Silvia is the spirited daughter of the Duke of Milan and Valentine's girlfriend. When she falls in love with Valentine, she rebels against her father's wishes and makes plans to elope. Silvia is so determined to be with Valentine that, when her father banishes Valentine from Milan, Silvia runs away to the forest, where Valentine has set up camp.
Silvia is not only bold, she's also incredibly loyal, which is a pretty big deal in a play in which the two main characters (Proteus and Valentine, we're talking about you) are anything but. When Proteus stabs his best friend Valentine in the back and goes after Silvia, Silvia seems to be the only voice of morality and fidelity:
Who respects friend?
All men but Proteus. (5.4.54-56)
Silvia also demonstrates her capacity for kindness when she refuses to accept a gift from Proteus:
The more shame for him that he sends it me;
For I have heard him say a thousand times
His Julia gave it him at his departure.
Though his false finger have profaned the ring,
Mine shall not do his Julia so much wrong. (4.4.142-146)
Silvia refuses to accept the ring Proteus has sent her (by way of Julia, who is disguised as a page boy, "Sebastian"). She also insists that she would never do "Julia so much wrong," which gestures at Silvia's capacity for loyalty and solidarity with another woman (unlike Proteus, who is busy stabbing his best friend in the back). When we read this passage, we can't help but think that, despite the play's efforts to champion the bonds of male friendship, Silvia's behavior demonstrates how women are capable of friendship too.
What Happens to Silvia's Voice?
Silvia is definitely a strong heroine, but it seems like Shakespeare drops the ball in the play's final scene. When Proteus threatens to rape her, Silvia screams "O heaven!" and this is the last we hear from her (5.4.36). We're relieved when Valentine prevents the rape, but we're baffled when Silvia remains silent on stage. When Valentine and Proteus make up, she says nothing. When Julia and Proteus get back together, she's silent. When her father arrives and gives her as a "gift" to Proteus, she says nothing. Is this a reflection of Shakespeare's inexperience as a playwright? We're not sure. What do you think? We also wonder what Silvia might utter if she did have a voice in the final moments of the play…Silvia Timeline