The adage, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going,” means that when faced with challenges or obstacles, those with strong character become more determined to rise to them or surmount them. It may also mean that when faced with a situation another person might find undesirable, a strong and clever person finds a way to turn it to his or her advantage.
In Shakespeare’s play, examples of characters who embody this adage are the lovers, Julia and Proteus, and Silvia and Valentine. Separated early in the play, Julia and Proteus vow to keep loving one another. Later, Julia is so determined to be with Proteus that she is willing to disguise herself as a man and travel to the Duke’s court in Milan. Even when she sees him wooing another woman (Silvia), she does not give up on their relationship.
When the Duke learns of Valentine’s plan to elope with Silvia, he banishes him from court. Shortly after, Valentine is captured by outlaws who demand that he become their king. As death is the price for refusal, he accepts their proposal. Though not an ideal situation, Valentine is able to use it to his advantage to find Silvia, save her from rape at Proteus’ hands, regain his place at court, and ultimately, marry the woman he loves.