Valentine, a gentleman of Verona, laments the fact that he can’t persuade his companion and fellow gentleman Proteus, who is too busy trying to win Julia’s love, to join him and discover the wonders of the world. When Proteus assures Valentine that he—Valentine—will be in Proteus’ prayers to ward off whatever danger Valentine may encounter during his travels, Valentine mocks Proteus’ assurance, arguing that Proteus’ prayers won’t amount to a hill of beans as they will be offered up while Proteus is engrossed in a book about love and romance. Proteus makes a case for love and romance, but Valentine continues to argue that there’s no greater folly than to give oneself up entirely to love as Proteus has. The two friends eventually go their separate ways. Alone, Proteus reflects on how his love for Julia has utterly incapacitated him for all endeavors to the exclusion of love when he is met by Valentine’s page Speed who is eager to know the whereabouts of Valentine. Proteus informs Speed that Valentine has embarked on a ship which is due to sail to Milan, compelling Speed to compare himself to a sheep that has lost its shepherd. When Proteus affirms the aptness of the analogy, Speed tries to undo the analogy to no avail. Proteus’ wit is too sharp for Speed to get the better of him.
Presently, Proteus asks Speed about Julia’s response to the letter that he—Proteus—had commissioned Speed to deliver. When Speed merely nods before adding the affirmative interjection ‘aye,’ Proteus coins the word ‘noddy,’ and the two have a little fun with the word as it means simpleton and as Speed’s reticence could mean that he is a noddy (in Proteus’ eyes) or that Julia meant to call Proteus a noddy (in Speed’s eyes). At any rate, as the fun quickly wears off, Proteus demands Speed to be forthcoming. However, citing Julia’s stinginess (Julia hadn’t tipped him), Speed makes it clear that he won’t be forthcoming unless he is compensated for his services rendered. When Proteus does eventually give Speed his tip, Proteus is no better off as he is told that Julia's reaction to Proteus’ letter was negligible to the point of indifference. When Speed continues to harp on the fact Julia hadn’t tipped him, Proteus, who is angry with himself for having hired a fool to carry out his sensitive commission, dismisses Speed in disgust.
Julia asks her waiting-woman Lucetta to recommend the man that she—Julia—will likely make the best match with. When Lucetta recommends Proteus, Julia objects, arguing that among her suitors, which include Sir Eglamour and Mercatio, Proteus has been the least voluble in terms of expressing his love. Lucetta argues that he who is the most reticent in publicizing his feelings is often the most ardently in love. To drive her point home, Lucetta produces a letter for Julia from Proteus, but Julia refuses to read it and even orders Lucetta to have it returned to the sender. When Lucetta leaves, Julia divulges the truth: She is head over heels in love with Proteus, but she dares not openly admit it as that would be vulgar being a maid and all. Nonetheless, she recalls Lucetta with the intent of discovering the contents of the letter only to shred it into pieces when Lucetta, arguing that Julia should read it for herself, refuses to read it out loud for Julia’s benefit. Julia dismisses Lucetta only to scold herself for having done such violence to Proteus’ tender thoughts. Subsequently, she tries and does succeed in piecing the letter back together.
Having learned from his servant Panthino that Proteus’ uncle shares his concern of Proteus’ inactivity, Proteus’ father Antonio decides to have his son join Don Alphonso’s company which will leave Verona tomorrow to attend to the Emperor. That Proteus‘ friend Valentine is already there attending on the Emperor makes the decision a no brainer. Presently, Proteus, who appears reading a letter, is apprised of his father’s decision which is non-negotiable. Alone, Proteus laments the fact that he had denied his father a perusal of his letter which he had misrepresented as a letter from Valentine when it was a love letter from Julia and thereby losing his one chance of making a case for staying in Verona. By and by, Panthino urges Proteus to make preparations for his imminent departure to the Emperor's court.