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Act II, Scene 4
In the Duke's palace in Milan, the two rivals of Silvia, Valentine and Thurio, break into a round of verbal bantering instigated by Silvia. Valentine entertains his beloved by making everything Thurio says sound ridiculous. The Duke interrupts the gentlemen to inform Valentine of his friend Proteus' arrival.
Valentine exclaims that if he had made one wish, it would have been to see his friend Proteus at the court. To the Duke, Valentine speaks in praise of Proteus, saying that his friend is quite diligent by comparison to his own idle truancy. He also states that Proteus is "with all good grace to grace a gentleman."
After greeting Proteus, Valentine introduces him to Silvia. Later Valentine confesses his love for her to Proteus. He also tells his friend that he has asked Silvia for her hand in marriage, but that he has a rival, who is favored by the Duke. When Proteus is alone, he reveals that he is also in love with the beautiful Silvia. He admits that "the remembrance of my former love is by a newer object quite forgotten".
In this scene, Shakespeare presents a lavish portrayal of Silvia, making her a picture of perfection. Valentine describes his beloved as a "heavenly saint" and "a jewel". Valentine has fallen hard, presenting a totally different picture of himself than that seen in the first act of the play.
Thurio is the gentleman suitor of Silvia whom the Duke favors, but Silvia does not agree with her father's choice. It is obvious that she has grown very fond of Valentine and is entertained when Valentine and Thurio engage in a farcical verbal duel. The scene is comic because of Silvia's presence for the argument. She obviously despises Thurio and is delighted to see him verbally bashed by Valentine.
Proteus' surprise arrival is filled with irony. Valentine is truly delighted to see his friend and praises his virtues to the Duke. He confides the depth of his love of Silvia to Proteus and banters with him in friendly rivalry, comparing Silvia to Julia. Little does Valentine realize that Proteus is soon to turn vile and betray his friend and assault Silvia. Shakespeare, however, hints at Proteus' negative character at the end of the scene. Unconcerned with his friend's deep feelings for Silvia, Proteus claims to be in love with the beautiful young lady himself. If he cannot control his feelings, he promises to use all of his skills to win Silvia. Although he has pledged his love and faithfulness to Julia, Proteus quickly forgets her.
Although he is Valentine's best friend, he also dismisses him, saying, "I love him not as I was wont. O, but I love his lady too much!"