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Two Gentlemen of Verona

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Act III, Scene 1

Milan. The DUKE’s palace.



  • Duke of Milan. Sir Thurio, give us leave, I pray, awhile;
    We have some secrets to confer about.
    [Exit THURIO] 1070
    Now, tell me, Proteus, what's your will with me?
  • Proteus. My gracious lord, that which I would discover
    The law of friendship bids me to conceal;
    But when I call to mind your gracious favours
    Done to me, undeserving as I am, 1075
    My duty pricks me on to utter that
    Which else no worldly good should draw from me.
    Know, worthy prince, Sir Valentine, my friend,
    This night intends to steal away your daughter:
    Myself am one made privy to the plot. 1080
    I know you have determined to bestow her
    On Thurio, whom your gentle daughter hates;
    And should she thus be stol'n away from you,
    It would be much vexation to your age.
    Thus, for my duty's sake, I rather chose 1085
    To cross my friend in his intended drift
    Than, by concealing it, heap on your head
    A pack of sorrows which would press you down,
    Being unprevented, to your timeless grave.
  • Duke of Milan. Proteus, I thank thee for thine honest care; 1090
    Which to requite, command me while I live.
    This love of theirs myself have often seen,
    Haply when they have judged me fast asleep,
    And oftentimes have purposed to forbid
    Sir Valentine her company and my court: 1095
    But fearing lest my jealous aim might err
    And so unworthily disgrace the man,
    A rashness that I ever yet have shunn'd,
    I gave him gentle looks, thereby to find
    That which thyself hast now disclosed to me. 1100
    And, that thou mayst perceive my fear of this,
    Knowing that tender youth is soon suggested,
    I nightly lodge her in an upper tower,
    The key whereof myself have ever kept;
    And thence she cannot be convey'd away. 1105
  • Proteus. Know, noble lord, they have devised a mean
    How he her chamber-window will ascend
    And with a corded ladder fetch her down;
    For which the youthful lover now is gone
    And this way comes he with it presently; 1110
    Where, if it please you, you may intercept him.
    But, good my Lord, do it so cunningly
    That my discovery be not aimed at;
    For love of you, not hate unto my friend,
    Hath made me publisher of this pretence. 1115
  • Duke of Milan. Upon mine honour, he shall never know
    That I had any light from thee of this.
  • Proteus. Adieu, my Lord; Sir Valentine is coming.



