What You Will: A Queer-er Shakespeare (S2, E13)

Season Content Notes: Revenge plot, violence, boundary violations, sexual harassment, ableist language, blood, misgendering, self-misgendering

There is never a good time for anyone to come staggering in, bloody and calling for a surgeon. When a secret marriage — secret even to one of the people supposedly married! — is in the middle of tearing relationships apart and spawning screaming matches… well, it isn’t a good time, but in an odd way, everyone was a little bit relieved by the interruption.

Countess Olivia reluctantly dropped Cesario’s hand and moved toward Sir Andrew — though staying well out of reach. “What’s the matter?”

“He has broke my head across,” Sir Andrew moaned, digging out a handkerchief and holding it to the bleeding gash on his head. “And has given Sir Toby a bloody coxcomb too: for the love of God, your help! I had rather than forty pound I were at home.”

The wound was more blood than matter, for all that Sir Andrew seemed to think he was on death’s door.

The countess signaled for one of the servants to go for the surgeon and continued trying to get information out of the not-so-doughty knight. “Who has done this, Sir Andrew?”

Sir Andrew’s handkerchief was doing not much more than smearing the blood around. He fumbled to fold it, seeking a clean side. “The count’s gentleman, one Cesario.” If Sir Andrew had been less self-absorbed he might have noticed the sudden stillness surrounding him. “We took him for a coward, but he’s the very devil incardinate.”

“My gentleman, Cesario?” Duke Orsino, at his mercurial best, took two long strides to stand protectively between Cesario and the (to him) strange knight.

” ‘Od’s lifelings, here he is!” Sir Andrew jumped half a foot in the air and stumbled backward, holding up his hands in a warding gesture. “You broke my head for nothing; and that that I did, I was set on to do’t by Sir Toby.”

Cesario had had, one must admit, a very bad day. There is a point in time when one must choose: one can break down crying, break down laughing, or break down screaming. But one will break down.

Stepping around the duke, with a boldness that shocked the duke and his retinue (but was the first thing that made sense to poor Antonio) Cesaro advanced on Sir Andrew. At full volume. “Why do you speak to me? I never hurt you! You,” a finger stabbed Sir Andrew in the chest as he nearly tripped trying to get away, “drew your sword upon me without cause. But I bespoke you fair, and hurt you not.”

Sir Andrew backed away from physical confrontation with commendable speed, but his speech was as loud as Cesario’s. “If a bloody coxcomb be a hurt, you have hurt me! I think you set nothing by a bloody coxcomb.”

Before Cesario could respond, Orsino had him by the arm, pulling him away. When Olivia reached also for Cesario the duke’s expression froze, and he dropped Cesario’s arm as if burnt.

Cesario, on the edge of tears, shrugged away from Olivia and Orsino. He turned his back on the whole mess and everyone who was part of it.

Before either duke or countess could respond, Sir Toby came stumbling, clutching a wound on his side that was staining his jacket red.

Sir Andrew saw him and gestured. “Here comes Sir Toby halting; you shall hear more! But if he had not been in drink, he would have tickled you othergates than he did.”

Cautiously, still baffled as to what was going on, Orsino asked, “How now, gentleman! how is’t with you?”

“That’s all one.” Sir Toby Shrugged.”Has hurt me, and there’s the end on’t.” He turned to the Fool and asked, “Sot, didst see Dick surgeon, sot?”

“O, he’s drunk, Sir Toby,” the Fool replied with false solicitude, “an hour agone. His eyes were set at eight i’ the morning.”

“Then he’s a rogue, and a scoundrel! I hate a drunken rogue.” Sir Toby stomped toward the manor.

Oliva stared after him in wonder. “Who hath made this havoc with them?”

“I’ll help you, Sir Toby,” Sir Andrew called, hurrying after, “because we’ll be dressed together.”

Why it was at that moment Sir Toby lost all patience with Sir Andrew, who can say? But he did, calling his erstwhile companion the most wretched names. “Will you help?” he demanded, “an ass-head and a coxcomb and a knave, a thin-faced knave, a gull!”

“Get him to bed,” Olivia ordered, cutting off whatever response or defense Sir Andrew might have made, “and let his hurt be look’d to.”

The Fool and Fabian escorted the two knights away, leaving the garden much quieter.

But scarcely was the door closed behind them, when someone else can running up.

“I am sorry, madam,” Sebastian said, taking Olivia’s hand to kiss it. “I have hurt your kinsman. But, had it been the brother of my blood, I must have done no less with wit and safety.”

Olivia barely heard a word out of Sebastian’s mouth, being too busy staring at him in shock. Sebastian squeezed her hand in concern. “You throw a strange regard upon me, and by that I do perceive it hath offended you. Pardon me, sweet one, even for the vows we made each other but so late ago.”

Of course, it wasn’t only Olivia who was shocked. The Duke, looking to Cesario, spoke what all were thinking. “One face, one voice, one habit, and two persons. A natural perspective, that is and is not!”

Sebastian looked over at the duke’s words but did not respond. Perhaps he had been so inundated with confusing and nonsensical things that he had ceased to concern himself.

What did concern Sebastian was the familiar face he saw standing near Orsino — Antonio, still held between two guardsmen. “Antonio, O my dear Antonio!” he ran over to his friend and lover and embraced him. “How have the hours rack’d and tortured me, since I have lost thee!”

If he had been expecting an equally enthusiastic greeting from Antonio, he was to be disappointed. Antonio pulled away from Sebastian and looked at him as if were a stranger. “Sebastian are you?” he demanded.

“Fear’st thou that, Antonio?” Sebastian laughed, but the laugh was strained.

Gesturing with his chin to where Cesario still stood off, Antonio asked, “How have you made division of yourself? An apple, cleft in two, is not more twin than these two creatures.” Almost plaintively, “Which is Sebastian?”

“Most wonderful!” Olivia murmured, staring between the two.

Sebastian turned and froze. “Do I stand there?” He shook his head and took a step closer to the stranger, who still had not seen him. “I never had a brother; nor can there be that deity in my nature, of here and every where. I had a sister, whom the blind waves and surges have devour’d.”

If anyone had been paying attention (which of course no one was) they might have seen Orsino’s eyes narrow at this last.

Oblivious, Sebastian raised to voice. “Of charity, what kin are you to me?” Cesario turned, and his eyes widened. “What countryman?” Sebastian asked, “What name? what parentage?”

“Of Messaline,” Cesario answered. “Sebastian was my father. Such a Sebastian was my brother too.” He plucked at his suit, modeled on the one Sebastian had always preferred to wear — was wearing now even. “So went he suited to his watery tomb.” He — no, she, for if this was true Cesario must be she again, and the agony of that battled with the hope and joy in her heart. She had sworn that she never again answer to ‘Viola’ unless the dead walked the earth, and… “If spirits can assume both form and suit you come to fright us.”

“A spirit I am indeed,” Sebastian said with a watery smile, “But am in that dimension grossly clad, which from the womb I did participate.” He took a breath and another step toward Cesario, who still had not moved. His eyes moved over the figure, remembering all the times he and his sister had disguised themselves as each other. “Were you a woman, as the rest goes even, I should my tears let fall upon your cheek, and say ‘Thrice-welcome, drowned Viola!’ ”

She opened her mouth, but couldn’t bring herself to say it. But she had to say something. “My father had a mole upon his brow.”

“And so had mine.”

“And died that day when Viola from her birth, had number’d thirteen years.” There, she’d said it. She’d said the name. Sebastian’s eyes lit up with joy even as Cesario struggled to breathe.

“O, that record is lively in my soul! He finished indeed his mortal act that day that made my sister thirteen years.”

“If nothing lets to make us happy both,” Happy. How could she be so happy and so destroyed? “But this my masculine… usurp’d attire, do not embrace me till each circumstance of place, time, fortune, do cohere and jump that I am,” she stopped, swallowed, “Viola.” Sebastian reached out then and wrapped her in his arms. She hugged him back, relaxing in the safety she had not known for three months or more. Her tears fell on his chest even as his dripped into her hair.

When she finally pulled away she glanced at Orsino. There was something in his eyes, something hot and hard that she could not yet face. Dropping her eyes she said, “Which to confirm, I’ll bring you to a captain in this town, where lie my maiden weeds. By his gentle help, I was preserved to serve this noble count. All the occurrence of my fortune since hath been between this lady and this lord.”

His attention once again directed to Olivia — to his wife of all three hours — Sebastian looked to see the stunned, almost horrified, look she wore. A great deal of the past week’s confusion suddenly came clear.

