Love Is Your Master: Love, Betrayal, and Repentance in Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona


“My shame and guilt confounds me.” So confesses Proteus, the villainous hero of Shakespeare’s rarely performed play Two Gentlemen of Verona. Proteus’s descent and dissolution from friend and lover was completed but fifteen lines before his shocking confession, when he threatens to rape his best friend’s fiancé, Silvia. His inconstancy is more pernicious than merely an inability to chart a stable course through his life, or to make up his own mind. He violates both his oaths and his friendship in his mad pursuit of Silvia, turning his back on both the bonds of love and friendship. The falseness of Proteus’s love unwinds his very self; he can only be reconstituted through the humiliation of repentance.