Valentine and Proteus, the eponymous gentlemen of the title are, and have been best friends for many years. The play opens with Valentine departing for the court of the Duke of Milan. proteus does not accompany him as his love for Julia keeps him at home. Arriving at the court, Valentine meets and falls in love with Silvia, the Duke's daughter. Meanwhile Antonio, Proteus' father, instructs his son to go to the court as well. This Valentine does; he reluctantly bids farewell to Julia, they exchange rings and he vows fidelity. On arriving at the court, however, he too meets Silvia, and falls in love with her. Such is his infatuation, that he betrays her and Valentine to the Duke; revealing their secret plan of elopement. As a consequence, Valentine is banished and the Duke chooses the vain, idiotic Thurio as a suitor for her hand. While this is happening, Julia, lovesick for Proteus, decides to follow him to the court, and disguises herself as a boy for the purpose. In this guise, she witnesses her lover serenading Silvia, who rebuffs him. Elsewhere, the exiled Valentine and his servant, Speed, are captured in the forest by outlaws; however, when they discover Valentine is an educated gentleman, they elect him as their captain. Enlisting the help of the noble Eglamour, Silvia escapes the court to track down Valentine; She is pursued by the Duke, Thurio, Proteus and the still disguised Julia. The latter two find Silvia. Proteus again presses his suit, and is again rebuffed, whereupon, he attempts to rape Silvia. Before he can do this, Valentine arrives to stop him, berating him for his behaviour. Proteus, contrite, repents and Valentine is so moved that he offers him Silvia; this causes Julia to faint. Coming to, she reveals her real identity and Proteus falls in love with her again. At this point, the Duke and Thurio arrive. Valentine offers to fight Thurio for Silvia, and Thrio quickly relinquishes his interest in her. The Duke pardons Valentine and gives him his daughter's hand in marriage. The above is the main storyline, but it is augmented by the sub plot antics of the clowns, Speed and Launce whose comic banter provides relief and enlivens the proceedings. Launce, in particular, has become a notable character in the Shakespearean canon, being accompanied, as he is, by his dog, Crab. He soliloquises amusingly on the dog's unsentimental nature and on it's disgusting habits.