Giving Viola a last squeeze he turned to his lady and offered his hand. “So comes it, lady, you have been mistook: but nature to her bias drew in that.” He chuckled and leaned to whisper in her ear, “You would have been contracted to a maid.” She jumped and finally turned to look at him, a plea in her eyes. He answered that plea, bending to kiss her. “Nor are you therein, by my life, deceived, you are betroth’d both to a maid and man.” He grinned cheekily at her and she surprised herself by laughing.

Duke Orsino has a well-earned reputation for being less than steadfast. But in one thing he was true — the giving of his heart. So some might have been surprised by how he smiled at the new couple. True of heart, yes, but not hard-hearted. And with some measure of wisdom. To Olivia, he said only, “Be not amazed; right noble is his blood.” Then he looked to Sebastian and with raised eyebrows and a slight question in his voice continued, “If this be so, as yet the glass seems true, I shall have share in this most happy wreck.”

Sebastian and the duke looked at each other for a long moment. Then, Sebastian nodded. Orsino returned the nod and walked over to the one he had known only as Cesario.

In his heart alone could Orsino be relied upon, and that heart spoke true. He put a hand under a chin, urged eyes soft with tears up to look at him. And said one word. “Boy.”

Viola — Cesario — took a sudden breath, as one released from too-tight clothing. She — he — clung to the duke with his eyes, begging for something he dared not say.

In the background, one might have heard an old retainer mutter a quiet prayer of thanksgiving.

“Boy,” he repeated, “thou hast said to me a thousand times thou never shouldst love woman like to me.”

“And all those sayings will I overswear, and those swearings keep as true in soul.”

“Give me thy hand,” Orsino asked gently. Cesario gave it, and for a long moment, they clung together, like survivors of a shipwreck.

What You Will: A Queer-er Shakespeare (S2, E11)

We’re in the home stretch, only a few episodes left. Hope you’ve enjoyed the ride as much as I have.

Season Content Notes: Revenge plot, violence, boundary violations, sexual harassment, ableist language

The fool and a few gardeners who had the… ah… ill luck to witness Sebastian’s pain had remained behind when he and the countess left to seek the priest. It was these the newly-arrived Duke Orsino addressed, asking, “Belong you to the Lady Olivia, friends?”

“Ay, sir,” the fool replied with a mocking bow, “We are some of her trappings.”

The Duke, well familiar with the fool’s antics, laughed. “I know thee well; how dost thou, my good fellow?”

“Truly, sir, the better for my foes and the worse for my friends.”

“Just the contrary,” the Duke said, “The better for thy friends.”

The fool shook his head sadly, “No, sir, the worse.”

“How can that be?”

“Marry, sir,” the fool replied, clearly surprised at the Duke’s confusion. “My friends praise me and make an ass of me. Now my foes tell me plainly I am an ass: so that by my foes, sir I profit in the knowledge of myself, and by my friends, I am abused. So that, conclusions to be as kisses, if your four negatives make your two affirmatives why then, the worse for my friends and the better for my foes.”

“Why, this is excellent,” Duke Orsino said with another laugh

“By my troth, sir, no; though it please you to be one of my friends.”

“Thou shalt not be the worse for me: there’s gold,” and so saying, Orsino pulled out his purse and gave thrice what the fool had already received from Cesario that day.

Truly, the duke was a rarity. Most wealthy men are so stingy one would think each coin their last. The fool couldn’t resist testing how far Duke Orsino’s generosity went. Taking the coin, he managed a hang-dog look and held his hand spread wide, so the single coin looked small against his palm. “But that it would be double-dealing, sir. I would you could make it another.”

The duke laughed again. His changeable mein, it seemed, wore Janus’ happy face for the day. “O, you give me ill counsel.”

“Put your grace in your pocket, sir, for this once,” the fool said, clasping his hands in prayer, “and let your flesh and blood obey it.” When the fool opened his hands, the coin had disappeared.

“Well, I will be so much a sinner, to be a double-dealer: there’s another.”

The fool took the new coin, and then the first was beside it. The fool counted them off, “Primo, secundo, tertio.” He waved his finger over an empty spot awaiting a third coin, “is a good play; and the old saying is, the third pays for all.”

The duke shook his head but still smiled, “You can fool no more money out of me at this throw.”

The fool opened his mouth to prove the duke wrong, but Orsino held up his hand and waggled his eyebrows — a hideous sight that should never be seen again. “If you will let your lady know I am here to speak with her, and bring her along with you, it may awake my bounty further.”

Smiling now himself, the fool made the two coins he held disappear into his purse and bowed. “Marry, sir, lullaby to your bounty till I come again. I go, sir, let your bounty take a nap, I will awake it anon.”

The fool hurried off, but not so fast that he did not hear Cesario speak behind him: “Here comes the man, sir, that did rescue me.”

And indeed it was, as the fool exited — stage left, if you will — so entered the bold sailor Antonio, still in chains and escorted by two guardsmen.

The duke had, of course, heard of the matter from Cesario. But Cesario’s description had focused on the wonder of a stranger coming to his aid. The moment he saw Antonio’s countenance, all merriment left Orsino’s face. “That face of his I do remember well; Yet, when I saw it last, it was besmear’d as black as Vulcan in the smoke of war.”

The chief officer saluted, saying, “Orsino, this is that Antonio that took the Phoenix and her fraught from Candy. And,” the officer paused in emphasis, “this is he that did the Tiger board, when your young nephew Titus lost his leg. Here in the streets, desperate of shame and state, in private brawl did we apprehend him.”

Cesario watched in concern as Orsino’s face darkened with each word. The duke’s anger to his own was a fearsome thing. To an enemy? Cesario felt some debt to the stranger and stepped forward to stand in front of the duke. “He did me kindness, sir, drew on my side.” Orsino’s eyes focused on Cesario. And as they always did for one moment they swallowed all else. Cesario licked his lips and tried to recall what he had been saying.

Valentine cleared his throat. Loudly. Both Orsino and Cesario jumped, looked away. And Cesario awkwardly finished, “But in conclusion put strange speech upon me. I know not what ’twas but distraction.”

Orsino looking away, had locked eyes this time with Antonio. He gently pushed Cesario aside and advanced on the sailor. His voice, when he spoke, might have been called a growl, save that there was a note of curiosity mixed with the anger. “Notable pirate. Thou salt-water thief. What foolish boldness brought thee to their mercies, whom thou, in terms so bloody and so dear, hast made thine enemies?”

Another man might have stepped back, but Antonio met Orsino’s gaze. His only sign of nerves was that he licked his lips before speaking. “Orsino, noble sir, be pleased that I shake off these names you give me. Antonio never yet was thief or pirate.” He spread his hands, as best he could wearing manacles. “Though I confess, on base and ground enough, Orsino’s enemy.”

He paused as if daring the duke to contradict him. But Orsino, for all his faults, was honest. And after a moment, he gave a brief jerk of a nod.

Antonio returned the nod, took a deep breath, and continued. “A witchcraft drew me hither: that most ingrateful boy there by your side.” He gestured to Cesario, who shook his head in dismay. Antonio spat on the ground. “From the rude sea’s enraged and foamy mouth did I redeem; a wreck past hope he was. His life I gave him and did thereto add my love, without retention or restraint.”

Cesario listened to this recitation in the most peculiar state. For surely the man was mad — Cesario had indeed been pulled from the sea, but not by him! But also, here was a man declaring openly his love for another man, for Cesario. It fired Cesario’s hope for that thing he had not dared believe was possible. But also, another hope, a hope she had given up for dead all these months past — she! How long since he had thought of himself like that! But he would put aside all he had, all he longed for, all he was, if only…

Antonio continued speaking, but Cesario heard none of it. “How can this be?” He repeated to himself, “How can this be?”

As if in comfort, Orsino put a hand on Cesario’s shoulder and squeezed. “When came he to this town?” The duke demanded.

“To-day, my lord,” Antonio declared, “and for three months before, no interim, not a minute’s vacancy, both day and night did we keep company.”

As he finished speaking, the countess finally came out of her manner, followed by Maria and the fool.

Orsino, seeing her, sighed with longing, and it was all Cesario could do not to roll his eyes. “Here comes the countess: now heaven walks on earth.” Turning back to Antonio, the duke shook his head, almost sadly. “But for thee, fellow; fellow, thy words are madness. Three months this youth hath tended upon me. But more of that anon. Take him aside.”

What You Will: A Queer-er Shakespeare (S2, E10)

Season Content Notes: Revenge plot, violence, boundary violations, sexual harassment, ableist language


Sometimes, fools have more wisdom than the wise, but even the wisest fool can be a fool in truth. The rest of Malvolio’s story cannot be erased, if only because he still had a small role to play in Cesario’s tale. But for all the man deserved some comeuppance, he did not deserve so far a fall and so great a humiliation.

