David Bruce: William Shakespeare’ s THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scenes 1-2

— 4.1 —

Some outlaws were talking together in a forest.

The first outlaw said, “Fellows, stand fast; I see a traveler.”

“If there are ten travelers, do not shrink and be afraid, but down with them,” the second outlaw said.

Valentine and Speed approached the outlaws.

The third outlaw said, “Stand — stop — sir, and throw us that which you have about you.If you don’t, we’ll make you sit down and we will search and rob you.”

Speed said to Valentine, “Sir, we are undone and ruined; these are the villainswhom all the travellers fear so much.”

Valentine began, “My friends —”

“That’s not so, sir,” the first outlaw said. “We are your enemies.”

The second outlaw said, “Quiet! Peace! Let’s hear what he has to say.”

“Yes, by my beard,” the third outlaw said, “we will because he’s a handsome man.”

Valentine said, “Then know that I have little wealth to lose. I am a man who is thwarted by adversity. My riches are these poor pieces of clothing, of which if you should here strip and dispossess me, you take the sum and substance of what I own.”

The second outlaw asked Valentine, “Where are you traveling?”

“To Verona.”

“From where have you come?” the first outlaw asked.

“From Milan.”

“Have you lived there long?” the third outlaw asked.

“Some sixteen months, and I might have stayed longer, if devious fortune had not thwarted me,” Valentine replied.

“Were you banished from Milan?” the first outlaw asked.

“I was.”

The second outlaw asked, “For what offence?”

Valentine decided to lie. He did not want to say that he loved Silvia and had tried to elope with her — that might damage her reputation. Also, he wanted to say something that might impress the outlaws, and a failed elopement was unlikely to do that.

Valentine said, “I was banished for an offense which now torments me to relate. I killed a man, whose death I much repent, but yet I slew him manfully in a fight without an unfair advantage or base and dishonorable treachery.”

“Why, don’t repent it, if it were done in that manner,” the first outlaw said. “But were you really banished for so small a fault?”

“I was,” Valentine said, “and I am happy that I was given such a sentence. Being banished is better than being executed.”

“Do you know foreign languages?” the second outlaw asked.

“My youthful travel and travail — hard study — therein made me happy and fluent,” Valentine said, “or else I often had been miserable.”

“By the bare scalp of Robin Hood’s fat friar, Friar Tuck, this fellow could be a King for our wild band!” the third outlaw said.

“We’ll make him our King,” the first outlaw said.

He said to the other outlaws, “Sirs, a word.”

The outlaws withdrew and talked.

Speed said to Valentine, “Master, be an outlaw along with them; it’s an honorable kind of thievery.”

“Peace, servant!” Valentine said. “Quiet!”

The second outlaw asked Valentine, “Tell us this: Have you any resources to fall back on?”

“Nothing but my fortune — whatever fate or destiny has in store for me.”

The third outlaw said, “Know, then, that some of us are gentlemen, such as the fury of ungoverned youth has thrust from the company of lawful men. I myself was banished from Verona for plotting to steal away with a lady who was an heir and closely related to the Duke of Verona.”

The second outlaw said, “And I was banished from Mantua because in my anger I stabbed a gentleman in the heart.”

The first outlaw said, “And I was banished for similar petty crimes as these, but let’s get to the point. We cite our crimes so that they may excuse our lawless lives. And partly, seeing that you are beautified with a good shape and by your own report are a linguist and a man of such perfection as we do much want in our band—”

“—indeed, because you are a banished man,” the second outlaw said. “For that reason, above all the other reasons, we will discuss terms with you. Are you willing to become our general? Are you willing to make a virtue of necessity and live, as we do, in this wilderness?”

“What do you say?” the third outlaw said. “Will you be one of our band of outlaws? Say yes, and you will be the Captain of us all. We’ll do you homage and be ruled by you, and we will love you as our commander and our King.”

“But if you scorn our courtesy and our offer, you die,” the first outlaw said.

“You shall not live to brag about what we have offered you,” the second outlaw said.

Valentine replied, “I accept your offer and will live with you, provided that you do no outrages on helpless women or poor travelers.”

“No, we detest such vile and base and dishonorable practices,” the third outlaw said. “Come, go with us, we’ll bring you to our crews and show you all the treasure we have got, which, along with ourselves, all rest at your disposal.”

