All that was mine in Silvia I give thee –Two Gentlemen of Verona How to make a woman mute: Give her to your friend like the object of affection she always was. In Shakespeare, lovers are always trading rings, each one the licked fingerprint of a beloved, an arrow to the eye of the faithless. Turn the ring sideways and it shows the hollow of a lover’s heart, the space his finger forgets to occupy as soon as that slim first vow is out of sight. There are two women in Two Gentlemen, and one ring passed between them: Julia gives it to her love, but he gives it to Silvia, who loves his friend instead. When Silvia won’t take the ring, her lover proffers Silvia’s whole self instead. Silvia never speaks a word again in the whole play, her mouth an empty O, her body a space ready for slipping on. In comedy, men bound without a rebound, and women, knowing love must be a secret or a shame, go on holding, strung around their necks or deep in pocket, the ring of remembrance, the empty me-men-to.
Elizabeth Sylvia (she/her) is a writer of poems and other lists who lives with her family in Massachusetts, where she teaches high school English and coaches debate. Elizabeth’s work is upcoming or has recently appeared in Salamander, Pleiades, Soundings East, J Journal, RHINO, Main Street Rag and a bunch of other wonderful journals. She is currently working on a verse investigation of the writer Elizabeth Barstow Stoddard.