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.”

What You Will: A Queer-er Shakespeare (S2, E2)

Season Content Notes: Revenge plot, violence

Cesario, gentleman to Duke Orsino and once, in another life, a young woman called ‘Viola,’ was on a task he despised. Sent once again by the duke he loved to woo for that duke the Countess Olivia. To make matters worse, the last time Cesario had gone wooing for the duke, the countess had sent a love token — to Cesario.

It didn’t help that sometimes, when Orsino looked at or spoke to Cesario, Cesario thought he saw some reflection of his own feelings in the duke’s eyes. But that was just fancy. Men, Cesario knew, did not feel that way about other men. That Cesario felt so for the duke was only because he was… not the usual kind of man.

Thinking these glum thoughts, Cesario was eager for a distraction. He found it in the sight of a fool — one Cesario had seen only the night before performing for Duke Orsino. The fool was relaxing in the shade of a tree, playing lightly on a drum. So he called out to the fool, saying, “Save thee, friend, and thy music: dost thou live by thy tabour?”

The fool, knowing very well that Cesario knew who he was and how he made his living, rolled his eyes and replied, “No, sir, I live by the church.”

Not willing to be thwarted, Cesario returned, “Art thou a churchman?”

“No such matter, sir: I do live by the church,” the fool said, “for I do live at my house, and my house doth stand by the church.”

Cesario was not himself a fool and proved it now, saying, “So thou mayst say, the king lies by a beggar, if a beggar dwell near him; or, the church stands by thy tabour, if thy tabour stand by the church.”

“You have said, sir.” The fool stood and clapped his hands together. “To see this age! A sentence is but a cheveril glove to a good wit: how quickly the wrong side may be turned outward!”

Finally realizing that he was being made a mock of, Cesario was quick to try to redeem himself. “Nay, that’s certain; they that dally nicely with words may quickly make them wanton.”

“I would, therefore, my sister had had no name, sir,” the fool immediately gave back.

That paused Cesario, and he blinked at the fool a moment. “Why, man?”

“Why, sir, her name’s a word; and to dally with that word might make my sister wanton. But indeed words are very rascals since bonds disgraced them.”

“Thy reason, man?”

Starting to enjoy himself now, the fool looked around as if to see if anyone might overhear, then leaned in close and whispered to Cesario, “Troth, sir, I can yield you none without words; and words are grown so false, I am loath to prove reason with them.”

“Art not thou the Lady Olivia’s fool?”

“No, indeed, sir; the Lady Olivia has no folly: she will keep no fool, sir, till she be married; and fools are as like husbands as pilchards are to herrings; the husband’s the bigger: I am indeed not her fool, but her corrupter of words.”

“I saw thee late at the Count Orsino’s.”

“Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun, it shines every where.” The fool picked up his drum and acted as if ready to walk away. “I would be sorry, sir, but the fool should be as oft with your master as with my mistress.” Suddenly he stopped and looked back at Cesario quizzically. “I think I saw your wisdom there.”

Suddenly wary, Cesario said, “I’ll no more with thee,” and started on. He had no wish for this too-perceptive fool to ferret out his secrets.

The fool, not willing to let him go yet, took off his hat and held it before the young gentleman.

Cesario, too good-hearted for his own good, sighed and dug in his pockets. “Hold, there’s expenses for thee.”

“Now Jove,” the fool said, snatching the coin out of his hand, “in his next commodity of hair, send thee a beard!”

Cesario had been right to fear the fool’s sharp eye, for the man had latched onto one of the gentlemen’s sore points — and weakness in his disguise. But Cesario did not betray himself by wince or word. Only leaned in until he could feel the fool’s breath on his cheek and said with a laugh, “By my troth, I’ll tell thee, I am almost sick for one; though I would not have it grow on my chin.”

Then he stood up and walked on, calling over his shoulder, “Is thy lady within?”

The fool chased after him, holding up the single coin he had conjured from Cesario’s pocket. “Would not a pair of these have bred, sir?”

“Yes,” Cesario said, “being kept together and put to use.”

