do not love that do not show their love.
O, they love least that let men know their love.
I would I knew his mind.
Peruse this paper, madam.
'To Julia.' Say, from whom?
That the contents will show.
Say, say, who gave it thee?
Valentine's page; and sent, I think, from Proteus.
He would have given it you; but I, being in the way,
Did in your name receive it: pardon the
fault I pray.
Now, by my modesty, a goodly broker!
Dare you presume to harbour wanton lines?
To whisper and conspire against my youth?
Now, trust me, 'tis an office of great worth
And you an officer fit for the place.
Or else return no more into my sight.
To plead for love deserves more fee than hate.
Will ye be gone?
That you may ruminate.
And yet I would I had o'erlooked the letter:
It were a shame to call her back again
And pray her to a fault for which I chid her.
What a fool is she, that knows I am a maid,
And would not force the letter to my view!
Since maids, in modesty, say 'no' to that
Which they would have the profferer construe 'ay.'
Fie, fie, how wayward is this foolish love
That, like a testy babe, will scratch the nurse
And presently all humbled kiss the rod!
How churlishly I chid Lucetta hence,
When willingly I would have had her here!
How angerly I taught my brow to frown,
When inward joy enforced my heart to smile!
My penance is to call Lucetta back
And ask remission for my folly past.
What ho! Lucetta!
What would your ladyship?
Is't near dinner-time?
I would it were,
That you might kill your stomach on your meat
And not upon your maid.
What is't that you took up so gingerly?
Why didst thou stoop, then?
To take a paper up that I let fall.
And is that paper nothing?
Nothing concerning me.
Then let it lie for those that it concerns.
Madam, it will not lie where it concerns
Unless it have a false interpeter.
Some love of yours hath writ to you in rhyme.
That I might sing it, madam, to a tune.
Give me a note: your ladyship can set.
As little by such toys as may be possible.
Best sing it to the tune of 'Light o' love.'
It is too heavy for so light a tune.
Heavy! belike it hath some burden then?
Ay, and melodious were it, would you sing it.
And why not you?
I cannot reach so high.
Let's see your song. How now, minion!
Keep tune there still, so you will sing it out:
And yet methinks I do not like this tune.
You do not?
No, madam; it is too sharp.
You, minion, are too saucy.
Nay, now you are too flat
And mar the concord with too harsh a descant:
There wanteth but a mean to fill your song.
The mean is drown'd with your unruly bass.
Indeed, I bid the base for Proteus.
This babble shall not henceforth trouble me.
Here is a coil with protestation!
Tears the letter
Go get you gone, and let the papers lie:
You would be fingering them, to anger me.
She makes it strange; but she would be best pleased
To be so anger'd with another letter.
Nay, would I were so anger'd with the same!
O hateful hands, to tear such loving words!
Injurious wasps, to feed on such sweet honey
And kill the bees that yield it with your stings!
I'll kiss each several paper for amends.
Look, here is writ 'kind Julia.' Unkind Julia!
As in revenge of thy ingratitude,
I throw thy name against the bruising stones,
Trampling contemptuously on thy disdain.
And here is writ 'love-wounded Proteus.'
Poor wounded name! my bosom as a bed
Shall lodge thee till thy wound be thoroughly heal'd;
And thus I search it with a sovereign kiss.
But twice or thrice was 'Proteus' written down.
Be calm, good wind, blow not a word away
Till I have found each letter in the letter,
Except mine own name: that some whirlwind bear
Unto a ragged fearful-hanging rock
And throw it thence into the raging sea!
Lo, here in one line is his name twice writ,
'Poor forlorn Proteus, passionate Proteus,
To the sweet Julia:' that I'll tear away.
And yet I will not, sith so prettily
He couples it to his complaining names.
Thus will I fold them one on another:
Now kiss, embrace, contend, do what you will.
Dinner is ready, and your father stays.
Well, let us go.
What, shall these papers lie like tell-tales here?
If you respect them, best to take them up.
Nay, I was taken up for laying them down:
Yet here they shall not lie, for catching cold.
I see you have a month's mind to them.
Ay, madam, you may say what sights you see;
I see things too, although you judge I wink.
Come, come; will't please you go?
SCENE III. The same. ANTONIO's house.
Enter ANTONIO and PANTHINO
Tell me, Panthino, what sad talk was that
Wherewith my brother held you in the cloister?
'Twas of his nephew Proteus, your son.
Why, what of him?
He wonder'd that your lordship
Would suffer him to spend his youth at home,
While other men, of slender reputation,
Put forth their sons to seek preferment out:
Some to the wars, to try their fortune there;
Some to discover islands far away;
Some to the studious universities.
For any or for all these exercises,
He said that Proteus your son was meet,
And did request me to importune you
To let him spend his time no more at home,
Which would be great impeachment to his age,
In having known no travel in his youth.
Nor need'st thou much importune me to that
Whereon this month I have been hammering.
I have consider'd well his loss of time
And how he cannot be a perfect man,
Not being tried and tutor'd in the world:
Experience is by industry achieved
And perfected by the swift course of time.
Then tell me, whither were I best to send him?
I think your lordship is not ignorant
How his companion, youthful Valentine,
Attends the emperor in his royal court.
I know it well.
'Twere good, I think, your lordship sent him thither:
There shall he practise tilts and tournaments,
Hear sweet discourse, converse with noblemen.
And be in eye of every exercise
Worthy his youth and nobleness of birth.
I like thy counsel; well hast thou advised:
And that thou mayst perceive how well I like it,
The execution of it shall make known.
Even with the speediest expedition
I will dispatch him to the emperor's court.
To-morrow, may it please you, Don Alphonso,
With other gentlemen of good esteem,
Are journeying to salute the emperor
And to commend their service to his will.
Good company; with them shall Proteus go:
And, in good time! now will we break with him.
Sweet love! sweet lines! sweet life!
Here is her hand, the agent of her heart;
Here is her oath for love, her honour's pawn.
O, that our fathers would applaud our loves,
To seal our happiness with their consents!
O heavenly Julia!
How now! what letter are you reading there?
May't please your lordship, 'tis a word or two
Of commendations sent from Valentine,
Deliver'd by a friend that came from him.
Lend me the letter; let me see what news.
There is no news, my lord, but that he writes
How happily he lives, how well beloved
And daily graced by the emperor;
Wishing me with him, partner of his fortune.
And how stand you affected to his wish?
As one relying on your lordship's will
And not depending on his friendly wish.
My will is something sorted with his wish.
Muse not that I thus suddenly proceed;
For what I will, I will, and there an end.
I am resolved that thou shalt spend some time
With Valentinus in the emperor's court:
What maintenance he from his friends receives,
Like exhibition thou shalt have from me.
To-morrow be in readiness to go:
Excuse it not, for I am peremptory.
My lord, I cannot be so soon provided:
Please you, deliberate a day or two.
Look, what thou want'st shall be sent after thee:
No more of stay! to-morrow thou must go.
Come on, Panthino: you shall be employ'd
To hasten on his expedition.
Exeunt ANTONIO and PANTHINO
Thus have I shunn'd the fire for fear of burning,
And drench'd me in the sea, where I am drown'd.
I fear'd to show my father Julia's letter,
Lest he should take exceptions to my love;
And with the vantage of mine own excuse
Hath he excepted most against my love.
O, how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day,
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
And by and by a cloud takes all away!
Sir Proteus, your father calls for you:
He is in haste; therefore, I pray you to go.
Why, this it is: my heart accords thereto,
And yet a thousand times it answers 'no.'