  • Valentine. Please it your grace, there is a messenger
    That stays to bear my letters to my friends,
    And I am going to deliver them.
  • Valentine. The tenor of them doth but signify
    My health and happy being at your court.
  • Duke of Milan. Nay then, no matter; stay with me awhile;
    I am to break with thee of some affairs
    That touch me near, wherein thou must be secret. 1130
    'Tis not unknown to thee that I have sought
    To match my friend Sir Thurio to my daughter.
  • Valentine. I know it well, my Lord; and, sure, the match
    Were rich and honourable; besides, the gentleman
    Is full of virtue, bounty, worth and qualities 1135
    Beseeming such a wife as your fair daughter:
    Cannot your Grace win her to fancy him?
  • Duke of Milan. No, trust me; she is peevish, sullen, froward,
    Proud, disobedient, stubborn, lacking duty,
    Neither regarding that she is my child 1140
    Nor fearing me as if I were her father;
    And, may I say to thee, this pride of hers,
    Upon advice, hath drawn my love from her;
    And, where I thought the remnant of mine age
    Should have been cherish'd by her child-like duty, 1145
    I now am full resolved to take a wife
    And turn her out to who will take her in:
    Then let her beauty be her wedding-dower;
    For me and my possessions she esteems not.
  • Valentine. What would your Grace have me to do in this? 1150
  • Duke of Milan. There is a lady in Verona here
    Whom I affect; but she is nice and coy
    And nought esteems my aged eloquence:
    Now therefore would I have thee to my tutor—
    For long agone I have forgot to court; 1155
    Besides, the fashion of the time is changed—
    How and which way I may bestow myself
    To be regarded in her sun-bright eye.
  • Valentine. Win her with gifts, if she respect not words:
    Dumb jewels often in their silent kind 1160
    More than quick words do move a woman's mind.
  • Valentine. A woman sometimes scorns what best contents her.
    Send her another; never give her o'er;
    For scorn at first makes after-love the more. 1165
    If she do frown, 'tis not in hate of you,
    But rather to beget more love in you:
    If she do chide, 'tis not to have you gone;
    For why, the fools are mad, if left alone.
    Take no repulse, whatever she doth say; 1170
    For 'get you gone,' she doth not mean 'away!'
    Flatter and praise, commend, extol their graces;
    Though ne'er so black, say they have angels' faces.
    That man that hath a tongue, I say, is no man,
    If with his tongue he cannot win a woman. 1175
  • Duke of Milan. But she I mean is promised by her friends
    Unto a youthful gentleman of worth,
    And kept severely from resort of men,
    That no man hath access by day to her.
  • Valentine. Why, then, I would resort to her by night. 1180
  • Duke of Milan. Ay, but the doors be lock'd and keys kept safe,
    That no man hath recourse to her by night.
  • Valentine. What lets but one may enter at her window?
  • Duke of Milan. Her chamber is aloft, far from the ground,
    And built so shelving that one cannot climb it 1185
    Without apparent hazard of his life.
  • Valentine. Why then, a ladder quaintly made of cords,
    To cast up, with a pair of anchoring hooks,
    Would serve to scale another Hero's tower,
    So bold Leander would adventure it. 1190
  • Duke of Milan. Now, as thou art a gentleman of blood,
    Advise me where I may have such a ladder.
  • Valentine. When would you use it? pray, sir, tell me that.
  • Duke of Milan. This very night; for Love is like a child,
    That longs for every thing that he can come by. 1195
  • Valentine. By seven o'clock I'll get you such a ladder.
  • Duke of Milan. But, hark thee; I will go to her alone:
    How shall I best convey the ladder thither?
  • Valentine. It will be light, my lord, that you may bear it
    Under a cloak that is of any length. 1200
  • Duke of Milan. Then let me see thy cloak:
    I'll get me one of such another length.
  • Valentine. Why, any cloak will serve the turn, my lord. 1205
  • Duke of Milan. How shall I fashion me to wear a cloak?
    I pray thee, let me feel thy cloak upon me.
    What letter is this same? What's here? 'To Silvia'!
    And here an engine fit for my proceeding.
    I'll be so bold to break the seal for once. 1210
    'My thoughts do harbour with my Silvia nightly,
    And slaves they are to me that send them flying:
    O, could their master come and go as lightly,
    Himself would lodge where senseless they are lying! 1215
    My herald thoughts in thy pure bosom rest them:
    While I, their king, that hither them importune,
    Do curse the grace that with such grace hath bless'd them,
    Because myself do want my servants' fortune:
    I curse myself, for they are sent by me, 1220
    That they should harbour where their lord would be.'
    What's here?
    'Silvia, this night I will enfranchise thee.'
    'Tis so; and here's the ladder for the purpose.
    Why, Phaeton,—for thou art Merops' son,— 1225
    Wilt thou aspire to guide the heavenly car
    And with thy daring folly burn the world?
    Wilt thou reach stars, because they shine on thee?
    Go, base intruder! overweening slave!
    Bestow thy fawning smiles on equal mates, 1230
    And think my patience, more than thy desert,
    Is privilege for thy departure hence:
    Thank me for this more than for all the favours
    Which all too much I have bestow'd on thee.
    But if thou linger in my territories 1235
    Longer than swiftest expedition
    Will give thee time to leave our royal court,
    By heaven! my wrath shall far exceed the love
    I ever bore my daughter or thyself.
    Be gone! I will not hear thy vain excuse; 1240
    But, as thou lovest thy life, make speed from hence.


  • Valentine. And why not death rather than living torment?
    To die is to be banish'd from myself;
    And Silvia is myself: banish'd from her 1245
    Is self from self: a deadly banishment!
    What light is light, if Silvia be not seen?
    What joy is joy, if Silvia be not by?
    Unless it be to think that she is by
    And feed upon the shadow of perfection 1250
    Except I be by Silvia in the night,
    There is no music in the nightingale;
    Unless I look on Silvia in the day,
    There is no day for me to look upon;
    She is my essence, and I leave to be, 1255
    If I be not by her fair influence
    Foster'd, illumined, cherish'd, kept alive.
    I fly not death, to fly his deadly doom:
    Tarry I here, I but attend on death:
    But, fly I hence, I fly away from life. 1260