The fool nipped in front of Cesario and stopped, forcing Cesario to stop as well. “I would play Lord Pandarus of Phrygia, sir,” he said, with a sudden change to highborn speech and courtly bow, “to bring a Cressida to this Troilus.”

Shaking his head, Cesario pulled another coin out and handed it to the fool. “I understand you, sir; ’tis well begged.”

The fool took it with a flourish and turned to dance in the direction of the manor. “The matter, I hope, is not great, sir, begging but a beggar: Cressida,” and as he said the name, he paused his dance to bow again to Cesario, “was a beggar.

“My lady is within, sir. I will construe to them whence you come; who you are and what you would are out of my welkin, I might say ‘element,’ but,” the fool shrugged, “the word is over-worn.

Cesario chuckled as the fool danced his way into the manor, leaving the gentleman to await the return of the lady of the house. Cesario was wise enough to recognize that good fooling takes wisdom and wit, else the fool will run afoul of his audience and suffer mischief. Unlike many so-called wise men who fall into folly from being oversure of themselves.

As Cesario waited, Sir Toby and Sir Andrew came out of the manor. “Save you, gentleman,” called Sir Toby.

“And you, sir,” Cesario replied with a little bow.

Sir Andrew carefully declaimed, “Dieu vous garde, monsieur.”

He was not prepared for Cesario to reply, in letter perfect French, “Et vous aussi; votre serviteur.”

Being suddenly out of his knowledge, Sir Andrew stammered a reply in English, “I- I hope, sir, you are; and I am yours.”

Clearing his throat, Sir Toby stepped closer to Cesario and waved toward the manor. “Will you encounter the house? my niece is desirous you should enter, if your trade be to her.”

“I am bound to your niece, sir,” Cesario replied but made no move toward the manor. “I mean– she is the list of my voyage.”

With a harrumph, Sir Toby waved to the house again. “Taste your legs, sir,” he said impatiently, “put them to motion.”

Blinking in confusion, Cesario could only say, “My legs do better understand me, sir, than I understand what you mean by bidding me taste my legs.”

“I mean, to go, sir, to enter.”

Before Cesario could answer, Countess Olivia herself came out of the manor, accompanied by Maria. Cesario immediately swept into a deep bow with even more courtly flourishes than the fool had used. “Most excellent accomplished lady,” he said, “the heavens rain odours on you!”

Everyone could hear Sir Andrew mutter, “That youth’s a rare courtier: ‘Rain odours;’ well.”

Ignoring him, Cesario continued addressing Olivia, “My matter hath no voice, save to your own most pregnant and vouchsafed ear.”

It cannot be said whether Cesario expected the lady to be flattered but this outpouring of verbiage. Perhaps he hoped his manner would put off the countess or wished to twit Sir Andrew.

If the latter, it worked. “‘Odours,’ ‘pregnant’ and ‘vouchsafed:'” that worthy muttered. “I’ll get ’em all three all ready.”

With a somewhat disturbed glance at the knight, Olivia took Cesario’s arm and led him toward her private garden. To Maria, she said only, “Let the garden door be shut, and leave me to my hearing.”

What You Will: A Queer-er Shakespeare (S2, E1)

(Find Season 1 on my website if you need to get caught up.)

Season Content Notes: Revenge plot, violence

In a corner of Countess Olivia’s grounds gathered three gentlemen for some unsanctioned sport. Or so it seemed, for they huddled together behind the box trees, like boys hiding from a tutor. That was Sir Toby Belch, the countess’ uncle; Sir Andrew, one of her suitors (who she would have been happier to see gone); and one Fabian.

As they huddled and chortled over their sport, a fourth came to join their fun. Mistress Maria, that was the countess’ chambermaid. Sir Toby, seeing her first, cried out, “Here comes the little villain. How now, my metal of India!”

Maria’s grin broke through before she regained control and showed a properly sober face. To Sir Toby and his fellow hooligans she hissed, “Get ye all three into the box-tree: Malvolio’s coming down this walk: he has been yonder i’ the sun practicing behavior to his own shadow this half hour: observe him, for the love of mockery; for I know this letter will make a contemplative idiot of him. Close, in the name of jesting!”

As she spoke, she dropped a sealed envelope upon the walk, glanced over her shoulder, and hurried off murmuring, “Here comes the trout that must be caught with tickling.”

