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The Two Gentlemen of Verona Theme of Violence

Two Gentlemen of Verona culminates in an attempted rape that is narrowly averted and quickly forgiven. In fact, the threat of sexual violence seems to echo all throughout the play. Proteus's attempt to rape Silvia is preceded by a reference to the mythical Philomela's rape by Tereus (5.4.1), Valentine makes the outlaws swear to "do no outrages/ On silly women" (4.1.12), and Julia disguises herself as "Sebastian" so she can avoid "loose encounters of lascivious men" (2.7.4). In the play, the threat of rape seems to be symptomatic of a world in which men see women as objects to be possessed, stolen, or bestowed upon other men as "gifts."

Questions About Violence

  1. What is Julia hoping to avoid by dressing up as a boy before she travels to Milan?
  2. Why does Valentine forgive Proteus so easily after he attempts to rape Silvia?
  3. Are there any consequences for Proteus's attempted sexual assault?
  4. Is the forest a safe place for women?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In the play, Proteus's attempt to sexually assault Silvia is symptomatic of a world in which men view women as possessions to be traded, gifted, or stolen.

Proteus's attempt to rape Silvia threatens to turn Shakespeare's comedy into a tragedy.

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