The Two Gentlemen of Verona
How we cite our quotes:
Here can I sit alone, unseen of any,
And to the nightingale's complaining notes
Tune my distresses and record my woes.
O thou that dost inhabit in my breast,
Leave not the mansion so long tenantless,
Lest, growing ruinous, the building fall
And leave no memory of what it was!
Repair me with thy presence, Silvia; (5.4.1)
When Valentine gets kicked out of Milan for trying to elope with the Duke's daughter, he bums around a forest, where he finds a sense of peace bemoaning his sadness in harmony with the mournful sounds of the nightingale. As literary scholar Jean Howard reminds us, Valentine's reference to the nightingale recalls the mythic story of Philomela, who was raped by Tereus and eventually transformed into a nightingale – whose sad tune mourned the loss of Philomela's virginity. OK, we know what you're thinking. What does the mythic story of Philomela's rape and transformation into a bird have to do with Valentine hanging out in the forest missing his girlfriend? Well, it can't be a coincidence that moments after Valentine mentions the nightingale, his pal Proteus tries to rape Silvia in the very same forest, can it? Keep reading…
Nay, if the gentle spirit of moving words
Can no way change you to a milder form,
I'll woo you like a soldier, at arms' end,
And love you 'gainst the nature of love,--force ye.
I'll force thee yield to my desire.
Ruffian, let go that rude uncivil touch,
Thou friend of an ill fashion! (5.4.5)
When Silvia refuses to love Proteus, he says he'll take her by "force," which is another way of saying that's he's going to rape her. He never completes the assault, however, because Proteus steps in and puts a stop to it.
Literary scholar Jean Howard points out that if Proteus had raped Silvia, the play would have been transformed from a comedy into a tragedy. But, because Valentine stops Proteus, Two Gentlemen of Verona escapes the genre of tragedy by the skin of its teeth.
Thou common friend, that's without faith or love,
For such is a friend now; treacherous man!
Thou hast beguiled my hopes; nought but mine eye
Could have persuaded me: now I dare not say
I have one friend alive; thou wouldst disprove me.
Who should be trusted, when one's own right hand
Is perjured to the bosom? (5.4.4)
OK, when Valentine stops Proteus from assaulting Silvia, we're expecting him to say something different here, right? But, instead of being angry that Proteus was going to violate Silvia, Valentine lectures Proteus about being a disloyal friend. What's going on here?