Act 4, scene 3
Early the next morning, Eglamour, a gentleman and friend of Silvia, visits her at her request. She tells him about Valentine’s banishment and the fact that her father wants her to marry Thurio, which she cannot bear to do. Her plan is to join Valentine in Mantua, and she wants Eglamour to escort her there, for her own safety. Eglamour agrees to accompany her.
In this short scene, Shakespeare introduces the gallant widower, Sir Eglamour, at this point simply because he needs a plot device that will get Silvia out into the forest. Sir Eglamour is presented as a widower who loved his wife deeply because Shakespeare does not want to introduce any more possible love entanglements, which would be a distraction as the plot now moves quickly towards its resolution.
Act 4, scene 4
Launce enters with Crab, his dog. Proteus told him to deliver it to Silvia as a gift, but as soon as the dog was taken to the Duke’s table, he misbehaved, and was about to be whipped for it, when Launce claimed that it was he, not the dog, who had made the offensive smell. It was Launce who then got whipped out of the room. Launce claims that he has saved the dog on many such occasions, taking punishment himself in the stocks and the pillory for misdeeds committed by Crab, such as killing geese.
Proteus enters, with Julia, who is still disguised as Sebastian. Launce tells his master of the fiasco with the dog, explaining that Silvia hated the dog and called it a cur. Proteus protests that he had not meant Crab to be the dog given to Silvia, but Launce says that the smaller dog, belonging to Proteus, was stolen from him, so he gave Crab instead. Proteus sends him away to find the stolen dog.
Proteus then turns to Julia/Sebastian and says that he is impressed by his bearing, which shows him to be well brought up, and wants to employ him. He tells him/her to deliver a ring to Silvia, a ring which was given to him by someone else. (This is, in fact, the ring that Julia gave to him.) Julia/Sebastian says she pities the lady who first gave him the ring, because she thinks the lady loved him, and still loves him, as much as he loves Silvia.
Proteus does not respond, other than to tell her to deliver the ring as well as a letter he has written to Silvia. He also tells Julia to collect the picture that Silvia has promised him.
Left alone, Julia confesses that she pities Proteus and still loves him. She does not relish the task of wooing Silvia on his behalf. She says she will do it, while hoping she does not succeed.
Silvia enters. When she finds out what Julia/Sebastian is there for, she sends for the picture. Julia delivers the letter, but Silvia refuses to read it. She knows that Proteus cannot be trusted. Then Julia/Sebastian tells her that Proteus sends her a ring. Silvia will have none of it. She knows the ring is the one Julia gave to Proteus, since he told her of it many times. She won’t wrong Julia by accepting it. “Sebastian” thanks her, and comments that her master does indeed wrong Julia. When Silvia asks if she knows Julia, “Sebastian” replies that she knows her almost as well as she knows herself. Silvia makes inquiries about Julia. Is she beautiful? How tall is she? “Sebastian” replies that Julia is not as fair as Silvia, but that they are of about the same height.
Silvia expresses her sadness about Julia, a woman who has been deserted by her lover. She gives Julia/Sebastian some money as a reward for loving her mistress (i.e. Julia).
After Silvia exits, Julia comments on how beautiful she is. But she also comments, looking at Silvia’s picture, that she, Julia, would be just as beautiful if she had a similar headdress. As she looks more, she begins to convince herself that she is in fact more beautiful than Silvia. She regrets that Proteus is going to worship the picture of Silvia whereas if he had any sense he would be still adoring his first love, Julia.
As has happened in earlier scenes, the attitude of Launce to his dog serves as ironic commentary on the fickle, deceptive, farcical nature of love as displayed by Proteus. Launce shows true love and selflessness towards Crab, even taking punishment on himself for things that Crab has done. In his simple attitude to his pet, he shows what true love is.
This scene also shows that in contrast to the shocking way that Proteus breaks his friendship with Valentine, the two women involved show noble qualities. Silvia is unmoved by Proteus and sees through him completely. She remains absolutely loyal to Valentine, just as Julia remains loyal to Proteus, despite his bad behavior. Julia shows a little jealousy of Silvia but she keeps it within bounds, and Silvia shows great empathy for Julia’s plight, refusing to accept from Proteus the ring that he once gave to his former love.