David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA: A Retelling in Prose — Chapter 2, Scenes 1-3

— 2.1 —

Valentine and Speed talked together in a room of the palace of the Duke of Milan. Earlier, Silvia, who was the Duke’s daughter, had deliberately dropped her glove in front of Speed, knowing that he would pick it up and give it to Valentine, his master.

“Sir, here is your glove,” Speed said.

Without looking at the glove, Valentine said, “It can’t be mine; my gloves are on — I am wearing them.”

“Why, then, this glove may be yours, for this glove is only one — and ‘one’ is only one letter different from ‘on.’”

Valentine looked at the glove, recognized it as Silvia’s glove, and said, “Ha! Let me see it. Yes, give it to me — it’s mine. This glove is a sweet ornament that decks a thing divine!Ah, Silvia, Silvia!”

Speed shouted, “Madam Silvia! Madam Silvia!”

“Why are you yelling, sirrah?” Valentine asked.

“Sirrah” was a word used to address someone socially inferior to the speaker of the word, but Valentine liked Speed and sometimes called him “Sir.” Speed usually called Valentine “Sir.”

“She is not within hearing, sir.”

“Why, sir, who asked you to call her?”

“Your worship, sir; or else I am mistaken.”

“Well, you’ll always be too forward.”

“And yet the last time I was rebuked it was for being too slow.”

“Sir, tell me, do you know Madam Silvia?”

“She whom your worship loves?” Speed asked.

“Why, how do you know that I am in love?”

“By these special signs: First, you have learned, like Sir Proteus, to cross your arms and form a wreath like a melancholy malcontent. Second, you have learned to sing a love song, like a robin redbreast. Third, you have learned to walk alone, like one who has caught the plague and so is avoided by everyone. Fourth, you have learned to sigh, like a schoolboy who has lost his A B C schoolbook. Fifth, you have learned to weep, like a young girl who has buried her grandmother. Sixth, you have learned to fast, like one who is dieting. Seventh, you have learned to stay awake at night like one who fears being robbed. Eighth, you have learned to speak in a whining voice, like a beggar at Hallowmas: November 1.

“You were accustomed, when you laughed, to crow like a cock. You were accustomed, when you walked, to walk like a lion. You were accustomed, when you fasted, to fast immediately after eating dinner. You were accustomed, when you looked sad, to look sad because of lack of money.

“But now you are so metamorphosed because you have fallen in love that, when I look at you, I can hardly recognize that you are my master.”

“Are all these things perceived in me?” Valentine asked.

“They are all perceived without you,” Speed replied.

He meant that they could be perceived by looking at Valentine. His exterior appearance and his behavior showed that he was in love.

“Without me? That is impossible. If I am absent, these things cannot be perceived.”

“Without you? On your exterior?” Speed said. “You are wrong when you say that your follies cannot be perceived: These follies of yours can certainly be perceived, for, without you — that is, unless you — were so simple, no one would be able to tell that you are in love. But what you are is simple — it is easy to understand that you are in love. Seeing that you are in love presents no difficulty to anyone who sees you.

“You are so without these follies — these follies are so pervasive in your appearance — that these follies are within you — they are a part of you — and they shine through you like the water in a urinal, so that not an eye that sees you but is a physician to comment on your malady.”

Physicians of that time would have patients pee into a glass urinal. The physicians would examine the color of the water, aka urine, and thereby learn about the health of the patient. By being so much in love, Valentine was exhibiting the symptoms of lovesickness so obviously that anyone seeing him could diagnose his illness.

Valentine said, “Tell me, do you know my lady Silvia?”

“She whom you stare at as she is sitting and eating supper?” Speed replied.

“Have you observed that? She is the woman I mean.”

“Why, sir, I know her not,” Speed said, using the Biblical meaning of “know.”

“You say that you know her by my staring at her, and yet you do not know her?”

“Is she not hard-favored, sir?” Speed asked.

“Hard-favored” meant “ugly.”

“She is not as fair, boy, as she is well-favored. She is not as beautiful as she is charming.”

“Sir, I know that well enough,” Speed replied.

“What do you know?”

“That she is not so fair as she is, by you, well-favored.”

“By “well-favored,” Speed meant “partial.” Valentine was partial to Silvia and looked on her favorably.

“I mean that her beauty is exquisite, but her favor — her grace and kindness — is infinite,” Valentine said.

“That’s because the one is painted and the other is out of all count,” Speed said.

Women who used cosmetics were said to paint their faces.