The fool, to this day, is shamed by the role he had in Malvolio’s downfall, for some jokes are such as never should be played. Suffice to say that while all these other happenings continued, the steward remained, not seen to by a doctor, but locked in a dark house and mocked by false priests. It is some comfort to the fool that it was by his hand that Malvolio was finally able to appeal for help to Lady Oliva, but that came later.

For while Malvolio was trapped in darkness, Sebastian was getting to know the lady Olivia — his mysterious rescuer — and worrying.

Near a week after Olivia first invited him into the manor, Sebastian found himself wandering the grounds. He was trying once again to find sense in his world. Lost in thought, he did not notice the fool was also relaxing in the sunlight.

“This is the air,” he mused, “that is the glorious sun. This pearl she gave me, I do feel’t and see’t.” The pearl in question rested atop a small pin. It was not expensive, as such things go, but still more valuable than anything remaining to him since the shipwreck. More valuable than anything that should be so lightly gifted to a stranger. “And though ’tis wonder that enwraps me thus, yet ’tis not madness.”

He tucked the pin away and sat down on a bench, clasping his hands. “Where’s Antonio, then? I could not find him at the Elephant: yet there he was; and there I found this credit, that he did range the town to seek me out.” And Sebastian had ranged the town himself in return. A few folks admitted to having seen Antonio when they first arrived in town, but no one knew where he was.

At first, Sebastian hadn’t worried — with he and Antonio looking for each other, it was likely they had been victims of bad timing. But it had been several days, with no word. And while he worried, he also wished for Antonio’s advice. “For though my soul disputes well with my sense, that this may be some error, but no madness, yet doth this accident and flood of fortune so far exceed all reason that I am ready to distrust mine eyes and be persuaded but that I am mad.”

He felt foolish speaking to himself. But it at least slowed down the whirl of thought and fear. “Or else the lady’s mad. Yet, if ’twere so, she could not sway her house, command her followers, take and give back affairs and their dispatch with such a smooth, discreet and stable bearing as I have seen she does.” There was some deception here. Some answer other than that he had lost his senses or the lady who so assiduously courted him was lacking hers.

He could not find it.

It was a relief to see Olivia walking toward him, even with the priest in tow. Anything to distract Sebastian from his own thoughts.

“Blame not this haste of mine.” Olivia pleaded, reaching for Sebastian’s hands. “If you mean well, now go with me and with this holy man into the chantry by. There, before him, and underneath that consecrated roof, plight me the full assurance of your faith.”

Sebastian’s jaw dropped. He couldn’t help it. But somehow he also was not surprised.

The lady continued, perhaps oblivious to his shock, perhaps trying to persuade him in spite of it. “So my most jealous and too doubtful soul may live at peace. He shall conceal it whiles you are willing. What do you say?”

By logic, Sebastian knew he should say no, for while it would be a most advantageous match — especially in his current circumstances — the world still spun mad around him.

And yet — if he were to be thrown into a world where reason was suspended, that left him only the senses. So by them, he chose: standing and squeezing Olivia’s hands between his.

A good woman, who cared for him and dealt well with her people. An attractive woman he was coming to care for and enjoy spending time with.

A future, where he’d had none.

“I’ll follow this good man, and go with you,” he said, “And, having sworn truth, ever will be true.”

He had one moment to see how her eyes brightened and her smile beamed before she let go of his hands and wrapped him in a hug. A bone-crushing hug for all her slight frame.

After a few moments, she pulled away and turned to the priest. With a much more reserved composure, she said, “Then lead the way, good father. And heavens so shine, that they may fairly note this act of mine!”

Chance is a chancy thing. And one who paid attention might have noted that chance was working its will with abundance that day. Scarce had they passed within doors when Duke Orsino, accompanied by Cesario and more of his entourage, came down the drive.


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What You Will: A Queer-er Shakespeare (S2, E9)

Season Content Notes: Revenge plot, violence, boundary violations, sexual harassment

The fool was having a most exasperating day. There are fools and fools, and not all fools wear motley. Until this moment, the fool’s judgment had been out on this Cesario; it was rapidly coming to a conclusion.

For Sebastian, the day so far had been delightful. The journey’s end, the surprise appearance of his beloved, and some sightseeing make for a good day to most minds. Of course, Sebastian was the only one who’d been having a good day thus far, so it seems fair that his day was rapidly taking a turn for the worse.

For his path was now blocked by a fool (in motley). A fool who had begun dogging his steps when he passed a drive a minute back and had grown more persistent with each passing moment.

“Will you make me believe that I am not sent for you?” the fool demanded.

“Go to, go to, thou art a foolish fellow,” Sebastian grumbled, trying to step around the fool, only to find his way blocked again. “Let me be clear of thee.”

The fool rolled his eyes, ” Well held out, i’ faith!” He pulled out an imaginary scroll and opened it up to read down a list, “No, I do not know you,” he made a check mark, “nor I am not sent to you by my lady, to bid you come speak with her,” check, “nor your name is not Master Cesario,” a final check and he stuffed the list back in his pocket to pinch his nose, changing the sound of his voice, “nor this is not my nose neither. Nothing that is so is so.”

It was Sebastian’s turn to roll his eyes, and he did so freely. “I prithee, vent thy folly somewhere else. Thou know’st not me.” He made again to step around the fool, but this time the fool not only blocked his way but grabbed his arm.

“Vent my folly! He has heard that word of some great man and now applies it to a fool. Vent my folly!” then, as speaking to a child, “I prithee now, ungird thy strangeness and tell me what I shall vent to my lady: shall I vent to her that thou art coming?

Shaking his arm free, Sebastian did the only thing left to him, though he was loath to do it. He pulled out the small wallet Antonio had entrusted to him. “I prithee, foolish Greek, depart from me.” He held out two small coins to the fool, saying, “There’s money for thee. If you tarry longer,” tucking the wallet away, he held up his other hand next to the coins and made a fist. “I shall give worse payment.”

“By my troth, thou hast an open hand.” The fool grabbed the coins, the third to his reckoning that ‘Cesario’ had given him that day. “These wise men that give fools money get themselves a good report–after fourteen years’ purchase.”

Whether or not the fool would have actually allowed Sebastian to pass, Sebastian never learned. A hand grabbed his shoulder and spun him around.

“Now, sir, have I met you again?” A foppish stranger, who the fool recognized as Sir Andrew, declared as he punched Sebastian weakly in the forehead. “there’s for you.”

It was surprise more than injury that stunned Sebastian but he recovered quickly. Sebastian then grabbed Sir Andrew’s hand before he could attack again. The fist he had offered the fool he now gave to the knight. “Why, there’s for thee, and there, and there.” After the third hit, Sir Andrew stopped struggling and dropped weakly to the ground. “Are all the people mad?”

Behind Sir Andrew, of course, had come Sir Toby, cracking his knuckles at this promise of a good fight. “Hold, sir, or I’ll throw your dagger o’er the house.”

“This will I tell my lady straight,” the fool declared but was not surprised when the warning did not slow Sir Toby. So the fool took to his heels, knowing he had no place in fisticuffs. “I would not be in some of your coats for two pence.”

“Come on, sir; hold,” Sir Toby growled, grabbing at Sebastian. But Sir Andrew shook his head.

“Nay, let him alone,” the battered knight said. “I’ll go another way to work with him.” He smirked at Sebastian. “I’ll have an action of battery against him, if there be any law in Illyria. Though I struck him first, yet it’s no matter for that.”

“Let go thy hand!” Sebastian yelled, trying to shake free of Sir Toby.

“Come, sir, I will not let you go.” But despite Sir Toby’s best efforts, Sebastian wrenched loose and looked around for an escape route. “Come, my young soldier,” Sir Toby taunted, “Put up your iron: you are well fleshed; come on.”

“I will be free from thee.” But Sebastian was rapidly losing his temper. “What wouldst thou now? If thou darest tempt me further, draw thy sword.” And so saying, he drew his own.

“What, what?” Sir Toby grinned and did indeed draw his sword with a flourish. “Nay, then I must have an ounce or two of this malapert blood from you.”

“Hold, Toby,” came a cry from across the orchard. “On thy life I charge thee, hold!”

A well-dressed woman came charging out to throw herself in front of Sebastian, glaring at Sir Toby.

What almost shocked Sebastian more was how Sir Toby stumbled backward, windmilling his arms as he cried, “Madam!”

Still not knowing what was going on, Sebastian stepped back, somewhat more gracefully, and sheathed his sword before he accidentally harmed the woman protecting him.

“Will it be ever thus?” she demanded of the knight, “Ungracious wretch, fit for the mountains and the barbarous caves, where manners ne’er were preach’d! out of my sight!”

Sebastian gaped as the knights and their follower slunk away in the direction the woman had come from — though not without a few glares in his direction.

