What’s in a Name: I Don’t Need a Proteus to Know Which Way the Wind Blows


In mythology, Proteus is “A sea-god, the son of Oceanus and Tethys, fabled to assume various shapes” (Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition on CD-ROM [v. 4.0]).  This is the perfect name for The Two Gentlemen of Verona‘s Proteus, as his feelings, loyalties and affections are infinitely changeable.


The name “Julia” is the feminine of Julius.  More importantly, however, is the reference to Saint Julia, who was a noble virgin of Carthage, who was sold into slavery when the city was captured.  Julia in this play is the (possibly) noble love of Proteus (virgin? … not sure… need to look for that in the text during the second read-through); she later travels to Milan in male disguise and becomes the servant (slave) of Proteus.


The name “Lucetta” is short for Lucia, which is the feminine of Lucius, which means “light.”  Saint Lucia was the patron saint of the blind, ironically enough (given Lucius’ meaning) and yet fitting (on numerous occasions Love is referred as “blind”).  Lucetta provides for Julia the light of “reason” (II.vii.23).


Valentine comes from the Greek, meaning “strong, vigorous, healthy.”  Saint Valentine was Roman martyr, whose feast day was on the same day as Lupercalia (February 15), a fertility festival; this led to Valentine’s Day being February 14.  A Valentine is also defined as “A person of the opposite sex chosen, drawn by lot, or otherwise determined, on St. Valentine’s day, as a sweetheart, lover, or special friend for the ensuing year” (OED).  Our play’s Valentine is a sweetheart and a lover… and also a “special friend” to Proteus.


In mythology, Sylvia was the mother of Romulus and Remus. The name “Silvia” is the feminine of Silvius, meaning “woods” or “forest” … which is fitting as that is where our play’s Silvia is escaping.


He’s Silvia partner in escape from Milan in Acts Four and Five.  He’s also mentioned in Act One, referenced as a suitor of Julia (I.ii.9), but this is probably NOT the same man, and in reality — as many critics surmise — a mistake and missed revision by Shakespeare.  In either case, the name is of note because of its second half: “amour” meaning “love, affection, friendship” (OED).

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