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The Two Gentlemen of Verona


ACT I SCENE I Verona. An open place.
VALENTINE 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. 10
PROTEUS 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.
VALENTINE And on a love-book pray for my success?
PROTEUS Upon some book I love I’ll pray for thee. 20
VALENTINE That’s on some shallow story of deep love:
How young Leander cross’d the Hellespont.
PROTEUS That’s a deep story of a deeper love:
For he was more than over shoes in love.
VALENTINE ‘Tis true; for you are over boots in love,
And yet you never swum the Hellespont.
PROTEUS Over the boots? nay, give me not the boots.
VALENTINE No, I will not, for it boots thee not.
VALENTINE To be in love, where scorn is bought with groans;
Coy looks with heart-sore sighs; one fading moment’s mirth 30
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.
PROTEUS So, by your circumstance, you call me fool.
VALENTINE So, by your circumstance, I fear you’ll prove.
PROTEUS ‘Tis love you cavil at: I am not Love.
VALENTINE Love is your master, for he masters you:
And he that is so yoked by a fool, 40
Methinks, should not be chronicled for wise.
PROTEUS Yet writers say, as in the sweetest bud
The eating canker dwells, so eating love
Inhabits in the finest wits of all.
VALENTINE 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. 50
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.
PROTEUS And thither will I bring thee, Valentine.
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. 60
PROTEUS All happiness bechance to thee in Milan!
VALENTINE As much to you at home! and so, farewell.
PROTEUS 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.
[Enter SPEED]
SPEED Sir Proteus, save you! Saw you my master? 70
PROTEUS But now he parted hence, to embark for Milan.
SPEED Twenty to one then he is shipp’d already,
And I have play’d the sheep in losing him.
PROTEUS Indeed, a sheep doth very often stray,
An if the shepherd be a while away.
SPEED You conclude that my master is a shepherd, then,
and I a sheep?
SPEED Why then, my horns are his horns, whether I wake or sleep. 80
PROTEUS A silly answer and fitting well a sheep.
SPEED This proves me still a sheep.
PROTEUS True; and thy master a shepherd.
SPEED Nay, that I can deny by a circumstance.
PROTEUS It shall go hard but I’ll prove it by another.
SPEED 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.
PROTEUS The sheep for fodder follow the shepherd; the
shepherd for food follows not the sheep: thou for 90
wages followest thy master; thy master for wages
follows not thee: therefore thou art a sheep.
SPEED Such another proof will make me cry ‘baa.’
PROTEUS But, dost thou hear? gavest thou my letter to Julia?
SPEED 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.
PROTEUS Here’s too small a pasture for such store of muttons.
SPEED If the ground be overcharged, you were best stick her.
PROTEUS Nay: in that you are astray, ’twere best pound you.
SPEED Nay, sir, less than a pound shall serve me for
carrying your letter.
PROTEUS You mistake; I mean the pound,–a pinfold.
SPEED From a pound to a pin? fold it over and over, 110
‘Tis threefold too little for carrying a letter to
your lover.
PROTEUS But what said she?
SPEED [First nodding] Ay.
PROTEUS Nod–Ay–why, that’s noddy.
SPEED You mistook, sir; I say, she did nod: and you ask
me if she did nod; and I say, ‘Ay.’
PROTEUS And that set together is noddy.
SPEED Now you have taken the pains to set it together,
take it for your pains.
PROTEUS No, no; you shall have it for bearing the letter. 120
SPEED Well, I perceive I must be fain to bear with you.
PROTEUS Why sir, how do you bear with me?
SPEED Marry, sir, the letter, very orderly; having nothing
but the word ‘noddy’ for my pains.
PROTEUS Beshrew me, but you have a quick wit.
SPEED And yet it cannot overtake your slow purse.
PROTEUS Come come, open the matter in brief: what said she?
SPEED Open your purse, that the money and the matter may
be both at once delivered. 131
PROTEUS Well, sir, here is for your pains. What said she?
SPEED Truly, sir, I think you’ll hardly win her.
PROTEUS Why, couldst thou perceive so much from her?
SPEED 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 140
hard as steel.
PROTEUS What said she? nothing?
SPEED 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.
PROTEUS Go, go, be gone, to save your ship from wreck,
Which cannot perish having thee aboard,
Being destined to a drier death on shore.
[Exit SPEED]
I must go send some better messenger: 151
I fear my Julia would not deign my lines,
Receiving them from such a worthless post.

Next: The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 1, Scene 2

Explanatory notes for Act 1, Scene 1
From The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Ed. Israel Gollancz. New York: University Society.

Dramatis Persons, ‘The names of all the actors’ are given at the end of the play in the Folios; the form ‘Protheus’ is invariably used for ‘Proteus,’ ‘Anthonio’ for ‘Antonio’ and ‘ Panthion’ for ‘Panthino.’

2. Milton has a like play upon words in his Comus: –

“It is for homely features to keep home;
They had their name thence.”

8. Idleness is called shapeless, as preventing the shaping of the character and manners.

18. A beadsman, as the word is here used, is one who is pledged to pray on behalf of another. Thus we are told that Sir Henry Lee, upon retiring from the office of Champion to Queen Elizabeth, said “his hands, instead of wielding the lance, should now be held up in prayer for Her Majesty’s welfare; and he trusted she would allow him to be her beadsman, now that he had ceased to incur knightly perils in her service.”Bead is Anglo-Saxon for prayer, and for the small wooden balls used in numbering prayers, a string of which is called a rosary. Such the origin of the name, if not of the thing, “a string of beads.”

19. On a love-book pray for my success; an allusion to the Roman Catholic custom of placing the beads on the prayer-book, and of counting the beads with the prayers. ‘The love-book’ is in this case to take the place of the prayer-book; some have supposed that Shakespeare is here referring to Marlowe’s Hero and Leander, which, however, though entered on the Stationers’ Registers in 1593, was not printed till 1598, after which date many references occur to it in contemporary literature; Shakespeare directly quotes from it in As You Like It, IV. i. 100.

114. that’s noddy: – The poor quibble is more apparent in the original, where, according to the mode of that time, the affirmative particle, ay, is printed I. Noddy was a game at cards: applied to a person, the word meant fool; Noddy being the name of what is commonly called the Jack.

138-141. being so hard, etc.: – The meaning apparently is, “Since she has been so hard to me, the bearer of your mind, I fear she will be equally hard to you whose mind I bore, when you yourself address her.” Malone points out the antithesis between brought and telling.

145. testerned: – “You have given me a testern.” Testern, now called tester, was the name of a coin of sixpence value, so named from having a teste, that is, a head, stamped upon it. It was originally valued at eighteen pence.

150. Being destined, etc.: – “It is worthy of remark,” says Clarke, “that Speed’s flippancy exceeds the licensed pertness of a jester, and degenerates into impertinence when speaking with Proteus; thus subtly conveying the dramatist’s intention in the character itself. Had Proteus not been the mean, unworthy man he is, as gentleman and lover, Speed had not dared to twit him so broadly with his reluctant recompense, or to speak in such free terms of the lady Proteus addresses.”


How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Ed. Israel Gollancz. New York: University Society, 1901.