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Students are divided into groups in this lesson and unpack Proteus' soliloquy in Act II sc. vi. This lesson is part of a larger unit on "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" and focuses on close reading techniques.
The students interpret the beginning of Act II sc. iv as whimsical and light-hearted. Truly the banter between Valentine and Thurio is more reminiscent of two bro's at a kegger flexing their verbal dimwits for the hot babe, and I point as much out to the students.
We all agree that when it comes to love Valentine is clueless, but somehow that makes him endearing to most of the students in the room.
When Valentine receives word that Proteus is going to arrive in Milan I encourage the students to do their best Wayne and Garth impressions. And when Proteus and Valentine volley back and forth "my girlfriend is hotter than your girlfriend insults" we all feel comfortably at ease. More proof that Shakespeare was the original 'bro.
However, when Valentine leaves the stage to go look for a ladder and Proteus delivers his "Even as one heat another heat expels" soliloquy, the students become uncomfortable.
"Is he saying he's going to go tell the Duke on his friend?" asks the student playing Proteus.
Where in the lines does it suggest that?" I ask him.
"Well, he says 'Methinks my zeal to Valentine grows cold' , like he doesn't want to be his friend anymore. This guy is a jerk."
"It's pretty harsh, what Proteus is talking about doing," I reply. "But is he so sure of himself? Does he want to betray his friend or does he feel like he has no choice." At that one of the girls sits up. "He always has a choice! Ms. Chiller, he's being a player. He doesn't really love Julia, and I bet he doesn't love Silvia either."
"He loves love?" I ask.
"Yeah, like he just likes the feeling of getting the attention of girls."
"But does that make him a bad guy?", I ask. "Is it wrong to not know what you want?"
Boy, that gets them started. Pretty soon I have three kids talking at the same time. And two of them think that Proteus shouldn't hurt his best friend and his girlfriend just because he sees something new.
"Kinda like making choices about who you date?" I ask. Or one step further, where you live or what career path you choose. You need to consider the people around you.
Of course there is the lone voice who thinks Proteus should do what ne feels like.
The student playing Proteus throws his hands up in frustration. "I don't want to play Proteus any more, this guy is a jerk!"
The same student who has been reading Proteus all class period gulps a little when we get to scene vi.
"Hold on," I say, "we're not going to read this scene out loud, we'll read it in small chunks."
I then have the students break into four groups, with roughly four students in each group. I've split the soliloquy into four parts roughly ten lines each and I give a chunk to each group.
"Identify what Proteus problem is and what causes the problem," I tell the first group.
"What is a possible solution to his problem?" I ask the second group.
"What is his counter argument?" I ask the third.
Finally "What does he decide to do about his problem?" I ask the last group.
I then ask them to find the main points they are going to share and I give them roughly five minutes to do this in. I give out the assignment knowing full well that the middle groups will read the lines before and after to get context of their own parts, and most likely the first and last groups will read beyond their lines as well to determine where Proteus gets his ideas from.
After five minutes I bring the groups back together and I ask them to tell me what they think (see video).
We then read the next scene to see exactly how Proteus decides to betray his friend.
At this point it seems pretty obvious to the students that Valentine is in for a lot of trouble, and that Proteus is going to step aside and watch his friend fall.
I ask the students to make a few predictions as to what they think will happen the rest of the story.
Most of the students think there will be some kind of karmic retribution and both Proteus and Valentine will suffer for their stupidity.
Others think that Valentine will lose Silvia, but he'll be okay with it.
Still others think that Julia will arrive dressed as a boy and remind Proteus where his first promise lies.