Act 2, scene 5
Speed and Launce, the two servants, meet in a street in Milan and discuss the relationship between Proteus and Julia. Speed wants to know if they are still together, and if so, are they married yet? Launce gives some cryptic answers ands tells Speed to ask his dog about the matter. The two of them go off to the alehouse together.
Once more there is some comic relief from the two servants who gossip about the affairs of their masters. Launce’s comments are full of bawdy double meanings, and it is clear that the servants have little respect for their masters and their games of love.
Act 2, scene 6
Proteus gives another soliloquy in which he sets out his dilemma. He tries to justify his feelings by saying that if Julia is a star, Silvia is a sun, and that it is all right to exchange the inferior for the superior. His conscience pricks him, though, because he knows he swore an oath to be loyal to Julia. He knows that if he continues to love Silvia he will lose Julia and Valentine, but he convinces himself that he will find himself in the process, and that is his first duty (“I too myself am dearer than a friend”). So he resolves to forget completely about Julia and consider Valentine an enemy. He plots treachery against Valentine. His plan is to inform Silvia’s father that she and Valentine plan to elope that night. He presumes that the Duke will be so angry that he will banish Valentine. Then Proteus’s only rival will be Thurio, and Proteus says he will figure out a way to trick him.
As he expands on the feelings he presented in his soliloquy at the end of scene 4, Proteus sinks deeper into his condition of treachery. He has enough moral awareness to know that he is behaving in a reprehensible way, but he deliberately chooses selfishness over loyalty, love over friendship. Of course he dresses this up to make it appear that he is choosing the higher goal of love. But everyone in the audience can see that he is not only making a fool of himself, but in choosing to put his own feelings first, he is undermining the traditional values associated with friendship. He scarcely seems worthy of Silvia, and certainly not of Julia. The passion of romantic love has blinded him to all decent standards of conduct.
Act 2, scene 7
At Julia’s house in Verona, Julia asks Lucetta for advice about how she might travel to visit Proteus. Lucetta tries to persuade her against undertaking such a long journey, but Julia insists on it. She plans to disguise herself as a man for her own safety and tells Lucetta to acquire for her suitable clothing that will make her look like a page boy. Lucetta still thinks this is a bad idea, and suggests that Proteus may not be pleased to see her. But Julia refuses to entertain any doubts. She believes that Proteus truly loves her and will be faithful to her, and she urges Lucetta to love him too.
The way Julia speaks about love is in complete contrast to the way the male characters Valentine and Proteus speak of it, and Shakespeare has no intention of satirizing her feelings as he did with the men. Julia loves in a deep and genuine way, and her determination to follow Proteus makes his conduct in deserting her even more shocking. There is dramatic irony in Julia’s words since the audience knows that Proteus has already betrayed her and is unworthy of her description of him as being of “such divine perfection.” There is more dramatic irony in Julia’s description of Proteus’s character: “His words are bonds, his oaths are oracles, / His love sincere, his thoughts immaculate.” This is a young lady who is in for a very rude awakening.