Duke of Milan in Two Gentleman of Verona: Traits & Analysis

Instructor: Edward Zipperer

Eddie has an MFA in English from Georgia College where he has taught scriptwriting, English 101, English 102, and World Literature since 2007.

This lesson includes a brief summary of Shakespeare's comedy, ''Two Gentlemen of Verona,'' a character analysis of the Duke of Milan, and some of his most memorable quotes.

What Happens in Two Gentlemen of Verona

Shakespeare's Comedy, Two Gentleman of Verona, is the story of two best friends Proteus and Valentine. A less pithy but more appropriate title for this play might be 'One Gentleman of Verona and One Complete Jerk' because, while Valentine is the hero of the story and behaves in a mostly honorable fashion, Proteus betrays his best friend and the woman with whom he is supposedly in love.

The play begins with Valentine saying goodbye to Proteus. He is leaving Verona to embark on a journey to Milan where he will wait upon The Duke (sometimes called the emperor). Leaving home is expressed in the play to be a rite of passage, and Valentine tries to convince Proteus to come along, saying, ''I rather would entreat thy company to see the wonders of the world abroad than to stay here dully sluggarized at home.'' But Proteus declines. He is head-over-heels love-sick for Julia and has no intention of leaving Verona.

Proteus manages to win Julia's love with a letter, but their time together is cut short immediately when Proteus' father Antonio decides to force Proteus to join Valentine in Milan for his own good.

When Proteus arrives in Milan, he finds out that his friend Valentine, who had railed against love in the first scene, has now caught the bug himself. Valentine tells him that he is in love with Silvia, that they are engaged, and that -- because of (her father) the Duke's disapproval -- they are going to run away together:

Ay, and we are betroth'd: nay, more, our,

marriage-hour,

With all the cunning manner of our flight,

Determined of; how I must climb her window,

The ladder made of cords, and all the means

Plotted and 'greed on for my happiness.

Because the Duke keeps Silvia locked in a tower so she can be with no man but Thurio, the plan involves Valentine hiding a rope ladder in his cloak. What Valentine doesn't count on when he confides in his friend is that Proteus has fallen in love with Silvia too, despite his relationship with Julia!

Even as one heat another heat expels,

Or as one nail by strength drives out another,

So the remembrance of my former love

Is by a newer object quite forgotten.

Proteus goes behind Valentine's back and informs the Duke about everything Valentine and his daughter Silvia are up to. The Duke, who is set on his daughter marrying the wealthy Thurio, is enraged, but he must expose Valentine's plot without letting it be known that Proteus betrayed Valentine. So, in one of the play's most hilarious scenes, the Duke manipulates the information out of Valentine. He tells Valentine that there is a woman in Milan that he loves, but she is kept locked away from men in a tower chamber. Valentine suggests that he make a rope ladder and hide it in ''a cloak of any length.'' Then the Duke says he wants to try on Valentine's cloak, and when he pulls Valentine's cloak off, he finds a rope ladder and a letter to Silvia. Overcome with anger, he banishes Valentine from Milan:

Be gone! I will not hear thy vain excuse;

But, as thou lovest thy life, make speed from hence.

In the end, the Duke is impressed with Valentine when he defends Silvia by threatening Thurio:

Thurio, give back, or else embrace thy death;

Come not within the measure of my wrath;

Do not name Silvia thine; if once again,

Verona shall not hold thee. Here she stands;

Take but possession of her with a touch:

I dare thee but to breathe upon my love.

The Duke responds by forgiving Valentine and declaring him worthy of Silvia. 'I do applaud thy spirit, Valentine / And think thee worthy of an empress' love.'

Silvia and Valentine are allowed to get married, and Valentine and Julia both -- rather generously -- forgive Proteus for his inconstancy.

Who is the Duke of Milan?

The Duke of Milan (sometimes referred to as the emperor) is not a bad guy, but he is pretty clueless in his role as a single father. Even though the Duke is the ruler of the land of Milan, his more important role in this play is his role as Silvia's father. He is a single father and could probably have benefited greatly from a self-help book on how to raise a teenage daughter. Left to his own devices, he locks Silvia in a tower (I nightly lodge her in an upper tower / The key whereof myself have ever kept) and demands that she love Thurio.

Even though the Duke locking his daughter away in a tower seems awfully harsh, he proves not to be as inflexible as some other Shakespearean fathers (e.g., Egeus in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Capulet in Romeo and Juliet). In the end, he is able to change his mind and see Valentine's true worth: I do applaud thy spirit, Valentine / And think thee worthy of an empress' love.

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