Valentine is leaving his friend Proteus in order to take up residence at the Duke’s court in Milan; but Proteus stays in Verona to be near his love, Julia. Julia talks about falling in love to her waiting-woman Lucetta, expressing indifference, and tears up a letter from Proteus, though immediately regretting her action.
Proteus’ father, Antonio, decides to send Proteus to the Duke’s court, where Valentine is in love with the Duke’s daughter, Silvia. Proteus leaves, professing constancy and exchanging rings with Julia. Valentine asks Proteus to help him elope with Silvia, but Proteus falls in love with her himself, and expresses his determination to have her. The two men’s servants, Launce and Speed, meet and discuss the parting of Proteus from Julia. Julia decides to follow Proteus to Milan, disguising herself as a man.
Proteus informs the Duke of Valentine’s plan. The Duke engages Valentine in conversation on the subject of how to reach a lady’s chamber at night, makes Valentine reveal the rope-ladder and letter intended for Silvia, and promptly banishes him. On his way towards Mantua, Valentine is captured by outlaws in a forest, but he impresses them greatly and they make him their leader. Launce discusses the qualities of his own love, a milkmaid, with Speed.
The Duke, who wants Silvia to marry the wealthy Thurio, asks Proteus to use his influence with her to make her forget Valentine and notice Thurio. Julia, disguised as a page called Sebastian, arrives in Milan and is disgusted to overhear Proteus wooing Silvia on his own behalf. Silvia rejects Proteus’ advances, and approaches Sir Eglamour for help to escape from Milan and reach Valentine. Proteus takes ‘Sebastian’ into his service. He gives her a ring and a letter to take to Silvia, who refuses it and tears up the letter, expressing sympathy for the forsaken Julia, whom ‘Sebastian’ describes to her.
Proteus and ‘Sebastian’ follow Silvia out of Milan. She is captured by the outlaws, but rescued by Proteus, who tries to force her to yield to him. Valentine, who has observed everything, comes to her aid. He tells Proteus that he can have Silvia, which causes Julia to faint. Her identity is revealed when Proteus recognizes the ring she is wearing as the one he had given her. Her fidelity rekindles his love for her.
The outlaws capture the Duke and Thurio, who have come in pursuit of Silvia, and they are brought before Valentine, who reveals his identity. Thurio claims Silvia, but immediately yields when Valentine threatens to fight him. The Duke applauds Valentine’s spirit, repeals his banishment, and gives him Silvia. Valentine obtains pardon for the outlaws. All return to Milan, where marriages are planned between Valentine and Silvia and between Proteus and Julia.
Discuss this play in our forums.