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The Two Gentlemen of Verona


ACT II SCENE I Milan. The Duke’s Palace.
SPEED Sir, your glove.
VALENTINE Not mine; my gloves are on.
SPEED Why, then, this may be yours, for this is but one.
VALENTINE Ha! let me see: ay, give it me, it’s mine:
Sweet ornament that decks a thing divine!
Ah, Silvia, Silvia!
SPEED Madam Silvia! Madam Silvia!
VALENTINE How now, sirrah?
SPEED She is not within hearing, sir.
VALENTINE Why, sir, who bade you call her?
SPEED Your worship, sir; or else I mistook. 10
VALENTINE Well, you’ll still be too forward.
SPEED And yet I was last chidden for being too slow.
VALENTINE Go to, sir: tell me, do you know Madam Silvia?
SPEED She that your worship loves?
VALENTINE Why, how know you that I am in love?
SPEED Marry, by these special marks: first, you have
learned, like Sir Proteus, to wreathe your arms,
like a malecontent; to relish a love-song, like a
robin-redbreast; to walk alone, like one that had 20
the pestilence; to sigh, like a school-boy that had
lost his A B C; to weep, like a young wench that had
buried her grandam; to fast, like one that takes
diet; to watch like one that fears robbing; to
speak puling, like a beggar at Hallowmas. You were
wont, when you laughed, to crow like a cock; when you
walked, to walk like one of the lions; when you
fasted, it was presently after dinner; when you
looked sadly, it was for want of money: and now you 30
are metamorphosed with a mistress, that, when I look
on you, I can hardly think you my master.
VALENTINE Are all these things perceived in me?
SPEED They are all perceived without ye.
VALENTINE Without me? they cannot.
SPEED Without you? nay, that’s certain, for, without you
were so simple, none else would: but you are so
without these follies, that these follies are within
you and shine through you like the water in an
urinal, that not an eye that sees you but is a 40
physician to comment on your malady.
VALENTINE But tell me, dost thou know my lady Silvia?
SPEED She that you gaze on so as she sits at supper?
VALENTINE Hast thou observed that? even she, I mean.
SPEED Why, sir, I know her not.
VALENTINE Dost thou know her by my gazing on her, and yet
knowest her not?
SPEED Is she not hard-favoured, sir?
VALENTINE Not so fair, boy, as well-favoured. 50
SPEED Sir, I know that well enough.
VALENTINE What dost thou know?
SPEED That she is not so fair as, of you, well-favoured.
VALENTINE I mean that her beauty is exquisite, but her favour infinite.
SPEED That’s because the one is painted and the other out
of all count.
VALENTINE How painted? and how out of count?
SPEED Marry, sir, so painted, to make her fair, that no
man counts of her beauty. 60
VALENTINE How esteemest thou me? I account of her beauty.

SPEED You never saw her since she was deformed.
VALENTINE How long hath she been deformed?
SPEED Ever since you loved her.
VALENTINE I have loved her ever since I saw her; and still I
see her beautiful.
SPEED If you love her, you cannot see her.
SPEED Because Love is blind. O, that you had mine eyes; 70
or your own eyes had the lights they were wont to
have when you chid at Sir Proteus for going
VALENTINE What should I see then?
SPEED Your own present folly and her passing deformity:
for he, being in love, could not see to garter his
hose, and you, being in love, cannot see to put on your hose.
VALENTINE Belike, boy, then, you are in love; for last
morning you could not see to wipe my shoes. 80
SPEED True, sir; I was in love with my bed: I thank you,
you swinged me for my love, which makes me the
bolder to chide you for yours.
VALENTINE In conclusion, I stand affected to her.
SPEED I would you were set, so your affection would cease.
VALENTINE Last night she enjoined me to write some lines to
one she loves.
SPEED And have you?
VALENTINE I have. 90
SPEED Are they not lamely writ?
VALENTINE No, boy, but as well as I can do them. Peace!
here she comes.
SPEED [Aside] O excellent motion! O exceeding puppet!
Now will he interpret to her.
[Enter SILVIA]
VALENTINE Madam and mistress, a thousand good-morrows.
SPEED [Aside] O, give ye good even! here’s a million of manners.
SILVIA Sir Valentine and servant, to you two thousand.
SPEED [Aside] He should give her interest and she gives it him. 100
VALENTINE As you enjoin’d me, I have writ your letter
Unto the secret nameless friend of yours;
Which I was much unwilling to proceed in
But for my duty to your ladyship.
SILVIA I thank you gentle servant: ’tis very clerkly done.
VALENTINE Now trust me, madam, it came hardly off;
For being ignorant to whom it goes
I writ at random, very doubtfully.
SILVIA Perchance you think too much of so much pains? 110
VALENTINE No, madam; so it stead you, I will write
Please you command, a thousand times as much; And yet–
SILVIA A pretty period! Well, I guess the sequel;
And yet I will not name it; and yet I care not;
And yet take this again; and yet I thank you,
Meaning henceforth to trouble you no more.
SPEED [Aside] And yet you will; and yet another ‘yet.’
VALENTINE What means your ladyship? do you not like it?
SILVIA Yes, yes; the lines are very quaintly writ; 120
But since unwillingly, take them again.
Nay, take them.
VALENTINE Madam, they are for you.
SILVIA Ay, ay: you writ them, sir, at my request;
But I will none of them; they are for you;
I would have had them writ more movingly.
VALENTINE Please you, I’ll write your ladyship another.
SILVIA And when it’s writ, for my sake read it over,
And if it please you, so; if not, why, so.
VALENTINE If it please me, madam, what then? 130
SILVIA Why, if it please you, take it for your labour:
And so, good morrow, servant.
SPEED O jest unseen, inscrutable, invisible,
As a nose on a man’s face, or a weathercock on a steeple!
My master sues to her, and she hath
taught her suitor,
He being her pupil, to become her tutor.
O excellent device! was there ever heard a better,
That my master, being scribe, to himself should write
the letter?
VALENTINE How now, sir? what are you reasoning with yourself? 140
SPEED Nay, I was rhyming: ’tis you that have the reason.
VALENTINE To do what?
SPEED To be a spokesman for Madam Silvia.
SPEED To yourself: why, she wooes you by a figure.
VALENTINE What figure?
SPEED By a letter, I should say.
VALENTINE Why, she hath not writ to me?
SPEED What need she, when she hath made you write to 150
yourself? Why, do you not perceive the jest?
VALENTINE No, believe me.
SPEED No believing you, indeed, sir. But did you perceive
her earnest?
VALENTINE She gave me none, except an angry word.
SPEED Why, she hath given you a letter.
VALENTINE That’s the letter I writ to her friend.
SPEED And that letter hath she delivered, and there an end.
VALENTINE I would it were no worse. 160
SPEED I’ll warrant you, ’tis as well:
For often have you writ to her, and she, in modesty,
Or else for want of idle time, could not again reply;
Or fearing else some messenger that might her mind discover,
Herself hath taught her love himself to write unto her lover.
All this I speak in print, for in print I found it.
Why muse you, sir? ’tis dinner-time.
VALENTINE I have dined.
SPEED Ay, but hearken, sir; though the chameleon Love can 170
feed on the air, I am one that am nourished by my
victuals, and would fain have meat. O, be not like
your mistress; be moved, be moved.

