ACT I SCENE III

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The Two Gentlemen of Verona

 

ACT I SCENE III The same. Antonio’s house.
[Enter ANTONIO and PANTHINO]
ANTONIO Tell me, Panthino, what sad talk was that
Wherewith my brother held you in the cloister?
PANTHINO ‘Twas of his nephew Proteus, your son.
ANTONIO Why, what of him?
PANTHINO 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. 10
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.
ANTONIO 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, 20
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?
PANTHINO I think your lordship is not ignorant
How his companion, youthful Valentine,
Attends the emperor in his royal court.
ANTONIO I know it well.
PANTHINO ‘Twere good, I think, your lordship sent him thither:
There shall he practise tilts and tournaments, 30
Hear sweet discourse, converse with noblemen.
And be in eye of every exercise
Worthy his youth and nobleness of birth.
ANTONIO 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.
PANTHINO To-morrow, may it please you, Don Alphonso,
With other gentlemen of good esteem, 40
Are journeying to salute the emperor
And to commend their service to his will.
ANTONIO Good company; with them shall Proteus go:
And, in good time! now will we break with him.
[Enter PROTEUS]
PROTEUS 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! 50
ANTONIO How now! what letter are you reading there?
PROTEUS May’t please your lordship, ’tis a word or two
Of commendations sent from Valentine,
Deliver’d by a friend that came from him.

ANTONIO Lend me the letter; let me see what news.
PROTEUS 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.
ANTONIO And how stand you affected to his wish? 60
PROTEUS As one relying on your lordship’s will
And not depending on his friendly wish.
ANTONIO 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: 70
Excuse it not, for I am peremptory.
PROTEUS My lord, I cannot be so soon provided:
Please you, deliberate a day or two.
ANTONIO 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]
PROTEUS 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, 80
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!
[Re-enter PANTHINO]
PANTHINO Sir Proteus, your father calls for you:
He is in haste; therefore, I pray you to go.
PROTEUS Why, this it is: my heart accords thereto, 90
And yet a thousand times it answers ‘no.’
[Exeunt]

Next: The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 2, Scene 1
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Explanatory notes for Act 1, Scene 3
From The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Ed. Israel Gollancz. New York: University Society.

8-10. Some to the wars, etc.: – This passage is all alive with the spirit of Shakespeare’s own time, when enterprise, adventure, and study were everywhere the order of the day, and all ranks were stirred with noble agitations; the mind’s life being then no longer exhausted in domestic broils, nor as yet stifled by a passion for gain. And, to say nothing of foreign discoveries, where wonder and curiosity were ever finding new stores of food, and still grew hungry by what they fed on; or of Flemish campaigns, where chivalrous honour and mental accomplishment “kissed each other;” what a tremendous perturbation must have run through the national mind, what a noble fury must have enriched the nation’s brain, to make it effervesce in such a flood as has rolled down to us in the works of Spenser, Hooker, Shakespeare, and Bacon!

27. the emperor: – “Some of the first German emperors,” says Steevens, “were crowned kings of Italy at Milan before they received the imperial crown at Rome. Nor has the Poet fallen into any contradiction by giving a duke to Milan at the same time that the emperor held his court there. The first dukes of that and all the other great cities in Italy were not sovereign princes, as they afterwards became, but were merely governors, or viceroys, under the emperors, and removable at their pleasure.”

30. et seq. Here again the Poet is alluding to the practices of his own time. At an earlier period, when war was expressly conducted by the laws of knighthood, “the tournay, with all its magnificence, its minstrels, and heralds, and damosels in lofty towers, had its hard blows, its wounds, and sometimes its deaths.” But the tournaments of Shakespeare’s time, and such as Proteus was sent to practice, were “the tournaments of gay pennons and pointless lances;” as magnificent indeed as the old knightly encounters, but “as harmless to the combatants as those between other less noble actors, the heroes of the stage.” The Poet had no doubt witnessed some of these “courtly pastimes,” as held by her Majesty in the tiltyard at Westminster, or by proud Leicester in the tiltyard at Kenilworth.

44. break with him: – This use of break for broach or open (the matter to him) is one of many instances showing how much the use of prepositions has changed. To break with a person, now wears a very different meaning.

84-87. O, how this spring, etc.: – Note with what accuracy and vividness the Poet here paints the manners of April. The play was written in his youth, when he was more at home with external nature than with man, his mind not having yet climbed the height of this latter argument. The fine ecstasy with which, in his earlier plays, as in his poems, he dwells on the movements and aspects of nature may well send one’s thoughts to a passage of Wordsworth, describing his youthful self: –

“For nature then
To me was all in all. I cannot paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite; a feeling and a love.”

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