The Two Gentlemen of Verona

by: William Shakespeare

Act III, scenes i-ii

In addition to offering economic security, money is inextricably linked to status. The Duke desires Silvia to marry the unappealing Thurio because he is fantastically wealthy. This fact situates Thurio at the top of the financial, and thus social, hierarchy, and suggests that, though he owns a title, the Duke may be less wealthy than Thurio. In his conversation with Valentine, the Duke threatens to disown Silvia and not give her a dowry. The Duke's threat implies that Valentine could not marry without a substantial dowry because he is less wealthy than the Duke and a lesser noble. Additionally, the Duke's bargain with Proteus smacks of a financial transaction; for the goods of Proteus' gossip, the Duke adopts him into his inner circle of trusted advisors. The Duke and Proteus become hierarchically aligned because of their ability to interact, or transact, on an equal plane.

Although the Duke is hardly as detestable as Proteus, he aligns himself with Proteus' single-minded morality. Just as Proteus believes that one value, love, must necessarily cancel out the other, friendship, so too does the Duke view matters as black-and-white: "Where your good word cannot advantage him/Your slander never can endamage him./Therefore the office is indifferent" (III.ii.42-44). It is this straightforward approach to life that allows both Proteus and the Duke to establish a clear hierarchy of values for themselves, which, in turn, allows such things as friendship and respect to be cast aside with ease.

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