The Two Gentlemen of Verona Act 1, Scene 1 Summary
Welcome to Verona…at least we think we're in Verona. The only indication Shakespeare gives us about the location is in the play's title.
Two BFFs, Valentine and Proteus, are in the middle of a long and emotional goodbye. You see, Valentine is embarking on an adventure so he might learn a thing or two about "the wonders of the world abroad." (By "world abroad," he means the world outside of Verona.)
Valentine wishes his dear friend would throw some jeans and sneakers into a backpack and join him (as opposed to "living dully sluggarized at home"), but since Proteus is in love with a girl in Verona, he understands why Proteus wants to stay behind.
In between bouts of dramatic sighing, Proteus begs Valentine to think of him while he's on his adventure and promises to pray for Valentine while he's away.
Then Valentine makes a snide remark and implies that Proteus's love for the yet-to-be-named mystery girl is "shallow." To emphasize his point that he doesn't like his buddy's romance, he compares Proteus to "Leander," a mythical/literary figure who drowned while swimming across the Hellespont to see his girlfriend, "Hero." (The Hellespont, by the way, is one of the Turkish straits – it's got a nasty reputation for drowning swimmers.)
Cynical Valentine continues to berate his pal for loving a woman and insists that love turns men into slaves and fools. (Geez – this guy's almost as bad as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet.)
Finally, Valentine says he's got to run or else he'll miss his boat to Milan. (Yeah. We know that Verona and Milan are totally landlocked but Shakespeare obviously doesn't care, so let's just go with it.)
Valentine and Proteus finally say goodbye and promise to write.
Proteus is left alone on stage. He whines that his love for Julia (we now have a name for our mystery girl) has caused him to neglect his homework assignments, causes him to argue with his friends, and causes him to generally waste his time moping around. (Kind of like Shakespeare's other lovelorn character, Romeo, when he crushes on Rosaline, or Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night.)
Then "Speed" shows up. (Speed is Valentine's clownish servant.)
Speed wants to know if Proteus has seen his master.
Proteus brings Speed up to speed on Valentine's recent departure and then the two engage in a silly conversation that involves one guy insulting the other guy by punning on the word "sheep." The dialogue's a little complicated, but it basically boils down to "You're a sheep." "No I'm not – you're a sheep." (You can listen to the witty exchange here, compliments of Audible.com.)
Proteus wants to know if Speed delivered his love letter to the luscious Julia and then Speed tells a dirty joke that involves, you guessed it, sheep.
After an amusing and slightly exasperating comic routine, Speed shakes down Proteus for some money and finally says that, yes, he delivered Proteus's letter to Julia.
Proteus is bummed to hear that Julia didn't get all excited when Speed delivered the letter and he reasons that she must have been put off by the annoying messenger (that would be Speed).
Proteus decides he'll find a new messenger to deliver his love notes to Julia.