  • Proteus. Run, boy, run, run, and seek him out.
  • Launce. Him we go to find: there's not a hair on's head 1265
    but 'tis a Valentine.
  • Launce. Can nothing speak? Master, shall I strike?
  • Launce. Why, sir, I'll strike nothing: I pray you,—
  • Proteus. Sirrah, I say, forbear. Friend Valentine, a word.
  • Valentine. My ears are stopt and cannot hear good news,
    So much of bad already hath possess'd them. 1280
  • Proteus. Then in dumb silence will I bury mine,
    For they are harsh, untuneable and bad.
  • Valentine. No Valentine, indeed, for sacred Silvia. 1285
    Hath she forsworn me?
  • Valentine. No Valentine, if Silvia have forsworn me.
    What is your news?
  • Launce. Sir, there is a proclamation that you are vanished. 1290
  • Proteus. That thou art banished—O, that's the news!—
    From hence, from Silvia and from me thy friend.
  • Valentine. O, I have fed upon this woe already,
    And now excess of it will make me surfeit.
    Doth Silvia know that I am banished? 1295
  • Proteus. Ay, ay; and she hath offer'd to the doom—
    Which, unreversed, stands in effectual force—
    A sea of melting pearl, which some call tears:
    Those at her father's churlish feet she tender'd;
    With them, upon her knees, her humble self; 1300
    Wringing her hands, whose whiteness so became them
    As if but now they waxed pale for woe:
    But neither bended knees, pure hands held up,
    Sad sighs, deep groans, nor silver-shedding tears,
    Could penetrate her uncompassionate sire; 1305
    But Valentine, if he be ta'en, must die.
    Besides, her intercession chafed him so,
    When she for thy repeal was suppliant,
    That to close prison he commanded her,
    With many bitter threats of biding there. 1310
  • Valentine. No more; unless the next word that thou speak'st
    Have some malignant power upon my life:
    If so, I pray thee, breathe it in mine ear,
    As ending anthem of my endless dolour.
  • Proteus. Cease to lament for that thou canst not help, 1315
    And study help for that which thou lament'st.
    Time is the nurse and breeder of all good.
    Here if thou stay, thou canst not see thy love;
    Besides, thy staying will abridge thy life.
    Hope is a lover's staff; walk hence with that 1320
    And manage it against despairing thoughts.
    Thy letters may be here, though thou art hence;
    Which, being writ to me, shall be deliver'd
    Even in the milk-white bosom of thy love.
    The time now serves not to expostulate: 1325
    Come, I'll convey thee through the city-gate;
    And, ere I part with thee, confer at large
    Of all that may concern thy love-affairs.
    As thou lovest Silvia, though not for thyself,
    Regard thy danger, and along with me! 1330
  • Valentine. I pray thee, Launce, an if thou seest my boy,
    Bid him make haste and meet me at the North-gate.
  • Proteus. Go, sirrah, find him out. Come, Valentine.
  • Valentine. O my dear Silvia! Hapless Valentine!


  • Launce. I am but a fool, look you; and yet I have the wit to
    think my master is a kind of a knave: but that's
    all one, if he be but one knave. He lives not now
    that knows me to be in love; yet I am in love; but a
    team of horse shall not pluck that from me; nor who 1340
    'tis I love; and yet 'tis a woman; but what woman, I
    will not tell myself; and yet 'tis a milkmaid; yet
    'tis not a maid, for she hath had gossips; yet 'tis
    a maid, for she is her master's maid, and serves for
    wages. She hath more qualities than a water-spaniel; 1345
    which is much in a bare Christian.
    [Pulling out a paper]
    Here is the cate-log of her condition.
    'Imprimis: She can fetch and carry.' Why, a horse
    can do no more: nay, a horse cannot fetch, but only 1350
    carry; therefore is she better than a jade. 'Item:
    She can milk;' look you, a sweet virtue in a maid
    with clean hands.

