Valentine and Proteus are the two gentlemen in question, from Verona in northern Italy. However, as Elizabeth Bennet might say, one had got all the gentlemanliness, and the other all the appearance of it...
ONE day, Valentine came to bid farewell to his fast friend Proteus. Proteus had fallen in love, and Valentine, weary of listening to Proteus’s raptures about his Julia, thought he might try his luck in Milan. Luck was unusually kind, bringing him Silvia, the pretty, teasing daughter of the Duke of Milan.
Soon Valentine was joined in Milan by Proteus, whose father, knowing nothing of Julia, despatched him there to find a wife; and it was not long before Proteus began to understand why Valentine was so taken with Silvia.
So Proteus went to the Duke, and informed him sorrowfully that his friend had arranged to elope with Silvia.
As expected, Valentine was banished from Milan and from Silvia, and the love-struck Proteus went to serenade her beneath her window.
It was at that moment that Julia, who had been feeling lonely in Verona and had slipped away disguised as a serving-boy named Sebastian, turned up at the Ducal palace, looking for Proteus.
Song: ‘Who Is Silvia?’
Famous settings of Shakespeare’s song ‘Who is Sylvia?’, sung by the infatuated Proteus, include one in German by Franz Schubert, and this one in English by Gerald Finzi.
Who is Silvia? what is she,
That all our swains commend her?
Holy, fair and wise is she;
The heaven such grace did lend her,
That she might admired be.
Is she kind as she is fair?
For beauty lives with kindness.
Love doth to her eyes repair,
To help him of his blindness,
And, being help’d, inhabits there.
Then to Silvia let us sing,
That Silvia is excelling;
She excels each mortal thing
Upon the dull earth dwelling:
To her let us garlands bring.