Misunderstandings in The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Critic Harold Bloom shows much frustration that “everything is amiss in the Two Gentlemen” and that “Shakespeare could not of cared less” about this comedy. I attribute this sentiment not to Shakespeare’s writing but to Bloom’s superficial interpretation of it. The most colossal mistakes of interpretation come at the end of the play. Two lines which baffle most critics are spoken by Valentine to Proteus. “And that my love may appear plain and free, all that was mine in Silvia I give thee.” Most take this to mean Valentine is offering his lover Silvia to Proteus. If I look at the lines closer while keeping Shakespeare’s typical bawdy undertones in mind, I see that Valentine isn’t offering Silvia to Proteus; he’s offering himself to Proteus! After all wouldn’t he consider his mentula something that certainly belonged to himself…which was “INSilvia, that he could “GIVE” to Proteus. And what would make Julia swoon more than her Proteus perhaps looking into Valentine’s eyes, sharing a moment of homo-erotic desire!

Some critics also have a problem with a line that Proteus says. It reads, “what is in Silvia ‘s face but I may spy more fresh in Julia’s, with a constant eye?” Bloom refers to this as “Proteus’ Pragmatism,” drawing a shallow conclusion that Proteus feels like, “any woman will do as well as another.” This is the exact opposite of Proteus’ meaning. Proteus sees that beauty is amplified by faithfulness and mitigated in its absence, expressing this in a kind of epiphany, intimating a kind of metamorphosis from fickleness to loyalty.

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