Character Analysis! Proteus from “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”


In the Two Gentlemen of Verona, Proteus proves to be true to his namesake. In mythology, he is the god of changeability, being likened to water which can easily change its shape. At first he is smitten with Julia, then, after visiting Milan, he becomes infatuated with Silvia, which makes me wonder whether if he were to travel more during his time abroad, would he forget about her too? Proteus is confused and doesn’t understand why his strong feelings for Julia have changed so much so fast. He reasons: one nail by strength drives out another so the remembrance of my former love is by a newer object quite forgotten. Proteus’ grasp on the complexities of love appears painfully primitive, yet corresponds with his youthful {we don’t know exactly how young, but between 18 & 25 is a safe bet}  naivete & immaturity. When he says that eating love, inhabits in the finest wits of all, I can’t help but think of the obvious vulgarity that could be interpreted. Proteus is exploring not only love but sexuality as well. The latter takes a firm dominance in the priorities of most young people. If I was going to explain to Proteus why his feelings for Julia have faded into a shade of lack-lustre hueI might tell him something along the lines of…when you’re in completely different cities, there’s one thing that’s undeniably difficult to perform; need I say more. Lust is the tragic flaw that appears most often in Shakespeare’s Tragedies. Prince Pericles concluded that One sin I know another doth provoke; Murder is as near to Lust as flame to smoke. Sonnet no.116 teaches us, Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom. In other words, true love is not Protean in nature; it is Eternal and equally important Unconditional. Let’s just pretend for “goodness sake” that Proteus is just a nickname he grows out of. We witness not only his inconstancy to Julia, but also to his best friend, exposing Valentine’s plot to run away with Silvia to her unapproving father thereby getting his best friend a stiff penalty of banishment. According to Proteus, winning Silvia outweighs losing Valentine, or in another words, romantic love at the expense of friendship is a sacrifice he is willing to make. This tells us a lot about Proteus’ character & maturity; Aiming at Silvia as a sweeter friend. Quid pro quo, this for that. What Proteus finally realizes is that the disloyalty he showed {to both his best friend and lady-friend back home} was an unattractive quality which would repel any future desirable lover. Also, to assume that, when showing interest in someone, that person will without fail return those same sentiments back, seems to me to indicate either extreme credulity or superfluous vanity. Silvia’s disgust at his incessant and uninvited pursuit of her, incites him to threaten to woo her like a soldier. Thankfully Valentine steps forward and prevents that from happening, but nonetheless the primitively sophomoric solutions to Proteus’ seemingly never-ending obstacles he creates for himself throughout his crazy adventure leaves me feeling confident that Proteus has much to learn: about the world; about himself.

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