“What do you mean by ‘painted’ — and by ‘out of all count’?” Valentine asked.

“Sir, her face is so painted in order to make her fair, aka attractive, that no man takes any account of, aka values, her beauty.”

“Don’t you think anything of my opinion?” Valentine said. “I count her as a beautiful woman.”

“You never saw her since she was deformed,” Speed said.

Speed meant that Valentine was not seeing Silvia as she really was. He was looking at her with the eyes of love, and those eyes changed her form and made her more beautiful to Valentine. A lover cannot see a loved one as she really is.

“How long has she been deformed?” Valentine asked.

“Ever since you loved her.”

“I have loved her ever since I saw her; and I still see her as beautiful.”

“If you love her, you cannot see her,” Speed said.

“Why not?”

“Because Love is blind. Oh, I wish that you had my eyes, or that your own eyes had the lights they used to have when you laughed at Sir Proteus because he walked around with his stockings ungartered because he was so in love that he had forgotten his garters!”

“If I were able to see, what would I see?”

“Your own present folly and her surpassing deformity. Sir Proteus, being in love, could not see to garter his stockings, but you, being in love, are worse off than Proteus because you cannot see to put on your stockings. He walks around without garters, while you walk around without garters and stockings.”

“Perhaps, boy, you are in love because this past morning you could not see to wipe and clean my shoes.”

“That is true, sir,” Speed said. “I was in love with my bed. I thank you: You beat me because of my love, which makes me all the bolder to twit you because of your love.”

Valentine said, “In conclusion, I stand affected by and devoted to her. I continue to love Silvia.”

“I wish you were seated so that your affection would cease,” Speed replied.

“Last night she asked me to write some lines to someone she loves,” Valentine said.

“And have you?”

“I have.”

“Aren’t they lamely written?” Speed asked.

“No, boy,” Valentine replied. “I have written them as well as I can write them. Quiet! Here she comes.”

Speed looked up and saw Silvia walking toward them. He thought, Now I will see an excellent puppet show! Silvia will be more than a puppet because she is using Valentine — in a good way — and making him her puppeteer!

Speed was quick-witted. He knew that Silvia was in love with Valentine, as Valentine was with her. He had seen how they acted around each other, and he had seen Silvia deliberately drop her handkerchief so that he could pick it up and give it to Valentine. Because of that, he could guess that the lines she had asked Valentine to write were a love letter that was not written to another man. Silvia had made Valentine write a love letter for her — a love letter that she was going to give to him! A puppeteer provides words for the puppets, and Valentine had written a love letter for Silvia. Valentine, the puppeteer, was providing the words for Silvia, the puppet. But Silvia was more than a puppet because she had been the one who had made Valentine write those words.

Silvia walked over to Valentine and Speed.

“Madam and mistress, a thousand good mornings,” Valentine said.

A mistress is a woman who is loved.

Speed, amused by the greeting, thought, Simply say, “Good day.” Here’s a million of manners — Valentine is really overdoing it!

Silvia replied, “Sir Valentine and servant, to you two thousand good mornings.”

In this culture, one meaning of “servant” is “a man who loves and serves a woman.”

Speed thought, Valentine is in love with Silvia, and so he ought to show his interest in her, and Silvia is giving him interest. He wished her a thousand good mornings and she doubled it to two thousand — that’s quite a high rate of interest!

“As you asked me, I have written your letter to the secret nameless loved one of yours; this was a task that I was very unwilling to proceed in except that I wanted to be of service to your ladyship.”

Valentine gave Silvia the letter, which she looked over and then said, “I thank you, gentle servant. It is very well written.”

“Now trust me, madam, I wrote it with difficulty,” Valentine said. “Because I was ignorant about who would receive the letter, I wrote randomly and very uncertainly.”

“Perhaps you think that the letter was not worth taking so many pains to write?”

“No, madam; so long as it helps you, I will write, if you command me to, a thousand times as much,” Valentine said. “And yet —”

Silvia was pleased with his response up until the “And yet —”

She interrupted, “A pretty period! Well, I can guess the sequel.”

A period is a full stop: a complete end. However, “And yet” showed that more words would form a sequel. Valentine wanted to be of service to her, and yet —

Silvia continued, “And yet I will not state the sequel; and yet I care not; and yet take this letter again; and yet I thank you, and I intend hereafter to trouble you no more.”

She handed him the letter that he had written for her.

Speed thought, And yet you will trouble him some more; and there will be yet another “yet.” You are in love, Silvia. You will not leave Valentine alone.

