Act Four: The Lords of the Merry Men and Rings, Respectively

Act Four of The Two Gentlemen of Verona begins with Valentine and Speed on the run from Milan… only they’re not alone.  They have been captured by “certain Outlaws” (IV.i opening stage direction), “the villains // That all the travelers do fear so much” (IV.i.5-6).  When Valentine attempts to speak, he is interrupted by the First Outlaw, but then the other outlaws interrupt the First one, demanding to “hear” (IV.i.9) Valentine.  And why?  “For he is a proper man” (IV.i.10)… so Valentine is a good-lookin’ guy.

Valentine tells them that he has nothing for them to take save his clothes, and they ask him where he’s going, where he’s from, and how long he’s there.  Now, if we can believe Valentine (and we’ll see in a moment why that’s in question), he’s been in Milan for “some sixteen months” (IV.i.21)–which would probably be the gap between Act One, Scenes Two and Three–but he’s been banished since.  When the outlaws ask for what crime, Valentine tells them that he “killed a man, whose death (he) much repent(s)” (IV.i.27).

uh, this would be why we can call the 16-month timeframe into question… a question I’m going to want to address at some time, just not today

The First Outlaw seems unimpressed, questioning his repenting, and calling the murder “so small a fault” (IV.i.31). But the other two outlaws have a different approach: the Second asks if Valentine knows any other languages (“the tongues” [IV.i.33]), and when Valentine answers in the affirmative, the Third one announces that Valentine should be the “king for (their) wild faction” (IV.i.37) of outlaws.  And if you thought the hardened First Outlaw would be tougher to convince, you’d be… wrong: “We’ll have him” (IV.i.38), he immediately replies.

We learn from the outlaws their history: the Third was banished from Verona for “practicing to steal away a lady” (IV.i.49), the Second for stabbing a man in the heart (IV.i.52), and the First for “such like petty crimes as these” (IV.i.53).

it’s a weird mix of crimes, eh?

They ask Valentine to be their “general… the captain” (IV.i.62, 66).  Of course, the First reminds him, “But if thou scorn our courtesy, thou diest” (IV.i.69), and the Second confirms this to be true: “Thou shalt not live to brag what we have offered” (IV.i.70).

why do I get a Princess Bride vibe?  “Oh, I’ll probably kill you in the morning, Wesley…”

Valentine accepts this offer he can’t refuse, but on one condition: they “do no outrages” (IV.i.72) on women or poor people.  The Third readily agrees (of course he would, he of the elopement-spurred banishment), saying they “detest such vile, base practices” (IV.i.74).  And off they go, a merry band of outlaws… a pretty preposterous crew.

Act Four, Scene Two finds Proteus under Silvia’s window, bemoaning in soliloquy that she isn’t “to be corrupted with (his) worthless gifts” (IV.ii.6), rather “twit(ting him) with (his) falsehood” to Valentine (IV.ii.8) and telling him to “think on how (he had) been forsworn // In breaking faith with Julia whom (he) loved” (IV.ii.10-11).

he told Silvia about JULIA??? what a moron…

The sad thing (or comic, depending on your point of view) is that “the more she spurns (his) love, // The more it grows, and fawneth on her still” (IV.ii.14-15).

Into this self-pity party come Thurio and musicians, as they are about to perform an Elizabethan version of John Cusack under Ione Skye’s window in Say Anything (Thurio is still under the delusion that Proteus is helping him with Silvia).  As the band sets up, who should arrive but Julia (in disguise as the boy Sebastian) and her guide, the Host of the tavern where she’s staying, and they see the gathering and listen to the song.  And Peter Gabriel it isn’t… it’s a sing-songy doggerel, full of compliments and fawning.

When the Host asks why Sebastian is so sad, he–er, SHE–responds that the “musician likes (her) not (because) he plays false” (IV.ii.56, 58).  There is some comic misunderstanding when the Host takes this to mean that the music was out of tune, but we understand that she’s talking about a different kind of falsehood in regards to Proteus.  When she asks the host if Proteus is often making such protestations of love to Silvia, the Host tells, Proteus “loved her out of all nick” (IV.ii.73-74), and if (s)he wanted to know more, (s)he only had to search out Launce and his dog, which will “carry a present to his lady” (IV.ii.77-78) tomorrow.

Proteus sends Thurio and the musicians away, so that he can continue to woo Silvia in Thurio’s name (at least that’s what Thurio thinks).  We (and Julia and the Host) witness the very UNsuccessful wooing, with Silvia reprimanding Proteus for his betrayals to both Valentine and Julia.  The only victory Proteus gains is the promise that Silvia will give him a picture of herself the next day.

Act Four’s short Scene Three introduces Eglamour (check out the last half of that name, boys and girls: amour … nice for a romantic comedy, huh?).  When Silvia arrives, we learn that she has employed him to help her escape her father and Milan, and head into the wilderness to find Valentine.

The fourth and final scene in Act Four begins with another canine soliloquy delivered by Launce and his dog Crab, discussing Launce’s loyalty to Crab (and not the other way around):  He’s been locked away for two days because Crab urinated on the Duke’s floor (when Launce was trying to deliver a different dog to Silvia as a gift from Proteus); Launce, in a moment of sacrifice for his best friend, said that the dog didn’t do the pissing, but he himself did, so locked away he was.

Proteus arrives with his newly hired page Sebastian (Julia in disguise). Proteus is non-too-pleased with Launce’s two-day absence, and less thrilled with the fact that during that time, the dog that was to be his present has disappeared.  He sends Launce off to find the dog, and in Launce’s place plans to employ Sebastian on an errand to Silvia: he wants the “boy” to deliver “this ring… to Madam Silvia — // She loved me well delivered it to me” (IV.iv.68, 69-70).  So it appears that he gives Sebastian (who is Julia in disguise) the ring that Julia had given Proteus, so that Sebastian can give the ring to Silvia.  When Sebastian questions Proteus on Julia, Proteus’ responses are forthright if not morally so, and Sebastian pities the state of the poor, long-gone Julia.  Proteus pays no heed to Sebastian’s statements, telling him only to deliver the ring and a letter, and to retrieve the picture from Silvia.  Proteus then leaves.

Julia laments on her state, and then welcomes Silvia onto the stage.  When “Sebastian” informs Silvia that he is there from Proteus, she knows what he’s there for: the picture.  Sebastian begins to give Silvia a letter, then says no, and gives another letter instead (there seems to be some cognitive dissonance regarding the letters and the rings in this scene, but it’s only the reader who feels it, the characters have no such problems).  When Sebastian attempt to give Silvia the ring, she refuses it, saying that Proteus has hurt Julia badly enough by betraying her, Silvia will play no role in hurting Julia further by accepting the ring (IV.iv.135).

When Sebastian says, “She thanks you” (IV.iv.137), Silvia questions the connection between Sebastian and Julia: “Do you know her? (IV.iv.141), she asks; Sebastian responds, “Almost as well as I do know myself” (IV.iv.142).  After they commiserate over the state of the far-off Julia, Silvia pays Sebastian for his pains and sends him back to Proteus, leaving Julia alone on stage, to compare herself with Silvia (she finds herself better looking than Silvia (“her forehead’s low, and mine’s as high” [IV.iv.192]), and to wish that the situation was different than what it is–she wishes she could “scratched out (the picture’s) unseeing eyes // To may my master out of love with” (IV.iv.203-204) Silvia.  But Julia is too good for that: she will “use (the picture) kindly” (IV.iv.201).

And the scene, and penultimate act, ends…