When they were gone, she turned to Sebastian, who was still trying to find his voice. With a forwardness he had never encountered before, she grabbed his hands. “Be not offended, dear Cesario.”

He was so startled he almost missed how she misnamed him — but those others had acted certain that they knew him as well. Before he could gather wit to speak, she continued.

“I prithee, gentle friend, let thy fair wisdom, not thy passion, sway in this uncivil and thou unjust extent against thy peace. Go with me to my house, and hear thou there how many fruitless pranks this ruffian hath botch’d up, that thou thereby mayst smile at this.”

She was smiling and leaning into him. He could smell her perfume and feel the heat of her body. And had no idea what in the world was going on.

When he did not immediately respond, her face fell. “Thou shalt not choose but go: do not deny. Beshrew his soul for me, he started one poor heart of mine in thee.”

Still not able to find words, Sebastian could only nod, hoping by following he might get some answers.

As she led him through the orchard to the manor house — manor house! he couldn’t help muttering to himself. “What relish is in this? how runs the stream? Or I am mad, or else this is a dream.” But she looked back and smiled at him. And it was a soft, hopeful smile, so like the one Antonio had given him when first admitting his feelings.

This beautiful woman thought she knew him and cared for him. And he knew, for they had spoken of it, that Antonio would not begrudge him time spent with her. Even if it wasn’t a dream… “Let fancy still my sense in Lethe steep. If it be thus to dream, still let me sleep!”

“Nay, come, I prithee,” she stopped at the door to the manor and pulled him up close. “Would thou’ldst be ruled by me!”

Sebastian licked his lips and looked at this stranger who had thrown herself into danger to protect him. Who somehow cared enough to come between him and her own kinsman. Who looked at him with shining eyes. “Madam,” he said, scarcely believing his own words, “I will.”

“O, say so,” she breathed, “and so be!”

What You Will: A Queer-er Shakespeare (S2, E8)

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Season Content Notes: Revenge plot, violence, boundary violations, sexual harassment

“Put up your sword.”

(Here, we will hear the story as Antonio saw it, for this moment is more of his tale than Cesario’s.)

Antonio had been concerned when Sebastian did not meet him at the Elephant as planned. So he had gone looking. He didn’t know what he had expected, but it definitely hadn’t been to finally see Sebastian on the wrong side of a walled orchard, surrounded by three strangers across drawn swords.

Antonio didn’t stop to think, he hopped the wall and ran to stand between his young lover and danger.

He took the strange look Sebastian gave him as surprise that Antonio was not waiting at the inn, and extended what he hoped was a calming hand toward the strangers. “If this young gentleman have done offence, I take the fault on me. If you offend him, I for him defy you.”

If it hurt Antonio that Ces– ahem, that is Sebastian, stepped away from him, not trusting his protection, Antonio did not show it. For all the time he and Sebastian had spent together, none had been in swordplay, and few sailors are known for their skill with a blade.

But Antonio’s focus was as sharp as his blade on the man he took to be the leader of this assault. That man, finely dressed but with the eye of one who has seen death many times, glared at Antonio. The man put his hand on sword hilt and demanded, “You, sir! why, what are you?”

Knowing that his appearance and low status would not impress such a high-ranking man, Antonio said only, “One, sir, that for his love dares yet do more than you have heard him brag to you he will.”

“Nay, if you be an undertaker,” the stranger snarled, drawing his sword, “I am for you.”

Antonio carried no sword, but Sebastian did, and Antonio reached out quickly to take it from him. Despite the strangeness with which Sebastian continued to view him, he gave Antonio the sword willingly and backed up out of range of the brewing duel.

It was at this time that several officers of the watch came down the road, looking closely around them.

“O good Sir Toby, hold!” the man dressed as a servant cried, pulling Antonio’s opponent away before they could even cross blades, “here come the officers.”

Then it was briefly chaos with all speaking at once.

This ‘Sir Toby’ growled at Antonio, saying, “I’ll be with you anon.”

Sebastian begged the other strange man to put up his sword. The man replied with some nonsense about his horse to Sebastian’s clear confusion.

And one of the officers pointed at Antonio, saying, “This is the man; do thy office.”

Antonio’s heart sank as the second officer pulled out metal handcuffs. “Antonio, I arrest thee at the suit of Count Orsino.”

Giving the sword back to Sebastian, lest he be thought resisting, Antonio said quickly, “You do mistake me, sir.”

“No, sir, no jot,” the first officer scoffed. “I know your favour well, though now you have no sea-cap on your head. Take him away: he knows I know him well.”

“I must obey.” Antonio swallowed and turned to Sebastian. “This comes with seeking you: but there’s no remedy; I shall answer it.” Sebastian looked at him wide-eyed, like a new sailor at first sight of the deep ocean. It pained Antonio more than he thought possible, but he had to ask, “What will you do, now my necessity makes me to ask you for my purse?” He held out his hands, but Sebastian didn’t reply, took a step back even. Was it shock that made him act so strangely? “It grieves me much more for what I cannot do for you than what befalls myself. You stand amazed, but be of comfort.”

“Come, sir, away,” the officers urged, but Antonio shrugged them off. He didn’t care anymore that they might say he resisted them. Didn’t even really care about the money. But Sebastian — Sebastian! — for whom Antonio had given up so much, whose feet he would have willingly knelt at for only the pleasure of his company, who he had given life and hope and love to…

“I must entreat of you some of that money.”

But Sebastian shook his head and answered in a baffled tone, “What money, sir?”

Antonio’s eyes flew wide at the pain of that blow.

“For the fair kindness you have show’d me here,” Sebastian continued, as if Antonio no more than a stranger, “I’ll lend you something: my having is not much; I’ll make division of my present with you.” He reached into his pocket and held out a pittance, saying, “Hold, there’s half my coffer.”

“Will you deny me now?” Antonio snarled, sudden anger being the only thing that held back the tears burning behind his eyes. “Is’t possible that my deserts to you can lack persuasion? Do not tempt my misery, lest that it make me so unsound a man as to upbraid you with those kindnesses that I have done for you.”

As hurt and angry, and yes, scared as Antonion was, nothing could have prepared him for what came next. For Sebastian, who only hours ago had greeted him with words of love and welcome, now dismissed all that gone between them.

“I know of none,” he said, and Antonio’s kneels nearly buckled at that heart-strike. “Nor know I you by voice or any feature.”

“O heavens themselves!” Antonio cried, finally unable to keep the tears from falling.

The second officer, with surprising gentleness, put a hand on Antonio’s shoulder, “Come, sir, I pray you, go.”

With his hands bound behind him, Antonio was unable to wipe the tears from his cheeks, so he let them fall. “Let me speak a little,” he pleaded. “This youth that you see here, I snatch’d one half out of the jaws of death, relieved him with such sanctity of love, and to his image did I devotion.”

“What’s that to us?” The first officer demanded, “The time goes by: away!”

Barely hearing him, Antonio spat on the ground at Sebastian’s feet. “But O how vile an idol proves this god! Thou hast, Sebastian, done good feature shame.” And it brought him spiteful pleasure to see Sebastian finally react without something other than put-on bewilderment. The villain winced as if Antonio had slapped him, as Antonio wished he could. But if words were all he had to express his pain then he would use them. “In nature there’s no blemish but the mind; none can be call’d deform’d but the unkind.”

Exasperated, the first officer shoved the second aside, saying, “The man grows mad: away with him! Come, come, sir.”

With a final curse, Antonio turned to follow them. He left behind the shattered remains of his heart and the one he had thought to devote his life.

Unknown to Antonio, ‘Sebastian,’ still in shock, followed the officers and their charge a short way down the road.

For this Sebastian, of course, was Cesario. The two brothers did indeed look enough alike to fool even Antonio for a short period, and Sebastian was at that time a distance from that place.

In all Cesario’s confusion at the events just past, one thing had struck him most clearly: “He named Sebastian.” Cesario did not doubt that Antonio — whose name Cesario still did not know — had spoken truth. His passion, his pain, had been all too clear. But… Cesario was not Sebastian, yet Cesario’s look, from how he cut his hair, to the clothes, and even the expressions he often wore… He had styled after those of his lost brother. The brother who should have been dead, but this stranger had spoken of saving his life… “O, if it prove, tempests are kind and salt waves fresh in love.”

Cesario had to speak with the Duke. If there was any truth to this, Orsino would help him find it. And it was the Duke who sent the officers, so only he could get Cesario audience with the stranger.

Mind made up, Cesario (with no thought to Countess Olivia’s people who had ambushed him so short a time ago) turned and strode quickly down the road to home.

Behind him, Sir Toby had seen a chance for further mischief and, more, had taken Cesario at a severe dislike for the shameful actions he had just witnessed.

