Literary Comparison: Two Gentlemen of Verona (William Shakespeare) & a Rose for Emily (William Faulkner)

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Proteus and Valentine are two bosom mates in William Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona; yes, they are "two gentlemen," as the title suggests. When the play begins, the two are seen taking a leave of absence from each other, implying that they will be compelled to part for a while due to obligations. Valentine journeys to Millan, while Proteus stays in Verona, promising to be loyal to his lover Julia. That while Valentine is off for personal improvement, a sense of abandonment is felt when the two buddies part ways in an emotional farewell meaning that they will remain apart for quite a while. However, Valentine has to leave Verona because he believes that the two young men will continue living a simple life if they fail to venture into the outside world. He, in fact, hides at his devotion to love that will make him a fool. Towards the end of the scene, Proteus notes that he has abandoned all his friends and studies all to concentrate on his love. The sense of abandonment is seen when the two bosom buddies are forced to part ways as they console each other for the decisions they made.

In Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily, the author revolves around the life of Emily Grierson, an old woman who was under the strict control of her father and had little to do with the town people. This could have greatly contributed to her sense of low self-esteem despite the lap of luxury her father had bestowed upon her. This sense of abandonment explicitly reveals itself from the failure of her father to attach her to the outside world but instead, tucks her within the homestead. When her father dies, this emotional and social torture is exemplified further since he was the only person she knew in the world. In fact, after the death of her father, the author notes that Emily did not have any idea on how to survive on her own; another sense of abandonment death could do to a daughter.

The two cases clearly elaborate the aspect of abandonment with Shakespeare’s using the example of Proteus and Valentine to show the effects of abandonment to an individual. Valentine is forced to travel alone to Millan while Proteus is left with Julia. Faulkner uses Emily and the love she had for her father to show the difficulties one goes through after such an abandonment. Her father’s death was a culmination of mysteries and absolute loneliness a person develops after they are physically detached from their loved ones (Uman, Deborah, and Sara Morrison 229-232). A Rose for Emily is symbolic of the type of ‘solace’ the old lady will seek soon after the sudden fall of her father. The writer uses this metaphorically to indicate the ‘newness’ of life this character will be forced to undertake as she continues with her life.


In The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Proteus, a young gentleman and a buddy to Valentine betrays his friend when he falls in love with Valentine’s girlfriend and in fact, tries to rape her. After what seems to be a confrontation between them, he (Proteus) undergoes dramatic personal change and goes back to his former lover, Julia. Nevertheless, Proteus assumes a ‘chameleon-like- character’ when he further betrays his girlfriend and falls in and out of love with other women and even some of his friends. He does not bother what other people will think of him and his character and instead, lies to almost everyone. Proteus is both a hero and an antihero since he openly declares in free will the love he had for his friend’s girlfriend and that the love for Silvia is freely given. This breeds resentment between these originally inseparable buddies who turn villainous after Proteus falls in love with Valentine’s girlfriend. Betrayal is also exhibited when Proteus informs the Duke of the intention by Valentine to run away with his daughter simply because he had fallen in love with her as well.

In A Rose for Emily, Faulkner presents betrayal through the main character Emily. Initially, the woman has kept away from the outside world due to the skeptical nature of her father. Soon after her father’s death, she finds love with a young man Homer with whom she later betrays. In one of the scenes, we see her sending one of her servant’s arsenic which was known to be a strong poison. In fact, people thought she was going to kill herself because of the sadness and loneliness her father’s death had caused to her that not even Homer could help heal. People in the town knew that Emily and Baron would later marry since they were in a relationship. However, Emily betrays Homer when he instead kills him with poison simply because she had heard rumors that the town was aware of the sexual encounter she might have had with him. Betrayal is felt when she later feels alone and depressed because he who that she loved is no longer alive.

The fact that betrayal has taken center stage in the two literary contexts means that there is need to have a deeper look into the causes as well as the consequences this has for the characters. In Shakespeare’s work, Proteus is causing discomfort in the lives of Valentine and Silvia by falling in love with Valentine’s girlfriend. This causes a lot of tension in the characters bearing in mind that Proteus had his love in Julia. This is the same case to Emily who is betrayed by the world which has ruthlessly taken her father away from her. Betrayal is an ongoing occurrence in the lives of these characters, but unlike Valentine, Emily seeks for a fresh life in Homer with whom she later ends his life through arsenic poisoning. She feels betrayed when both the comfort and solace she once got from Homer is no longer available to her. Her decision to kill him was out of ignorance despite the love she had for him. Valentine is also betrayed by his friend when Proteus falls in love with his girlfriend and goes further to report him to the Duke.

