The Two Gentlemen of Verona Act 4, Scene 4 Summary
Lance and his dog, Crab, are on stage.
Lance tells the audience a story about how Crab was caught "a pissing" under the Duke's table and Lance took the blame for it so Crab wouldn't be whipped. He also reveals that he once took the blame for Crab when the dog killed a neighbor's geese. Lance begs Crab not pee on any "gentlewoman's" skirt, which seems pretty reasonable.
Proteus and Julia (disguised as a page boy named "Sebastian") enter.
Brain Snack: Julia is Shakespeare's first cross-dressing heroine, so we guess we could call her the grandmother of other gender-bending characters that follow in her footsteps – like Viola from Twelfth Night, Rosalind from As You Like It, and Portia & "Jessica from The Merchant of Venice.
Proteus offers "Sebastian" a job as his errand boy.
Proteus then questions Speed, who was supposed to have delivered a little lap dog to Julia as a gift.
It turns out that Speed lost the little dog and tried to offer up Crab instead. Julia refused the gift and sent the dog back.
Proteus tells Lance to scram and then asks "Sebastian" to deliver a ring to Silvia. (Yep, it's the same ring that Julia gave Proteus before he went away. What a dog.)
"Sebastian" begins to cry and says Proteus must not have loved the woman who originally gave him the ring. "Sebastian" goes on to say that he feels sorry for the "lady" who gave Proteus the ring – she probably loves Proteus as much as Proteus loves Silvia.
Proteus is all "whatever – deliver the ring and this letter to Silvia."
Poor Julia feels torn – she doesn't see how she can possibly go through with the errand because she's still in love with Proteus. (This is sort of what happens to Viola in Twelfth Night. Viola cross-dresses as a boy page and falls in love with her master, Duke Orsino, who asks Viola to deliver love letters to another woman.)
Silvia enters and begins to chat with "Sebastian."
"Sebastian" hands over a love letter and then immediately asks for it back, explaining that "he" gave Silvia the wrong letter. (We're not sure what the first letter said, but it's probably a letter that Proteus wrote to Julia. Did Julia/Sebastian do this on purpose?)
"Sebastian" gives Silvia the letter intended for her and Silvia promptly tears it up. She also refuses to take the ring because she knows that it was given to Proteus by Julia.
Silvia feels pity for Julia and asks "Sebastian" if he knows her. "Sebastian" says that, yes, "he" knows Julia – she used to be very pretty but now that Proteus has dumped her, she's not looking or feeling so hot.
Silvia wants to know more about Julia, so "Sebastian" says "he" and Julia are the same height. In fact, "he" once wore her clothes when "he" played the role of a woman, Ariadne, in a church play. "Sebastian's" performance of this "woman's part" was so good that it moved Julia to tears.
Brain Snack: Ariadne is a figure from Greek mythology. She's famous for hanging herself after her boyfriend, Theseus, dumped her. Now, we know that Julia/Sebastian never played the role of Ariadne in a play. This made up story is Julia's only way of expressing her sadness over the loss of Proteus.
Silvia is so moved by "Sebastian's" story that she gives the pageboy a bag full of money before she leaves. (Aww. How sweet.)
Julia is left alone on stage to gaze at the picture Silvia has left behind for Proteus. Poor Julia admires Silvia's beauty and wonders if Proteus would love her more if she looked more like Silvia.
Then Julia says that it's a good thing Silvia turned out to be so nice – otherwise, she would have "scratched out" her eyes.