“A very dishonest paltry boy,” that worthy growled, “and more a coward than a hare. His dishonesty appears in leaving his friend here in necessity and denying him, and for his cowardship, ask Fabian.”

Fabian, of course, knew a cue when he heard it and chimed in, “A coward, a most devout coward, religious in it.”

As predictably as Fabian, though with less self-awareness, Sir Anthony jumped for the bait, “‘Slid, I’ll after him again and beat him.”

“Do,” Sir Toby encouraged, “cuff him soundly, but never draw thy sword.”

“An I do not,–” Sir Andrew started down the road after the now-vanished Cesario.

Chortling, Fabian and Sir Toby followed behind to see what sport followed.

“I dare lay any money ’twill be nothing yet.” Sir Toby confided to Fabian, washing his hands with glee.

What You Will: A Queer-er Shakespeare (S2, E7)

Season Content Notes: Revenge plot, violence, boundary violations, sexual harassment

Who is to say what Cesario’s thoughts were as he walked down the drive and away from the countess’ manor? One can speculate, of course. Perhaps he was reflecting on his conversation with the countess or what further entreaties he might make on his lord to give up this futile ‘courtship’.

Whatever his thoughts were, they were disrupted by the sudden appearance of Sir Toby blocking his path.

Many misunderstand Sir Toby, thinking him a comical fellow. Which, indeed, he can be in his cups. But like many, Sir Toby is not a drunkard for love of drinks. Sir Toby is a drunkard for love of what drink gives him — forgetfulness. There is another side to Sir Toby, one seen rarely these days. He is not a nice man, Sir Toby. Few who survive what he has may be termed ‘nice’. Yet he can be, when he chooses, a very impressive man.

It was a different Sir Toby than we have seen thus far who confronted young Cesario on that tree-lined drive. Anyone who has seen that Sir Toby would understand immediately why Cesario — who on their first meeting had confronted the man and demanded to be allowed to speak with the countess — immediately stopped and glanced around for some refuge.

“Gentleman, God save thee.” Sir Toby’s greeting was more harsh than warm, but it met the forms, and Cesario felt constrained to reply.

“And you, sir.”

“That defence thou hast,” Sir Toby began, stepped forward to loom over Cesario, “betake thee to’t: of what nature the wrongs are thou hast done him, I know not. But thy intercepter, full of despite, bloody as the hunter, attends thee at the orchard-end.” When Cesario only stood staring at him, Sir Toby stepped forward again, forcing the youth back. “Dismount thy tuck,” Sir Toby directed, and Cesario scrambled to unsheath his sword lest delay be taken for something else. “Be yare in thy preparation, for thy assailant is quick, skilful and deadly.” With each sentence, Sir Toby forced Cesario back another step.

“You mistake, sir,” Cesario said, trying to remember the proper grip Count Orsino’s fencing master had drilled into him. “I am sure no man hath any quarrel to me: my remembrance is very free and clear from any image of offence done to any man.”

“You’ll find it otherwise, I assure you,” Sir Toby intoned. “Therefore, if you hold your life at any price, betake you to your guard; for your opposite hath in him what youth, strength, skill and wrath can furnish man withal.”

“I pray you, sir, what is he?” Cesario demanded, sure that only some great terror would have sent this man as his second.

“He is a knight, dubbed with unhatched rapier and on carpet consideration; but he is a devil in private brawl. Souls and bodies hath he divorced three.” Cesario did not squeak. He was quite sure of it. He would not swear that he did not whimper. Ignoring him, Sir Toby continued, “His incensement at this moment is so implacable, that satisfaction can be none but by pangs of death and sepulchre. Hob, nob, is his word; give’t or take’t.”

A few moments ago, Cesario had hoped to have many a day before he next needed to speak with the countess. He suddenly rethought that desire. “I will return again into the house and desire some conduct of the lady,” he said, “I am no fighter. I have heard of some kind of men that put quarrels purposely on others, to taste their valour: belike this is a man of that quirk.”

“Sir, no,” Sir Toby grabbed his arm, halting him. “His indignation derives itself out of a very competent injury: therefore, get you on and give him his desire. Back you shall not to the house, unless,” with a sudden motion, Sir Toby dropped Cesario’s arm, lept back, and drew his own sword. “You undertake that with me which with as much safety you might answer him.” Horrified, Cesario stumbled back, tripping over his feet and shaking his head. Sir Toby grinned maliciously. “On then,” he demanded, gesturing into the orchard beside the drive. “Or strip your sword stark naked; for meddle you must, that’s certain, or forswear to wear iron about you.”

Cesario knew nothing of this stranger who was so determined to quarrel with him. He knew well he had no desire to cross swords with Sir Toby in this mood. Seeing no other options, he began to tramp across the orchard as Sir Toby directed.

After a dozen paces, Sir Toby sheathed his sword to Cesario’s great relief. His relief faded when Sir Toby threw an arm across his shoulders. It might have seemed a comradely gesture had it not been so clear he was prepared to haul Cesario bodily at the fainted hesitation. Worse to Cesario’s mind, he had some things to hide which made him leery of close contact with others. He began to walk faster, trying to get a few paces ahead of his interloper. “This is as uncivil as strange,” he said as Sir Toby matched him pace for pace. “I beseech you, do me this courteous office, as to know of the knight what my offense to him is. It is something of my negligence, nothing of my purpose.”

As he finished speaking, they rounded a tree and nearly walked into Fabian, who had been waiting for them.

“I will do so.” Sir Toby said, “Signior Fabian, stay you by this gentleman till my return.”

Sir Toby strode across to the orchard to wear a tall, thin figure could be seen.

Cesario considered trying to run, but it seemed to him that Fabian was quite prepared to chase him down.

Instead, Cesario asked, “Pray you, sir, do you know of this matter?”

“I know the knight is incensed against you,” Fabian replied with a shrug, “even to a mortal arbitrement; but nothing of the circumstance more.”

“I beseech you, what manner of man is he?”

“He is, indeed, sir, the most skilful, bloody and fatal opposite that you could possibly have found in any part of Illyria. Will you walk towards him?”

Cesario shook his head, looking around for some escape.

“I will make your peace with him if I can,” Fabian offered.

After a moment, Cesario nodded. “I shall be much bound to you for’t: I am one that had rather go with sir priest than sir knight. I care not who knows so much of my mettle.”

As Fabian guided Cesario toward their make-shift lists, Sir Toby was… encouraging Sir Andrew.

“Why, man, he’s a very devil; I have not seen such a firago. I had a pass with him, rapier, scabbard and all, and he gives me the stuck in with such a mortal motion, that it is inevitable; and on the answer, he pays you as surely as your feet hit the ground they step on. They say,” here Sir Toby dropped his voice as if to prevent eavesdroppers, though there was no one else to be seen, “he has been fencer to the Shah of Persia!”

Paling, Sir Andrew started backing away. “Pox on’t, I’ll not meddle with him.”

“Ay, but he will not now be pacified: Fabian can scarce hold him yonder.”

And indeed, they could see Fabian arguing with Cesario as they crossed the orchard.

“Plague on’t, an I thought he had been valiant and so cunning in fence, I’ld have seen him damned ere I’ld have challenged him.” Sir Andrew turned to Sir Toby with a sudden thought, ‘Let him let the matter slip, and I’ll give him my horse, grey Capilet.”

“I’ll make the motion,” Sir Toby said, “stand here, make a good show on’t. This shall end without the perdition of souls.”

He signaled Fabian to come trade places with him, muttering to himself, “Marry, I’ll ride your horse as well as I ride you.”

Sir Toby and Fabian between them alternately soothed and threatened until the two were finally facing each other with swords drawn.

Unwilling to stand and wait for the attack, Cesario screwed up his courage and took a wild swing. As he did so, a strange voice cried from the road–

“Put up your sword!”

What You Will: A Queer-er Shakespeare (S2, E6)

Season Content Notes: Revenge plot, violence, boundary violations, sexual harassment

Sir Toby and Fabian were playing cards with the fool making music quietly in the corner. Their quiet play was interrupted when Sir Andrew rushed in waving a much-crumpled paper.

Fabian, facing the door, saw him first and leaned toward Sir Toby, whispering, “More matter for a May morning.”

Thus alerted, Sir Toby did not jump up and spill his drink when Sir Andrew clapped his shoulder from behind and dropped the paper on the table.

“Here’s the challenge!” he cried, “Read it: warrant there’s vinegar and pepper in’t.”

“Is’t so saucy?” Fabian asked, mostly hiding his disbelief.

Taking up the paper again, Sir Andrew made as if to shake it in Fabian’s face but shied away at the last moment. “Ay, is’t, I warrant him: do but read.”