— 4.2 —

Outside the Duke of Milan’s palace, under the upper-story window of Silvia’s chamber, Proteus stood.

He said to himself, “Already I have been traitorous to Valentine and now I must be as unjust to Thurio. Under the pretext of commending and praising him, I have access to Silvia and can promote my own love for her.

“But Silvia is too fair, too true, too holy and virtuous, to be corrupted with my worthless gifts. When I protest true loyalty to her, she twits me with my falsehood to my friend Valentine. When to her beauty I commend my vows, she orders me to think about how I have broken my word by breaking faith with Julia, whom I loved.

“And notwithstanding all her sharp sarcastic insults, the least of which would quell a lover’s hope, yet I am like a spaniel — the more she spurns my love, the more my love grows and the more I fawn on her still.

“But here comes Thurio. Now we must go to her window, and play some evening music to her ears.”

Thurio arrived with some musicians.

“How are you now, Sir Proteus?” Thurio asked. “Have you crept before us?”

Thurio was suspicious about Proteus’ presence under Silvia’s tower.

“Yes, nobly born Thurio,” Proteus replied, “for you know that love will creep in service where it cannot walk upright.”

“Yes, but I hope, sir, that you love no one here.”

“Sir, I do,” Proteus said. “If I did not, I would be elsewhere.”

“Who do you love? Silvia?”

“Yes, Silvia — for your sake,” Proteus replied.

“I thank you for your own sake,” Thurio said. “Now, gentlemen, let’s play and go to it heartily for awhile.”

At a distance, the host of a local inn arrived. With him was Julia, who was disguised in the clothing of a young page and who called herself Sebastian. They were close enough to hear what Proteus and the others said.

The Host said, “Now, my young guest, I think you’re allycholly. Please, tell me why.”

“My Host, I am melancholy because I cannot be merry,” the disguised Julia said.

This was a variation of the proverb “I am sad because I cannot be glad.”

The Host said, “Come, we’ll have you merry. I’ll bring you where you shall hear music and see the gentleman whom you asked for.”

“But shall I hear him speak?” the disguised Julia asked.

“Yes, that you shall.”

“That will be music,” the disguised Julia replied.

Music played.

The Host said, “Listen! Listen!”

“Is he among these people?” the disguised Julia asked.

“Yes, but be quiet! Let’s hear them.”

Proteus played the lute and sang these lyrics:

“Who is Silvia? What is she,

“That all our lovers praise her?

“Holy, fair, and wise is she;

“The Heaven such grace did lend her,

“So that she might admired be.

“Is she as kind and gracious as she is fair?

“For beauty lives with kindness.

“Love does to her eyes hasten,

“To help him with his blindness,

“And, being helped, lives there.

“Then to Silvia let us sing,

“That Silvia is excelling;

“She excels each mortal thing

“Upon the dull Earth dwelling.

“To her let us garlands bring.”

Julia was dejected because Proteus, the man she loved, was singing a love song to another woman.

The Host said, “What’s going on! Are you more downcast than you were before? How are you, man? The music likes you not.”

By “likes,” the Host meant “pleases.”

The disguised Julia replied, “You are mistaken; the musician likes me not.”

“Why, my pretty youth?”

In this society, one of the meanings of the word “father” was a title of respect for an old man.

“He plays false, father,” the disguised Julia said.

By “playing false,” Julia meant that Proteus was not being faithful to her.

“How? Are the strings out of tune?”

“They are not, but yet they are so false that he grieves my very heartstrings.”

Proteus’ heartstrings were out of tune; they should have been in tune with Julia’s heartstrings.

“You have a quick ear,” the Host said.

“Yes, but I wish I were deaf,” the disguised Julia said. “My quick ear makes me have a gloomy, dejected heart.”

“I see that you don’t take delight in music.”

“Not a whit, when it jars so.”

To “jar” meant “to sound discordant” and “to hurt.”

The Host said, “Listen, what fine change is in the music!”

The “change” the Host meant was modulation and variation.

The disguised Julia replied, “Yes, that change is the annoying spite.”

The “change” she meant was the change in Proteus’ heart.

The Host asked, “Would you have them always play only one thing?”

“I would always have one play only one thing,” the disguised Julia replied.