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

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

2. one: – On and one were sometimes pronounced alike, and also written so; this is but a quibble based on such identity of pronunciation.

24. takes diet: – To take diet is to be under a regimen for a disease.

26. Hallowmas: – The feast of All-hallows, or All Saints, at which time the poor in some places went from parish to parish a-souling, as they called it; that is, begging and puling (or singing small, as Bailey’s Dictionary explains puling), for soul-cakes, and singing what they called the souler’s song. These terms point out the condition of this benevolence, which was, that the beggars should pray for the souls of the giver’s departed friends.

27. none else would; i.e. ‘no one else would perceive them.’

73. going ungartered: – This is mentioned by Rosalind (As You Like It, III. iii.) as one of the undoubted marks of love: “Then your hose should be ungartered, your bonnet unhanded,” etc.

78. to put on your hose, various suggestions have been made for the emendation of these words: – ‘to beyond your nose,’ ‘to put spectacles on your nose,’ ‘to put on your shoes,’ ‘to button your hose.’ It is not certain that a rhyming couplet was intended. Probably ‘unable to see to put on one’s hose’ was a proverbial expression meaning ‘unable to tell which leg to put into one’s hose first,’ i.e. ‘not to have one’s wits about one.’

85. Set for seated, in opposition to stand in the preceding line. It appears, however, to be used metaphorically in the sense applied to the sun when it sinks below the horizon.

94. As motion signified a puppet-show, whereat the showman was called the interpreter, Speed means, “What a fine puppet show shall we have now! Here is the principal puppet to whom my master will act as showman.”

99. Sir Valentine and servant: – “Here,” says Sir J. Hawkins, “Silvia calls her lover servant, and again her gentle servant. This was the common language of ladies to their lovers, at the time when Shakespeare wrote.” Henry James Pye, in his Comments on the Commentators, observes that, “in the Noble Gentlemen of Beaumont and Fletcher, the lady’s gallant has no other name in the dramatis personae than servant,” and that “mistress and servant are always used for lovers in Dryden’s plays.” Knight, however, believes “that Shakespeare here uses the words in a much more general sense than that which expresses the relations between two lovers. At the very moment that Valentine calls Silvia mistress he says that he has written for her a letter – ‘some lines to one she loves’ – unto a ‘secret nameless friend’; and what is still stronger evidence that the word ‘servant’ had not the full meaning of lover, but meant a much more general admirer, Valentine, introducing Proteus to Silvia, says,

‘Sweet lady, entertain him
To be my fellow-servant to your ladyship;’

and Silvia, consenting, says to Proteus,

‘Servant, you are welcome to a worthless mistress.’

“Now, when Silvia says this, which, according to the meaning which has been attached to the words servant and mistress, would be a speech of endearment, she had accepted Valentine really as her betrothed lover, and she had been told by Valentine that Proteus

‘Had come along with me, but that his mistress
Did hold his eyes lock’d in her crystal looks.’

“It appears, therefore, that we must receive these words in a very vague sense, and regard them as titles of courtesy, derived, perhaps, from the chivalric times, when many a harnessed knight and sportive troubadour described the lady whom they had gazed upon in the tiltyard as their ‘mistress,’ and the same lady looked upon each of the gallant train as a ‘servant’ dedicated to the defence of her honour, or the praise of her beauty.”

166. for in print I found it. Probably these lines are quoted from some old ballad or play, though their source has not yet been found. One cannot help thinking that Shakespeare is quoting from some play of the ‘Two Italian Gentleman’ type; the reprinted extracts contain passages strongly reminding one of these lines.


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