Sir Toby snatched the waving paper from Sir Andrew’s hands and spread it out. Then began to read aloud.

‘Youth, whatsoever thou art, thou art but a scurvy fellow.’

“Good,” Fabian said, surprised, “and valiant.”

Sir Andrew took up a fencing pose and began lunging about the room.

Sir Toby continued to read, ” ‘Wonder not, nor admire not in thy mind, why I do call thee so, for I will show thee no reason for’t.’

Surprise faded from Fabian’s face, and a grimace took its place. “A… a good note; that keeps you from the blow of the law.”

Setting his lute aside, the fool drew forth his non-existent sword and gave challenge to Sir Andrew. Startled, Sir Andrew lost his footing and squeaked, but quickly recovered to give a brave show of himself. The two dueled back and forth across the floor, trading imaginary blow and parry.

” ‘Thou comest to the lady Olivia, and in my sight she uses thee kindly: but thou liest in thy throat; that is not the matter I challenge thee for.'”

Fabian squeaked now and gaped for a moment before managing, “Very brief, and to exceeding good sense–less.”

” ‘I will waylay thee going home; where if it be thy chance to kill me,’–”

Sir Andrew, retreating from the fool’s attack, tripped over Fabian’s feet, knocking them both to the ground. The fool took advantage of his opponent’s fall to make the coup-de-grace, and Sir Andrew died dramatically.

“Good.” Fabian coughed.

“‘Thou killest me like a rogue and a villain.'”

“Still,” Fabian gasped, trying to get up without shoving Sir Andrew off of him, “you keep o’ the windy side of the law: good.”

” ‘Fare thee well, and God have mercy upon one of our souls! He may have mercy upon mine, but my hope is better, and so look to thyself. Thy friend, as thou usest him, and thy sworn enemy, ANDREW AGUECHEEK.’ If this letter move him not, his legs cannot.” Sir Toby finally took notice of Sir Andrew, still laying on Fabian and struggling to rise. Sir Toby tucked the letter into his pocket and reached down to lift Sir Andrew up.

“I’ll give’t him.” Sir Toby assured the other, hiding the rolling of his eyes.

For a moment Sir Andrew looked as if he would speak, but then Maria poked her head through the door.

Maria poked her head in the door. “You may have very fit occasion for’t: he is now in some commerce with my lady, and will by and by depart.”

“Go, Sir Andrew,” Sir Toby urged the knight toward the door, “scout me for him at the corner of the orchard. So soon as ever thou seest him, draw; and, as thou drawest swear horrible. Away!”

Sir Andrew dragged his feet but was eventually guided on his way, insisting the whole time that he was not one to swear.

Once he was gone, Sir Toby pulled the note out, and ripped it to pieces. “Now will not I deliver his letter: for the behavior of the young gentleman gives him out to be of good capacity and breeding; his employment between his lord and my niece confirms no less.” Toby tossed the shredded letter into the fireplace and spit upon it — which did as much good as spitting into fire ever does. “Therefore this letter, being so excellently ignorant, will breed no terror in the youth: he will find it comes from a clodpole. I will deliver his challenge by word of mouth”

“Here he comes with your niece,” Fabian said. And indeed, through the window, they could see Olivia and Cesario walking the lawn. “Give them way til he take leave, and presently after him.”

“I will meditate the while upon some horrid message for a challenge.”

Fabian and Sir Toby followed Maria from the room, leaving the fool to watch and listen through the window.

Countess Olivia was once again pleading with the youth:

“I have said too much unto a heart of stone and laid mine honour too unchary out. There’s something in me that reproves my fault; but such a headstrong potent fault it is, that it but mocks reproof.”

Cesario had long since grown sick of these visits. He shook his head and said quietly, “With the same ‘havior that your passion bears, goes on my master’s grief.”

As far as Cesario was concerned, they were all fools — himself, the duke, and the countess — for loving one they could not have. And himself the double fool for encouraging their folly!

Unaware of his thoughts, the countess removed her necklace — a cunningly worked cameo — and held it out to Cesario. “Here, wear this jewel for me, ’tis my picture.” She held it out so long to him, but he did not even look at it. “Refuse it not,” she begged, “it hath no tongue to vex you.” With a resigned chuckle at his folly, Cesario accepted the gift, but did not put it on.

“And I beseech you come again to-morrow,” she continued, “What shall you ask of me that I’ll deny, that honour saved may upon asking give?”

“Nothing but this,” Cesario replied, knowing it was a waste of words, “your true love for my master.”

“How with mine honour may I give him that which I have given to you?”

Pulling upon his hair, Cesario turned and started down the road, calling over his shoulder, “I will acquit you.”

Olivia chased after him for a few steps. “Well, come again to-morrow: fare thee well!” He waved an acknowledgment, and she turned back to the manor, speaking to herself. “A fiend like thee might bear my soul to hell.”

What You Will: A Queer-er Shakespeare (S2, E5)

Season Content Notes: Revenge plot, violence, boundary violations, sexual harassment

In her manor, Olivia paced from room to room. She changed mood from giddy to distraught so quickly that she may well have traded temperament with Orsino. Sometimes she muttered to herself, “I have sent after him: he says he’ll come.” Other times called to Maria, stolidly keeping pace with her mistress, “How shall I feast him? What bestow of him? For youth is bought more oft than begg’d or borrow’d.” Then coming to herself a moment, “I speak too loud.”

Trying to shake off her moods, the countess stopped her pacing and asked, “Where is Malvolio? he is sad and civil, And suits well for a servant with my fortunes.”

Maria waved off the fool, who had been trying to distract the countess with some entertainment, and he hurried off to fetch the steward. In the meantime, Olivia sat down in a chair, and Maria helped her arrange her dress and hair in elegant folds. But she could only sit a short time before she became agitated again. “Where is Malvolio?”

As she spoke, the fool stuck his head back in the door and nodded to Maria, giving her also a wink as he disappeared back out the door and away.

Taking her cue, Maria instantly became the soul of concern. “He’s coming, madam; but in very strange manner. He is, sure, possessed, madam.”

“Why, what’s the matter?” The countess jumped to her feet. “Does he rave?”

Maria shook her head but did not look at her mistress. Instead, she stared through the doorway at the approaching apparition. “No. madam, he does nothing but smile: your ladyship were best to have some guard about you, if he come; for, sure, the man is tainted in’s wits.”

“Go call him hither.” The countess started pacing again, then laughed at herself. “I am as mad as he, if sad and merry madness equal be.

“How now, Malvolio!”

The steward entered the room in a lurching parody of a dance, with a broad grin upon his face. “Sweet lady, ho, ho.”

“Smilest thou?” Olivia stared at him for a moment, then took several away as he drew closer. She did not think madness could be contagious but wasn’t sure. “I sent for thee upon a sad occasion.”

“Sad, lady!” Malvolio stopped, much to the countess’ relief, and spoke in a confused manner. “I could be sad: this does make some obstruction in the blood, this cross-gartering; but what of that? if it pleases the eye of one.”

Olivia stared at the man. He was extending a leg toward her, showing off his socks, which were wrapped around and held in place with yellow ribbons. “Why… why how dost thou, man?” she stammered, “What is the matter with thee?”

As if her question reassured him he strode forward again, grinning. “Not black in my mind, though yellow in my legs.” He bent to run a hand along the ribbons and kept going right up too… well. Olivia had never paid attention to that part of her steward’s body before and had no intention of doing so then! Oblivious to her discomfort, Malvolio said, “It did come to his hands, and commands shall be executed,” thrusting his hips he reached for her, grinning even wider, “I think we do know the sweet Roman hand.”

Ducking behind the couch Olivia struggled for something to say and finally came out with the unfortunate, “Wilt thou go to bed, Malvolio?”

“To bed!” the steward leapt onto the couch, nearly tipping it over, “Ay, sweetheart, and I’ll come to thee.”

Olivia stumbled back and Maria rushed around the couch to step between her mistress and the ardent steward. “God comfort thee!” Olivia said quickly, holding out the cross to fend him off. “Why dost thou smile so and kiss thy hand so oft?”

“How do you, Malvolio?” Maria asked cautiously.

The steward sneered at her. “At your request! Yes; nightingales answer daws.”

“Why appear you with this ridiculous boldness before my lady?” the maid demanded.

But Malvolio was done with her, speaking over her to the countess, “‘Be not afraid of greatness:’ ’twas well writ.”

“What meanest thou by that, Malvolio?” Olivia took Maria’s shoulder and at her urging the two women began carefully sidling along the wall.

Malvolio followed them, eyebrows waggling with each step.

“‘Some are born great,’–”

“Ha!” Not recognizing the recitation, the countess rolled her eyes at that ridiculous claim.

