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The Two Gentlemen of Verona

A scene from The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Introduction to the play

While the word “gentlemen” suggests that its heroes are adults, The Two Gentlemen of Verona is more intelligible if we think of them as boys, leaving home for the first time. One has a crush on a girl, Julia, though he hasn’t yet told her.

Sent to court to learn to be “perfect gentlemen,” Valentine and Proteus are derailed by their attraction to Sylvia, the ruler’s daughter. Valentine’s mental denseness does not deter Sylvia from returning his love, but he is caught, and banished, when he tries to elope with her. Proteus’s desire for Sylvia wipes out his former love, leading him into despicable acts that win scorn from Sylvia and wound Julia, who has pursued him disguised as a boy.

When Sylvia follows Valentine into banishment, Proteus follows Sylvia, and Julia follows Proteus, the stage is set for a disturbing ending. But the stage is also set for the “gentlemen” to take small steps toward maturity.

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Cover of the Folger Shakespeare edition of Two Gentlemen of Verona

The Folger Shakespeare

Our bestselling editions of Shakespeare's plays and poems

The uncertain glory of an April day

Act 1, scene 3, line 86

Who is Sylvia? What is she,
      That all our swains commend her?

Act 4, scene 2, lines 41–42

The Two Gentlemen of Verona in our collection

A selection of Folger collection items related to The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Find more in our digital image collection

James Lewis as Lance, Herbert Gresham as Speed
Act 5, scene 4: "Ruffian, let go that rude uncivil touch." By T. Stothard, R.A. pinxt. ; J. Thompson sc.
Julia, disguised as Sebastian. By J.J. Jenkins ; B. Eyles.
Les deux gentilhommes de Vérone. By Alexandre Bida.

Essays and resources from The Folger Shakespeare

Two Gentlemen of Verona

Learn more about the play, its language, and its history from the experts behind our edition.

About Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona
An introduction to the plot, themes, and characters in the play

Reading Shakespeare’s Language
A guide for understanding Shakespeare’s words, sentences, and wordplay

An Introduction to This Text
A description of the publishing history of the play and our editors’ approach to this edition

Shakespeare and his world

Learn more about Shakespeare, his theater, and his plays from the experts behind our editions.

Shakespeare’s Life
An essay about Shakespeare and the time in which he lived

Shakespeare’s Theater
An essay about what theaters were like during Shakespeare’s career

The Publication of Shakespeare’s Plays
An essay about how Shakespeare’s plays were published

Related blog posts and podcasts

Teaching The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Early printed texts

The Two Gentlemen of Verona appeared in print for the first time in the 1623 First Folio, and that text serves as the basis for all subsequent editions.