“What does your ladyship mean?” Valentine asked. “Don’t you like the letter?”

“Yes, yes; the lines are very ingeniously written, but since you wrote them unwillingly, take them again.”

Valentine declined to accept the letter.

Silvia repeated, “Take these lines.”

Valentine said, “Madam, these lines are for you.”

“Yes, yes,” Silvia said, “you wrote them, sir, at my request. But I want nothing to do with them; they are for you; I would have had them written more movingly.”

“If you want, I will write your ladyship another love letter.”

“And when it’s written, for my sake read it over, and if it pleases you, so be it, but if it does not please you, why, so be it.”

“If the letter pleases me, madam, what then?” Valentine asked.

“Why, if it pleases you, take it as a reward for your labor,” Sylvia said.

This was a pretty big hint that the love letter was written especially for Valentine: He was its intended audience. Unfortunately, Valentine could be dense in matters of love. Fortunately, Speed was quick-witted and knew exactly what Silvia was doing and why she was doing it.

Silvia said to Valentine, “And so, good morning, servant.”

She exited.

Speed said, “Oh, this jest is as unseen, inscrutable, invisible, as a nose on a man’s face, or a weathercock on a steeple! My master is acting as a suitor to her, and she has taught her suitor, who is her pupil, to become her tutor.

“Oh, what an excellent device for attaining what she wants! Was there ever heard a better plan? She has made my master, who is a scribe, write a love letter to himself.”

“What is it, sir?” Valentine asked. “Why are you talking to yourself? What are you reasoning about with yourself?”

“I was not reasoning; I was rhyming,” Speed replied. “It is you who have the reason.”

“Reason to do what?”

“To be a spokesman for Madam Silvia.”

“A spokesman? To whom?”

“To yourself,” Speed said. “Why, she is wooing you by using a figure.”

A “figure” is an “ingenious device.” For example, a figure of speech is an ingenious use of language.

“What figure?”

“A letter, I should say.”

“What do you mean? She has not written to me.”

“Why should she write to you, when she has made you write to yourself? What? Don’t you perceive — understand — what is going on?”

“No, believe me,” Valentine said.

“There is no believing you, indeed, sir. What Silvia is doing should be obvious. But did you perceive her earnest?”

Speed meant that Silvia was earnest in loving Valentine, but Valentine understood “earnest” as meaning “down payment” or “initial installment.”

Valentine said, “She gave me none, except an angry word.”

“Why, she has given you a letter.”

“That’s the letter I wrote to her loved one.”

“And that letter she has delivered to her loved one, and there is an end to the matter.”

“I wish it would be no worse than this,” Valentine said.

“I’ll warrant you, this end is as good as you could wish because you have often written to her, and she, because of modesty, or else because she lacked leisure time, could not reply to you, or else she feared that some messenger might learn whom she loved, and so she herself has taught her loved one himself to write to her lover. All this I speak exactly, as if it were written down and in print, for in the print of the letter I found it.

“Why muse you, sir? It is dinner-time.”

“I have dined,” Valentine said. “I have feasted on Silvia’s beauty.”

“Yes, but pay attention, sir,” Speed said. “Although the chameleon Love can feed on the air, I am one who is nourished by my victuals, and would gladly eat. Oh, be not like your mistress; be moved, be moved.”

Valentine’s meeting with Silvia was not entirely satisfactory to him; she had not been moved the way he wanted her to be moved.

Valentine and Speed moved to the room where dinner was served.

— 2.2 —

In the garden of Julia’s father’s house in Verona, Julia and Proteus were speaking. Proteus was leaving for Milan, and this was their farewell to each other.

“Have patience, gentle Julia,” Proteus said. “Be calm.”

“I must, when there is no remedy.”

“When I possibly can, I will return.”

“If you turn not, you will return the sooner,” Julia said.

She meant that if he did not turn his attention to another woman, he would return sooner to Verona.

She gave him a ring and said, “Keep this remembrance — this love token — for your Julia’s sake.”

“Why then, we’ll make an exchange of rings,” Proteus said.

He gave her a ring and said, “Here, take this.”

“And we will seal the bargain with a holy kiss,” Julia said.

They kissed.

Proteus said, “Here is my hand to pledge my true constancy — my true fidelity — to you.”

They held hands.

He added, “And when an hour passes without my sighing for you, Julia, then I wish that during the next ensuing hour some foul mischance may torment me for forgetting my love!