“‘Some achieve greatness,’–”

Confused, now, Olivia shook her head. “What sayest thou?”

“‘And some have greatness thrust upon them.'” Suiting actions to words, the man lunged for the countess.

Maria shoved him away while Olivia darted toward the door of the salon. “Heaven restore thee!”

“‘Remember,” Malvolio entreated, “who commended thy yellow stocking s,’–”

“Why, this is very midsummer madness.” Having reached the safety of the doorway, Olivia looked to make sure that Maria was safe.

She jumped as a footman cleared his throat behind her. “Madam,” the man said, not looking into the room, “the young gentleman of the Count Orsino’s is returned: I could hardly entreat him back. He attends your ladyship’s pleasure.”

To Olivia’s relief, the appearance of the lower servant restored Malvolio to his familiar demeanor. “I’ll come to him,” she assured the footman, who quickly left. “Good Maria, let this fellow be looked to. Where’s my cousin Toby? Let a doctor see him. I would not have him miscarry for the half of my dowry.”

Maria watched carefully Malvolio as she crossed the room.

“O, ho! do you come near me now?” He took a step toward her and she gave a little shriek and ran from the room laughing.

He watched her and gloated. “No worse man than Sir Toby to look to me! This concurs directly with the letter. She sends him on purpose, that I may appear stubborn to him; for she incites me to that in the letter. ‘Let this fellow be looked to:’ fellow! not Malvolio, nor after my position, but fellow.

“Why, every thing adheres together. What can be said? Nothing that can be can come between me and the full prospect of my hopes. Well, Jove, not I, is the doer of this, and he is to be thanked.”

What You Will: A Queer-er Shakespeare (S2, E4)

(Sorry folks, this was scheduled to go up last Friday, but something glitched. So you get extra post today.)

Season Content Notes: Revenge plot, violence, boundary violations

Sir Andrew was folding his clothing and packing it into his valise. The only sign of his upset was the extra effort he put into making sure every fold was creased just so.

He put a crisp white shirt in the valise and turned to take a light blue vest off its hanger. As he did so, Sir Toby grabbed the white shirt, shook it out, put it back on a hanger, and smoothed out the creases.

Fabian stood in the door, waiting to carry down the valise when Sir Andrew was done packing — and trying not to laugh.

“No, faith,” Sir Andrew whined, snatching the white shirt of the hanger again. “I’ll not stay a jot longer.”

Sir Toby took the shirt from his hands. “Thy reason, dear venom, give thy reason.”

“You must needs yield your reason, Sir Andrew,” Fabian put in from the doorway. (He knew well from whence his bread was buttered.)

“Marry,” Sir Andrew abandoned the white shirt for the moment to two more vests from the wardrobe. “I saw your niece do more favours to the count’s serving-man than ever she bestowed upon me; I saw’t i’ the orchard.”

“Did she see thee the while, old boy?” Sir Toby took hold of the hangers the vests were on, dropping the shirt to the floor. They wrestled briefly over the clothing. The vests slipped off the hangers, and Sir Toby stumbled backward, catching himself with a hand against the wall. “Tell me that.”

“As plain as I see you now.” Sir Andrew tossed the vests in the valise, not bothering to fold them. Ignoring the white shirt, he closed the case and began to secure it.

“This was a great argument of love in her toward you,” Fabian said.

Sir Andrew scowled at the man and all but threw the valise at him. ” ‘Slight, will you make an ass o’ me?”

Catching the valise deftly, Fabian set it on the floor behind himself. Sit Toby went to stand next to Fabian, blocking the doorway. “I will prove it legitimate, sir,” Fabian urged, “upon the oaths of judgment and reason.”

“And they,” Sir Toby opined, pulling out a flask and offering it to Sir Andrew, “have been grand-jury-men since before Noah was a sailor.”

Sir Andrew continued scowling, but at Sir Toby’s urging, Fabian spoke. “She did show favour to the youth in your sight only to exasperate you, to awake your dormouse valour, to put fire in your heart and brimstone in your liver.”

Slowly Sir Andrew’s scowl lifted, and he took on a more thoughtful mien.

“You should then have accosted her,” Fabian continued, “and with some excellent jests, fire-new from the mint, you should have banged the youth into dumbness. This was looked for at your hand, and this was balked. The double gilt of this opportunity you let time wash off, and you are now sailed into the north of my lady’s opinion, where you will hang like an icicle on a Dutchman’s beard–” Sir Andrew resumed scowling and tried to push past Sir Toby, but Fabian moved to block him, holding up a hand in entreaty, “–unless you do redeem it by some laudable attempt either of valour or policy.”

“An’t be any way,” Sir Andrew took the flask from Sir Toby and tossed it back, “it must be with valour; for policy I hate: I had as lief be a Brownist as a politician.”

“Why, then, build me thy fortunes upon the basis of valour.” Sir Toby cried. He then looked over his shoulder before leaning forward and whispering, so Sir Andrew had to strain to hear, “Challenge me the count’s youth to fight with him; hurt him in eleven places. My niece shall take note of it; and assure thyself, there is no love-broker in the world can more prevail in man’s commendation with woman than report of valour.” He nodded knowingly and waited to see Sir Andrew’s response.

Sir Andrew took another swallow of the flask. It took him two tries to get the cap back on.

“There is no way but this, Sir Andrew,” Fabian said gently.

Taking a deep breath, Sir Andrew fortified himself to ask, “Will either of you bear me a challenge to him?”

“Go, write it in a martial hand.”

Moving together, Sir Toby and Fabian stepped back out of the doorway, Fabian pushing the valise behind him. Once they were clear of the doorway Sir Toby quickly closed the door, leaving Sir Andrew, sans valise, to write his challenge.

“This is a dear manikin to you, Sir Toby,” Fabian observed.

Sir Toby chuckled and reached for his flask, but found it gone. “I have been dear to him, lad, some two thousand strong, or so.”

Fabian shook his head and picked up the valise, carrying it over to tuck behind a couch. “We shall have a rare letter from him,” the man rolled his eyes, “but you’ll not deliver’t?”

“Never trust me, then,” Sir Toby winked. “And by all means, stir on the youth to an answer.” Fabian grinned and nodded. He was not averse to helping Sir Toby make this farcical challenge happen. “I think,” Sir Toby continued, “oxen and wainropes cannot hale them together. For Andrew,” a derisive laugh, “if he were opened, and you find so much blood in his liver as will clog the foot of a flea, I’ll eat the rest of the anatomy.”

For all his flaws, and Sir Toby had many, he was a good judge of men. And Sir Andrew’s liver — the seat of courage — was in truth a withered and pitiable thing.

“And his opposite,” Fabian said, “the count’s youth, bears in his visage no great presage of cruelty.”

Before he could say more, Maria entered the room laughing.

Sir Toby lit up on seeing her, saying, “Look, where the youngest wren of nine comes.”

Maria waved him off. “If you desire the spleen, and will laugh yourself into stitches, follow me. Yond gull Malvolio is turned heathen, a very renegado; for there is no Christian, that means to be saved by believing rightly, can ever believe such impossible passages of grossness. He’s in yellow stockings.”

Fabian whooped in delight. Sir Toby gaped. “And cross-gartered?” He demanded

“Most villanously;” Maria laughed again, “like a pedant that keeps a school i’ the church. He does obey every point of the letter that I dropped to betray him. He does smile his face into more lines than is in the new map with the augmentation of the Indies: you have not seen such a thing as ’tis. I can hardly forbear hurling things at him. I know my lady will strike him: if she do, he’ll smile and take’t for a great favour.”

“Come,” Sir Toby demanded, reaching his hand to her, “bring us, bring us where he is.”

Not far from there, a sea-battered man with a sailor’s bag slung across his back walked alongside a well-born youth. His companion, if any had known it, bore a striking resemblance to the newest member of Duke Orsino’s court. Though they didn’t touch, their hands oft seemed about to clasp, and their eyes were on each other as much as the road they walked. “I would not by my will have troubled you;” young Sebastian said, still surprised and delighted that his good friend and lover had followed him so far. “But, since you make your pleasure of your pains, I will no further chide you.”

Antonio shook his head, knowing himself for a fool. No well-bred young man would long continue to keep company with a poor sailor. And yet… “I could not stay behind you,” he admitted, “my desire, more sharp than filed steel, did spur me forth.” Embarrassed to speak so plainly, he hurried on before Sebastian could reply. “And not all love to see you, though so much as might have drawn one to a longer voyage, but jealousy what might befall your travel, being skilless in these parts.” He gestured to a pair of ruffians lurking in an alley, “which to a stranger, often prove rough and unhospitable.”

