Best friends Valentine and Proteus say goodbye to one another when Valentine decides to leave Verona to see the world and gain experience by serving the Duke of Milan. Though Valentine wants Proteus to come, Proteus is in love with Julia and decides to stay in Verona. When Valentine leaves, Proteus confirms that Speed, Valentine’s servant, delivered a letter he wrote to Julia. Julia talks with Lucetta about her various suitors and which she should choose. Lucetta recommends Proteus, but Julia denies any affection for him. When Lucetta gives her the letter from Proteus, she tears it up. After Lucetta leaves, she regrets her decision and kisses the torn pieces.
Proteus’s father, Antonio, decides it would benefit Proteus to travel and learn about courtly society in Milan. He orders him to leave for the Duke’s court the following day. Proteus and Julia exchange rings, and he vows to return as soon as possible. Preparing to leave, Proteus’s clownish servant, Launce, complains that while the rest of his family is distraught over his departure, his dog, Crab, has not shed one tear. When Proteus arrives in Milan, he finds that Valentine has fallen in love with the Duke’s daughter, Silvia. Proteus also falls in love with Silvia and decides to betray Valentine by telling the Duke about Valentine and Silvia’s plan to elope. Wanting his daughter to marry the wealthy Thurio, the Duke banishes Valentine from the court. While reflecting on his master’s situation, Launce shares that he loves a milkmaid. Speed enters, and they banter about her faults and virtues before Speed realizes he should follow Valentine. Meanwhile, Julia has come to Milan disguised as a boy named Sebastian to find Proteus. She becomes Proteus’s page and discovers that he is in love with Silvia. Silvia, however, is uninterested in Proteus and spurns his advances.
On their way back to Verona, Valentine and Speed are stopped by a group of outlaws. The thieves confide that they are honorable men who have turned to a life of thievery after being banished themselves. Valentine agrees to be their leader when they threaten to kill him if he declines their offer.
In Milan, Julia and Silvia meet when Julia, disguised as Sebastian, delivers a gift from Proteus – the ring that Julia had given him. Silvia wants nothing to do with Proteus and she calls upon her friend, Sir Eglamour, to help her escape her father’s court and find Valentine. She ends up being captured by the outlaws but is quickly rescued by Proteus. When Proteus demands that Silvia show affection for him, she refuses and he threatens to rape her. Valentine, who was watching them unseen, stops Proteus from hurting Silvia. When Proteus expresses his embarrassment and hatred for himself, Valentine forgives him and offers him Silvia. Julia faints, and her true identity is revealed when Proteus sees she has the ring he originally gave to her in Verona. Proteus proclaims he loves Julia more than Silvia. The Duke decides that Valentine is a nobler man than Thurio, and tells Valentine and Silvia that they can marry. Upon Valentine’s request, the Duke pardons the outlaws, and Valentine proposes that the two couples get married on the same day.
By Alison Ruth