“My father awaits my coming; don’t answer me. The tide of the sea is high now and I must leave. Don’t cry. Your tide of tears will keep me here longer than I should.

“Julia, farewell!”

Julia exited.

Proteus said, “What, gone without a word? Yes, true love should do so. True love cannot speak; truth is better adorned and honored by deeds than by words.”

Panthino walked over to Proteus and said, “Sir Proteus, you are awaited.”

“Go; I am coming. I am coming. It’s a pity! This parting strikes poor lovers dumb.”

—2.3 —

Proteus’ servant, Launce, talked to himself in a garden. With him was his dog, Crab. Crab apples are sour, and the dog was crabby and sour-natured. Launce was preparing to leave the garden and join his master on board ship so he could serve him in Milan. Only 100 or so miles separated Milan and Verona, but at the time this was considered a long distance that could be dangerous to travel. Launce carried a walking staff.

Launce said, “No, I am not ready to stop crying yet. It will be an hour before I have finished weeping. All the members of the Launce family have this same fault.

“I have received my proportion, like the prodigious son, and I am going with Sir Proteus to the Imperial’s court.”

Launce frequently misused words. “By “proportion,” he meant “portion.” By “prodigious,” he meant “prodigal.” By “Imperial,” he meant “Emperor.”

He added, “I think Crab, my dog, is the sourest-natured dog that lives. My mother is weeping, my father is wailing, my sister is crying, our maid is howling, our cat is wringing her hands, and all our house is in a great perplexity, and yet this cruel-hearted cur did not shed one tear. He is a stone, a very pebble stone, and he has no more pity in him than a dog does. A hard-hearted Jew would have wept to have seen our parting; why, my grandam, who has no eyes, you see, wept herself blind at my parting.”

Launce took off his shoes, put them on a table, and said, “I’ll show you the manner of it. This right shoe is my father — no, this left shoe is my father. No, no, this left shoe is my mother — no, that cannot be so neither. Wait! Yes, it is so, it is so, my left shoe has the worser sole — and women, as is well known in my society, have souls worser than the souls of men. This shoe, with the hole in it, is my mother, which is obviously appropriate, and this shoe is my father.”

He dropped the shoe and said, “Damn it!”

He picked it up and said, “There it is. Now, sit. This staff is my sister, for, you see, she is as white as a lily and as slender as a wand. This hat is Nan, our maid. I am the dog. No, the dog is himself, and I am the dog — wait! The dog is me, and I am myself; yes, that is correct.

“Now I come to my father. Father, give me your blessing. Now the shoe should not speak a word because of weeping. Now I should kiss my father; well, he weeps on.

“Now I come to my mother. Oh, I wish that she could speak now like an excitable woman! Well, I now kiss her.”

He kissed the shoe, which resulted in smelling the shoe, and he said, “Why, there it is; here’s my mother’s breath exactly.

“Now I come to my sister.”

He waved the staff in the air while making a whooshing sound and said, “Listen to the moan she makes while mourning.

“Now the dog all this while sheds not a tear nor speaks a word; but see how I lay the dust with my tears. My tears drop onto the ground and keep the dust down.”

Panthino, Antonio’s servant, entered the garden and said, “Launce, leave, leave, you must get onboard! Your master is onboard the ship, which is anchored in the harbor. You are to get in a rowboat and go into the harbor and join him.

“What’s the matter? Why are you weeping, man? Leave, ass! You’ll lose the tide and the ship will sail without you, if you tarry any longer.”

Launce replied, “It does not matter if the tied were lost; for it is the unkindest tied that ever any man tied.”

“What’s the unkindest tide?” Panthino asked.

“Why, he that’s tied here — Crab, my dog.”

“Tut, man, I mean that you will lose the flood of water, aka high tide, and, in losing the flood, you will lose your voyage, and, in losing your voyage, you will lose your master, and, in losing your master, you will lose your job, and, in losing your job —”

Launce put his hand over Panthino’s mouth.

Panthino moved Launce’s hand away and asked, “Why did you cover my mouth?”

“For fear you should lose your tongue.”

“Where should I lose my tongue?”

“In your tale.”

“In your tail!” Panthino shrieked.

“Lose the tide, and the voyage, and the master, and the job, and the tied! Why, man, if the river were dry, I would be able to fill it with my tears; if the wind were down, I could drive the boat forward with my sighs.”

“Come, come away, man,” Panthino said. “I was sent to call you.”

“Sir, call me what you dare to call me.”

“Will you go?”

“Well, I will go.”

They exited. Launce was ready to board the ship.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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