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MonkeyNotes-The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare
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Notes

This last scene in the play moves forward with quick speed from the reverie of the melancholic Valentine, to the melodrama of Proteus' seduction and Valentine's intervention, to the festive happy ending. As always, Shakespeare, in this last scene, resolves all the outstanding problems presented in the play. In its rush to a happy ending, however, the scene seems very contrived. The scene begins with an unpleasant encounter where Proteus is trying to seduce Silvia. Ironically, Valentine is out of sight but close enough to view the action. He cannot believe what he sees and hears, and when Proteus threatens his beloved, he intervenes and shames his friend for his vile behavior. Proteus begs forgiveness, and Valentine, almost too easily and quickly, forgives him. Julia, after fainting, sheds her page costume and reveals her true identity. She also forgives the vile Proteus. As the two couples, are happily reuniting, the Duke and Thurio, arrive on the scene. Valentine challenges Thurio, who quickly retreats. The Duke blesses the union of his daughter and Valentine. The scene ends with him promising a festive marriage celebration for all.

The ending of the play has been frequently criticized as too fast and illogical. The fairy-tale finish seems beneath Shakespeare, and some critics have suggested that he did not write the final scenes of the play. Even if he is the author of the final scenes, it should be remembered that this is one of his earliest plays, before he has totally mastered the art of drama.


The fact that Valentine's mood quickly shifts from outrage and despair to forgiveness seems ridiculous. In truth, Valentine's mild actions ring hollow in the play, which is quite unlike the more typical Shakespeare; but the Elizabethan attitude about male comradeship is strong. Old friendships are usually valued more highly than love affairs. When Valentine magnanimously forgives his betrayer and even agrees for him to have Silvia, he portrays the value of Christian mercy, a strong belief in Shakespeare's time. He also reflects the Elizabethan attitude that a woman is not valued as much as a man. Silvia is bargained for and traded, by her father and Valentine, much like a commodity. Both she and Julia are virtually silent in the closing scene, voicing no great upset over their direct or indirect treatments. Instead, they readily agree to the fairy-tale marriages planned at the play's end. Shakespeare appropriately ends his comedy on a festive note with the Duke's promise of a marriage celebration.

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