Not fooled by Antonio’s attempt to diminish his declaration, Sebastian stopped and turned to put both hands on Antonio’s shoulders. “My kind Antonio, I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks.” He shook his head and chuckled. “Ever oft good turns are shuffled off with such uncurrent pay.” Leaning in, he brushed a kiss across Antonio’s cheek, knowing that any around them would see it only as a sign of friendship. Knowing Antonio would know it for much more.

“Were my worth as is my conscience firm,” he murmured, knowing with the shipwreck he had little left of what been a modest inheritance. “You should find better dealing.” he stepped back with a shrug, “What’s to do? Shall we go see the reliques of this town?”

“To-morrow, sir,” Antonio cautioned, “best first go see your lodging.”

But Sebastian shook his head, too full of energy after a long coach ride to be still. “I am not weary, and ’tis long to night: I pray you, let us satisfy our eyes with the memorials and the things of fame that do renown this city.”

Antonio bowed his head, saying, “Would you’ld pardon me; I do not without danger walk these streets. Once, in a sea-fight, ‘gainst the count his galleys I did some service; of such note indeed, that were I ta’en here it would scarce be answer’d.”

Sebastian stepped back, suddenly diffident. He was not sheltered for a man of his class, but still… “Belike you slew great number of his people.”

But Antonio hurried to shake his head. “The offence is not of such a bloody nature; though,” he made himself admit, “the quality of the time and quarrel Might well have given us bloody argument.” Antonio shrugged but could not look at Sebastian. “It might have since been answer’d in repaying what we took from them; most of our city did: only myself stood out.” He swallowed and finally looked again at Sebastian, “If I be lapsed in this place, I shall pay dear.”

Sebastian had come close to him again. He looked about the street as if searching for guards who might attack. “Do not then walk too open,” he said, and Antonio breathed a sigh of relief.

“It doth not fit me,” he said with a laugh, “Hold, sir, here’s my purse.” Antonio pulled out a small pouch and pressed it into Sebastian’s hands. “In the south suburbs, at the Elephant, is best to lodge: I will bespeak our diet, whiles you beguile the time and feed your knowledge: there shall you have me.”

“Why I your purse?”

With a shrug, Antonio turned to go. “Haply your eye shall light upon some toy you have desire to purchase; and your store, I think, is not for idle markets, sir.”

Sebastian could not deny that and gave in graciously, slipping the purse inside his vest. “I’ll be your purse-bearer and leave you for an hour.”

“To the Elephant,” Antonio called as he moved down the street.

“I do remember.”

What You Will: A Queer-er Shakespeare (S2, E3)

Season Content Notes: Revenge plot, violence, boundary violations

Countess Olivia led Cesario into a walled garden, and the door was shut behind them, leaving the two alone. Nervously pushing his hair out of his face, Cesario wondered what a — another man, one without Cesario’s history, might have thought.

Cesario also thought the countess was not being at all subtle — and that was a problem.

He was right.

Stepping even closer, the countess batted her eyes at Cesario and said, “Give me your hand, sir.”

Trapped by the rules of manners, Cesario did offer his hand but stepped back to make a leg — that is, an elaborate bow where the right leg slides back and bends while the left leg extends toward the person being bowed to. It’s never seen now, and rarely then, having fallen out of fashion. But the leg required room that gave Cesario an excuse to step away without being rude, which was all he cared about. “My duty, madam, and most humble service.”

The countess recognized the retreat and did not attempt to move close again, but she did hold tight to Cesario’s hand. “What is your name?”

“Cesario is your servant’s name, fair princess,” the worthy replied.

“My servant, sir!” Countess Olivia raised her eyebrows and looked from Cesario to the space he had put between them. “‘Twas never merry world since lowly feigning was call’d compliment.” Cesario acknowledged this with a shrug but did not come closer. With a sigh, the countess released his hand. “You’re servant to the Count Orsino, youth.”

“And he is yours,” Cesario replied. Countess Olivia tried to wave his words away but he insisted, “and his must needs be yours: your servant’s servant is your servant, madam.”

“For him, I think not on him!” the countess said.

Cesario did not reply, only watched her silently.

“Oh, for his thoughts, would they were blanks, rather than fill’d with me!”

“Madam.” He started to reach for her hand and stopped. Often in the past, Viola and her friends had giggled over the men who flirted with them. Then, urging each other to consider this or that man one did not find appealing had been a game, harmless. This… this did not feel harmless. No, urging on her a man she spurned did not feel harmless at all. And he was not one who the countess would take a bosom companion. So he only said softly, “I come to whet your gentle thoughts on his behalf.”

“O, by your leave, I pray you, I bade you never speak again of him,” Olivia turned away and paced the garden in agitation. She had no idea that Cesario’s thoughts — in that at least — aligned much with hers.

“But,” she stopped when her path took her back to Cesario and spoke entreatingly, “But, would you undertake another suit.” She hesitated, looking down as a blush stained her cheeks, “I had rather hear you to solicit that than music from the spheres.”

But Cesario shook his head, stepping away, “Dear lady,–”

Before he could make clear his rejection, the countess cut him off, “Give me leave, beseech you.” When he said nothing further, she continued, “I did send, after the last enchantment you did here, a ring in chase of you: so did I abuse myself, my servant and, I fear me, you.”

To this Cesario shook his head — he would rather not have spea of the ring she sent. He kept the ring in an inner pocket, knowing any who saw it would misunderstand but unable to part with it. For though it was poorly done of her, it was her sending that ring, and the new view it gave him of himself, that let him accept the truth of his own manhood.

He was grateful to her, but that gratitude was one he could never express.

But she kept speaking, unaware of his thoughts. “Under your hard construction must I sit, to force that on you, in a shameful cunning, which you knew none of yours: what might you think? Have you not set mine honour at the stake and baited it with all the unmuzzled thoughts that tyrannous heart can think? So, let me hear you speak.”

Not knowing what else to say, Cesario spoke the truth. “I pity you.”

To Cesario’s dismay, the countess seized on that simple statement, “That’s a degree to love.”

“No, not a bit; for ’tis a vulgar proof, that very oft we pity enemies.” Though he did not mean to, Cesario leaned into that last word, enemies. Intentional or not, Countess Olivia wisely took counsel of that word and backed away, pasting a smile across her face they both knew to be false.

In the background, a clock tolled the hour.

“Why,” she said, “the clock upbraids me with the waste of time. Be not afraid, good youth, I will not have you,” and the countess could not miss Cesario’s relief as she capitulated. “And yet, when wit and youth is come to harvest, your wife is alike to reap a proper man.” She opened the door of the garden, waving him through. “There lies your way, due west.”

“Then,” he said with a soft smile, “westward-ho! Grace and good disposition attend your ladyship!” He stepped through the door, and was stopped by duty, “You’ll nothing, madam, to my lord by me?”

She shook her head, and he nodded in understanding. Perhaps he could finally convince the duke to give over this chase, which brought joy to no one.

But as he turned again to go, the countess grabbed his arm, “Stay! I prythee, tell me what thou thinkest of me.”

Shrugging her off in frustration, Cesario exclaimed, “That you do think you are not what you are.”

“If I think so, I think the same of you.”

They were close now, speaking right into each other’s faces. “Then think you right: I am not what I am!” Cesario barely restrained himself from pushing her away.

“I would you were as I would have you be!”

“Would it be better, madam, than I am?” Cesario spat. “I wish it might, for now, I am your fool.”

“O, what a deal of scorn looks beautiful in the contempt and anger of his lip!” She spoke more to herself now than him, reaching out to trace his jaw. He jerked away. “A murderous guilt shows not itself more soon than love that would seem hid: love’s night is noon.”

Done with the whole matter, Cesario turned away again and started walking away. She called after him. “Cesario, by the roses of the spring, my maidhood, honour, truth, and everything, I love thee so, that, maugre all thy pride, nor wit nor reason can my passion hide. Do not extort thy reasons from this clause, for that I woo, thou, therefore, hast no cause, but rather reason thus with reason fetter, Love sought is good, but given unsought better.”

And why, Cesario wondered, did she not apply that sentiment to the unsought love Orsino had for her? Did she not realize she was doing to him the very thing she hated from the duke?

Without turning to face her, Cesario spoke a truth that had been growing in his bosom for some time. “By innocence, I swear, and by my youth, I have one heart, one bosom, and one truth. And that no woman has; nor never none shall mistress be of it.”

He rolled his shoulders once as the truth settled on him. He was a man, but a man who still loved other men. And he was done enabling this game between Duke Orsino, who he loved, and the countess. “Adieu, good madam: never more will I my master’s tears to you deplore.”

As he started down the road to home, her voice called after him. “Yet come again!

“For thou perhaps mayst move that heart, which now abhors, to like his love.”