The Two Gentlemen of Verona
How we cite our quotes:
O Proteus, let this habit make thee blush!
Be thou ashamed that I have took upon me
Such an immodest raiment, if shame live
In a disguise of love:
It is the lesser blot, modesty finds,
Women to change their shapes than men their minds. (5.4.7)
Although Julia is ashamed that she cross-dressed in order travel to Proteus, she says here that Proteus's behavior is even worse because his deception involved infidelity, which could have prevented their union in marriage. Julia's deception and social impropriety, on the hand, is excusable and justifiable because cross-dressing as "Sebastian" enabled her to reunite with Proteus and ensure a wedding match.
What's the big deal about Julia disguising herself as a boy, you ask? Well, sixteenth-century Puritans thought cross-dressing (especially on stage) was a major sin. Check out Phillip Stubbes's anti-theater rant in a book called The Anatomy of Abuses (1583): "Our apparel was given as a sign distinctive, to discern betwixt sex and sex, and therefore one to wear the apparel of another sex, is…to adulterate the verity of his own kind…these women [who cross-dress] may not improperly be called Hermaphroditi, that is Monsters of both kinds, half women, half men." So, this sort of explains why Julia has been feeling so ashamed of her disguise.
Come, come, a hand from either:
Let me be blest to make this happy close;
'Twere pity two such friends should be long foes.
Bear witness, Heaven, I have my wish for ever.
And I mine. (5.4.7)
We know what you're thinking. Why the heck does Julia take Proteus back (and agree to marry him) about two seconds after Proteus tries to rape Silvia? We're wondering the same thing ourselves. Some critics see this as evidence that Two Gentlemen is a lousy play – the reunion between Julia and Proteus is completely unrealistic. Other critics point out that the engagement may be abrupt and strange to us but "comedy" always ends in marriage so, we shouldn't be so surprised. So, what do you think about all this?
Thou art a gentleman and well derived;
Take thou thy Silvia, for thou hast deserved her.
I thank your grace; the gift hath made me happy.
I now beseech you, for your daughter's sake,
To grant one boom that I shall ask of you. (5.4.1)
In the play, it's Silvia's father who determines the conditions of her wedding. When Thurio announces that he doesn't want to marry Silvia, the Duke immediately offers Silvia to Valentine because he has earned ("deserved") her, as if the Duke's daughter is a possession that he can bestow on the man of his choosing. We also notice that Valentine responds to the offer in the same terms – he thanks the Duke for the generous "gift" (that would be Silvia).