She meant that Proteus should desire only one woman — Julia — and be faithful to her.

She added, “But, Host, does this Sir Proteus whom we are talking about often pay attention to this gentlewoman?”

“I will tell you what Launce, his man-servant, told me,” the Host replied. “Launce told me that Sir Proteus loves her beyond all reckoning.”

“Where is Launce?”

“Gone to seek his dog,” the Host replied. “Tomorrow, by his master’s command, Launce must take his dog so it can be given as a present to Proteus’ lady.”

“Peace! Quiet!” the disguised Julia said. “Stand to one side. The company departs.”

Proteus said, “Sir Thurio, do not fear. I will so plead to Silvia that you shall say my cunning scheme excels.”

“Where shall we meet?” Thurio asked.

“At Saint Gregory’s well,” Proteus replied.

“Farewell,” Thurio said.

Thurio and the musicians exited.

Silvia appeared at the window of her chamber and looked down on Proteus.

“Madam, good evening to your ladyship,” Proteus said.

“I thank you for your music, gentlemen,” Silvia said. Her eyes had not adjusted to the darkness and she did not know that the musicians had departed.

She asked, “Who is that man who spoke?”

“I am a man, who, if you knew his pure heart’s truth, you would quickly learn to know him by his voice.”

“Sir Proteus, as I take it,” Silvia said.

“I am Sir Proteus, gentle lady, and I am your servant.”

“What’s your will?” Silvia asked. “What do you want?”

“I want to obtain your will,” Proteus said.

“Will” meant “wish.” It also meant “sexual desire.”

“You have your wish,” Silvia said. “This is my will: I wish for you to immediately hurry off home to bed. You are a treacherously cunning, perjured, false, disloyal man! Do you think that I am so shallow, so dense, and so unintelligent that I will allow myself to be seduced by the flattery of you, who have deceived so many with your vows?

“Return, return, and make your love — Julia — amends. For me, by this pale queen of night — the Moon, Diana, the virgin goddess of chastity — I swear that I am so far from granting your request that I despise you for your wrongful wooing of me, and by and by I intend to chide myself even for this time that I spend in talking to you.”

“I grant, sweet love, that I did love a lady,” Proteus said, “but she is dead.”

Julia thought, That is false, even if I — who am now Sebastian, not Julia — should speak it because I am sure she is not buried.

“Let’s say that she is dead,” Silvia said, “yet Valentine, who is your friend, survives; to whom, as you yourself are witness, I am betrothed. Aren’t you ashamed to wrong Valentine with your persistent wooing of me?”

“I likewise hear that Valentine is dead,” Proteus lied.

“And so suppose I am,” Silvia said, “because you can assure yourself that my love is buried in his grave.”

“Sweet lady, let me rake your love from the earth.”

“Go to your lady’s grave and call her love from thence, or at the least, bury your love in her grave.”

Julia thought, Proteus did not hear that.

Proteus said to Silvia, “Madam, if your heart is so obdurate, grant me your picture for my love. Give me the picture that is hanging in your chamber. To that I’ll speak, to that I’ll sigh and weep. Because the substance — the essential part — of your perfect self is elsewhere devoted, I am only a shadow, and to your shadow I will make true love.”

Julia thought, If the image in the picture were a substance — a solid, real thing — you would, surely, deceive it, and make it only a shadow, as I am. Because of heartbreak and my disguise, I have been changed from my real self — I am only a shadow of my real self.

“I am very loath to be your idol, sir,” Silvia said, “but since your falsehood shall become you well to worship shadows and adore false shapes, send someone to me in the morning and I’ll send the picture to you, and so, have a good rest.”

Silvia was being insulting to Proteus. She was saying that he was the type of man who ought to love a mere picture and not a real woman.

Proteus replied, “I shall rest as well as wretches do who wait overnight for their execution in the morning.”

Proteus walked away, and Silvia went back into her chamber.

The disguised Julia asked, “Host, are you ready to go?”

“By my Christian faith, I was fast asleep.”

“Please tell me, where is Sir Proteus staying?”

“At my inn,” the Host replied. “Trust me, I think it is almost day.”

“It is not almost day,” the disguised Julia said, “but it has been the longest night that I have stayed awake and the very heaviest.”

The word “heaviest” meant both “darkest” and “most sorrowful.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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