Lovers & Friendship

According to Tyson & Lois, Proteus and Julia are in love the same Valentine is in love with Silvia, the Duke’s daughter. This brings a lot of conflicting sides when Proteus decides to stay around with Julia at the expense of accompanying Valentine to Millan. The love between Proteus and Julia seems to be stronger than it is between him and Valentine a reason why he decided to stay with Julia even as Valentine went to Millan. This strong friendship is also exhibited between Valentine and Silvia when he falls in love with this daughter of a Duke after landing in Millan. Another vivid encounter of friendship is between Launce and his dog. The two are intrinsic friends to the point that it becomes disheartening when Launce has to leave the dog for other functions. The author has used these characters to show the strength of a bondage created between individuals (Shakespeare, William 44-47).

On the other hand, Faulkner has painted an image of real love and friendship between a father and her daughter such the death of a father becomes the most painful experience in the life of the daughter. In the offing, Emily finds this void filled by Homer who comes into the picture as a redeemer. We see him play a big role in maintaining the social and emotional ability of Emily hence he acts as the ‘Rose’ in her life. Nevertheless, the author twists events when he presents Emily as an evil doer. She plots to kill Homer through the most traumatizing experience of poisoning him. This is because Emily does not want to experience the pain she did when her father died prematurely at the behest of protecting his society. This bond between Homer and Emily ends tragically when Homer dies due to food poisoning.

Another beginning of mysterious events in Emily’s life

In the end, we see her being present at his deathbed; rubbing her hair on him an indication of the deep emotional and social attachment this had for them. As the narration comes to an end, the author presents her as an individual tired of the life mysteries she had experienced. She purchases arsenic from a local pharmacy, bringing to the maximum the protagonist nature in the play (Shakespeare, William 47-50). All along we have been presented a plot that starts off with the characters playing their roles in a comical style throughout the parts when Faulkner creates and destroys them as the play unfolds.


The above discussion had dwelt on the comparisons between the artistic works of William Shakespeare and William Faulkner. Both authors have elaborately brought out the issues of love, abandonment, and betrayal to portray the nature of life human beings experience. That the true aspect of love can be clearly seen whenever a physical detachment is looming or when it happens accidentally. The authors have used this to create a world of fantasy but in a way passing out a succinct message on how human beings should coexist. They are against many wrongdoings such as taking away someone’s life as Emily did to Homer. That despite the sacred nature of life, it should be respected and that only nature can take away someone’s life. On betrayal, we learn that trusting someone could lead to a lot of mysteries especially when they act in manners that portray their betrayal. When Valentine learns of a possible betrayal from Proteus, he develops a lot of resentment, and in fact, a commotion ensues that causes a lot of tension in their original friendship (Bassett, John Earl 3-4). The authors are trying to show the true character of individuals who pretend to love yet inside have a strong conviction to betray. This can be exemplified when the Duke is informed (by Proteus) of the mission which Valentine has with his daughter, yet inside the audience knows that Proteus is after her.

Nevertheless, love is what bonds the rest of the relationships which human beings have on earth. It can be as strong as that which Emily had for her father, or it could be uneven just like Proteus had with Valentine. Above all, the fact that we all have someone to love means that there is a form of completion which we feel from within ourselves. The two literary books have clearly shown us the nature of events individuals experience during their lifetime to which there is a final reward. Betrayal can also lead to untold mysteries especially after regretting what one did to those they hold with dignity.

Works Cited

Bassett, John E. William Faulkner: an annotated bibliography of criticism since 1988. Scarecrow Press, 2009.

Holland, Norman Norwood. The Nature Of Literary Response. 1st ed., New Brunswick, NJ, Transaction Publishers, 2011,

Shakespeare, William. Two Gentlemen Of Verona In Plain And Simple English (A Modern Translation And The Original... Version). 1st Ed., [S.L.], Golgotha Press, Inc, 2016,

Shakespeare, William. Two Gentlemen Of Verona (The Unabridged Play) + The Classic Biography: The Life Of William Shakespeare. 1st ed., [United States], E-Artnow Editions, 2014,

Tyson, Lois. Using Critical Theory: Using Critical Theory to Read and Write About Literature. Routledge, 2013.

Wassersug, Yolana, Deborah Uman, and Sara Morrison. "Staging the Blazon in Early Modern English Theatre." (2016): 229-232.

January 18, 2023



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