Today we’re going to take a look at Julia’s monologue from Act 2, Scene 2 of Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare. This monologue is fun, physical and a great opportunity for the actor to play. So before we get too into the text let’s take a look at how we got here.
Our play begins, you guessed it, in Verona; where we meet Proteus and Valentine (our two gentlemen of Verona). Valentine is getting ready to set sail to Milan in order to broaden his horizons and is begging Proteus to come with him. But Proteus refuses, saying he wouldn’t want to leave Julia, the woman he is madly in love with. Valentine accepts, the two bid each other farewell, and Valentine hits the road.
Meanwhile, we meet Julia and Lucetta in Julia’s bedroom as they discuss potential bachelors for her. Julia doesn’t believe that Proteus really loves her as he hasn’t even bothered to flirt with her. Plus she doesn’t want to admit just how much she likes him. That is until Lucetta reveals a letter that she says was sent by Speed, Valentines servant, from Proteus. Julia, still not wanting to admit her feelings, tears up the letter and sends Lucetta away. Suddenly realising what she’s done she says…
Nay, would I were so anger’d with the same!
O hateful hands, to tear such loving words;
Injurious wasps, to feed on such sweet honey,
And kill the bees that yield it, with your stings!
I’ll kiss each several paper for amends.
Look, here is writ ‘kind Julia.’ Unkind Julia!
As in revenge of thy ingratitude,
I throw thy name against the bruising stones,
Trampling contemptuously on thy disdain.
And here is writ ‘love-wounded Proteus’.
Poor wounded name: my bosom, as a bed,
Shall lodge thee till thy wound be thoroughly heal’d;
And thus I search it with a sovereign kiss.
But twice, or thrice, was ‘Proteus’ written down:
Be calm, good wind, blow not a word away,
Till I have found each letter, in the letter,
Except mine own name: that some whirlwind bear
Unto a ragged, fearful, hanging rock,
And throw it thence into the raging sea.
Lo, here in one line is his name twice writ:
‘Poor forlorn Proteus’, ‘passionate Proteus’.
‘To the sweet Julia’: that I’ll tear away.
And yet I will not, sith so prettily
He couples it to his complaining names.
Thus will I fold them one on another:
Now kiss, embrace, contend, do what you will.
Injurious: something that causes pain or harm
Disdain: to look down on something with contempt; to despise
Sovereign: excellent, leading or outstanding
Thence: from there, from that place
Forlorn: abandoned, outcast
No, I wish I was actually angry with this letter!
Oh, these hand are hateful to tear up such loving words.
They are harmful wasps that eat the bees honey and then kill
Them with their stings!
I’ll kiss each piece of paper to make up for it.
Oh, look! This one says ‘kind Julia’. UNkind Julia!
In revenge for your ungratefulness
I’ll throw your name against these rocks
And trample all over your disdain.
And this one says ‘love-wounded Proteus’
Poor thing. I’ll keep your name next to my heart
And that should give it a healing kiss.
Proteus’ name is written down two, maybe three times.
Calm yourself, wind! Don’t blow these scraps of paper away,
Until I’ve found each letter in the letter expect for my own name:
Then you can make a whirlwind and blow that against some ragged rocks
And into the violent sea for all I care.
Look here’s a line that has his name twice.
‘Poor abandoned Proteus’ ‘Passionate Proteus’
‘To the sweet Julia’, well I’ll throw that one away.
Wait, maybe I won’t, since he ties our names so
I’ll fold our names on top of one another like this.
Now kiss, embrace, wrestle, do what you want.
Notes on Performance
This monologue affords the actor an opportunity to have a lot of fun. While Julia is going through a turmoil it can be quite funny for the audience to see her trying to piece back together this letter that she tore up in spite so keep it light!
Physicalise! There’s a lot of visual comedy to be found here. How manically is she trying to find the paper? How does she battle against the wind? How fast or slowly does she kiss each piece of paper? Have fun with this and find some physical comedy.
Lastly, while you find all of the fun that’s in this monologue, remember: to the character it’s devastating, frustrating and self flagellating. So always come from a place of truth when you’re finding the comedy.
For more Female Shakespeare Monologues