[Enter SPEED]

  • Speed. How now, Signior Launce! what news with your 1355
  • Launce. With my master's ship? why, it is at sea.
  • Speed. Well, your old vice still; mistake the word. What
    news, then, in your paper?
  • Launce. The blackest news that ever thou heardest. 1360
  • Speed. Why, man, how black?
  • Launce. Why, as black as ink.
  • Speed. Let me read them.
  • Launce. Fie on thee, jolt-head! thou canst not read.
  • Speed. Thou liest; I can. 1365
  • Launce. I will try thee. Tell me this: who begot thee?
  • Speed. Marry, the son of my grandfather.
  • Launce. O illiterate loiterer! it was the son of thy
    grandmother: this proves that thou canst not read.
  • Speed. Come, fool, come; try me in thy paper. 1370
  • Launce. There; and St. Nicholas be thy speed!
  • Speed. [Reads] 'Imprimis: She can milk.'
  • Speed. 'Item: She brews good ale.'
  • Launce. And thereof comes the proverb: 'Blessing of your 1375
    heart, you brew good ale.'
  • Speed. 'Item: She can sew.'
  • Launce. That's as much as to say, Can she so?
  • Speed. 'Item: She can knit.'
  • Launce. What need a man care for a stock with a wench, when 1380
    she can knit him a stock?
  • Speed. 'Item: She can wash and scour.'
  • Launce. A special virtue: for then she need not be washed
    and scoured.
  • Speed. 'Item: She can spin.' 1385
  • Launce. Then may I set the world on wheels, when she can
    spin for her living.
  • Speed. 'Item: She hath many nameless virtues.'
  • Launce. That's as much as to say, bastard virtues; that,
    indeed, know not their fathers and therefore have no names. 1390
  • Speed. 'Here follow her vices.'
  • Launce. Close at the heels of her virtues.
  • Speed. 'Item: She is not to be kissed fasting in respect
    of her breath.'
  • Launce. Well, that fault may be mended with a breakfast. Read on. 1395
  • Speed. 'Item: She hath a sweet mouth.'
  • Launce. That makes amends for her sour breath.
  • Speed. 'Item: She doth talk in her sleep.'
  • Launce. It's no matter for that, so she sleep not in her talk.
  • Speed. 'Item: She is slow in words.' 1400
  • Launce. O villain, that set this down among her vices! To
    be slow in words is a woman's only virtue: I pray
    thee, out with't, and place it for her chief virtue.
  • Speed. 'Item: She is proud.'
  • Launce. Out with that too; it was Eve's legacy, and cannot 1405
    be ta'en from her.
  • Speed. 'Item: She hath no teeth.'
  • Launce. I care not for that neither, because I love crusts.
  • Speed. 'Item: She is curst.'
  • Launce. Well, the best is, she hath no teeth to bite. 1410
  • Speed. 'Item: She will often praise her liquor.'
  • Launce. If her liquor be good, she shall: if she will not, I
    will; for good things should be praised.
  • Speed. 'Item: She is too liberal.'
  • Launce. Of her tongue she cannot, for that's writ down she 1415
    is slow of; of her purse she shall not, for that
    I'll keep shut: now, of another thing she may, and
    that cannot I help. Well, proceed.
  • Speed. 'Item: She hath more hair than wit, and more faults
    than hairs, and more wealth than faults.' 1420
  • Launce. Stop there; I'll have her: she was mine, and not
    mine, twice or thrice in that last article.
    Rehearse that once more.
  • Speed. 'Item: She hath more hair than wit,'—
  • Launce. More hair than wit? It may be; I'll prove it. The 1425
    cover of the salt hides the salt, and therefore it
    is more than the salt; the hair that covers the wit
    is more than the wit, for the greater hides the
    less. What's next?
  • Speed. 'And more faults than hairs,'— 1430
  • Launce. That's monstrous: O, that that were out!
  • Speed. 'And more wealth than faults.'
  • Launce. Why, that word makes the faults gracious. Well,
    I'll have her; and if it be a match, as nothing is
    impossible,— 1435
  • Launce. Why, then will I tell thee—that thy master stays
    for thee at the North-gate.
  • Launce. For thee! ay, who art thou? he hath stayed for a 1440
    better man than thee.
  • Speed. And must I go to him?
  • Launce. Thou must run to him, for thou hast stayed so long
    that going will scarce serve the turn.
  • Speed. Why didst not tell me sooner? pox of your love letters! 1445


  • Launce. Now will he be swinged for reading my letter; an
    unmannerly slave, that will thrust himself into
    secrets! I'll after, to rejoice in the boy's correction.