The three, ignoring their venerable age (and the well-being of their clothes) climbed up into the trees and peered back the way she had come.

They didn’t have long to wait, for soon followed Master Malvolio. Steward to the Countess Olivia and commander of all within her home. He was speaking to himself.

” ‘Tis but fortune; all is fortune. Maria once told me she did affect me: and I have heard herself come thus near, that, should she fancy, it should be one of my complexion.” (Here, he paused to admire that complexion in a still bird bath. “Besides, she uses me with a more exalted respect than any one else that follows her. What should I think on’t?”

“Here’s an overweening rogue!” Sir Toby growled, shaking his fist. He might have fallen from the tree had not Fabian grabbed his arm and hushed him.

“O, peace!” he whispered. “Contemplation makes a rare turkey-cock of him.”

Sir Andrew, unable to be silent when others spoke, added his own portion: “I could so beat the rogue!”

And then it was Sir Toby who cautioned peace.

Malvolio continued along the walk, lost in his daydreams. One day, the countess would recognize his long service and raise him to his proper place. “To be Count Malvolio!”

It was only with utmost effort that Fabian kept Sir Toby in the trees and quiet over the next few minutes as Malvolio continued in this vein. But finally, he came far enough along to notice the letter Maria left on the walk.

He stopped, bent over, and picked the letter, examining it in detail. “By my life, this is my lady’s hand these be her very C’s, her U’s and her T’s and thus makes she her great P’s.” (Fabian pressed a hand over his mouth to quiet his laughter.) “It is, in contempt of question, her hand.”

Sir Andrew shook his head and asked quietly, “Her C’s, her U’s and her T’s: why that?” And Fabian nearly fell out of the tree.

Luckily for the rascals three, Malvolio did not notice, instead bending all attention on the letter. “‘To the unknown beloved, this, and my good wishes:’–her very phrases!” Suddenly, he looked around, peering low under the bushes and around the hedges. He then slipped his finger under the seal and pulled it from the page, opening the envelope. Then he continued but more quietly, “By your leave, wax! And the impressure her Lucrece, with which she uses to seal: ’tis my lady. To whom should this be?”

Settling himself on a bench directly under the box tree, he continued reading silently — but now the scallywags could read along with him.

Jove knows I love: But who?
Lips, do not move;
No man must know.

If this should be thee, Malvolio?” he asked himself, his earlier daydreams flashing into bright promise.

I may command where I adore;
But silence, like a Lucrece knife,
With bloodless stroke my heart doth gore:
M, O, A, I, doth sway my life.

Fabian grinned and murmured, “A fustian riddle!”

It was, indeed, a pretentious thing, and Sir Toby was delighted by it. Eagerly they listened to the steward muttering to himself.

“‘M, O, A, I, doth sway my life.’ Nay, but first, let me see, let me see, let me see.

“‘I may command where I adore.’ Why, she may command me: I serve her; she is my lady. Why, this is evident to any formal capacity; there is no obstruction in this: and the end,–what should that alphabetical position portend? If I could make that resemble something in me,–Softly! M, O, A, I,–”

This followed several minutes of Malvolio trying to find some way to claim that those letters were a reference to his name. A period where Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Fabian passed the time by making a mock of Malvolio’s foolishness and ignorance of the trouble he was walking into.

Finally, Malvolio gave up, saying, “M, O, A, I; this simulation is not as the former: and yet, to crush this a little, it would bow to me, for every one of these letters are in my name. Soft! here follows prose.”

‘If this fall into thy hand, revolve. In my stars I
am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness: some
are born great, some achieve greatness, and some
have greatness thrust upon ’em. Thy Fates open
their hands; let thy blood and spirit embrace them;
and, to inure thyself to what thou art like to be,
cast thy humble slough and appear fresh. Be
opposite with a kinsman, surly with servants; let
thy tongue tang arguments of state; put thyself into
the trick of singularity: she thus advises thee
that sighs for thee. Remember who commended thy
yellow stockings, and wished to see thee ever
cross-gartered: I say, remember. Go to, thou art
made, if thou desirest to be so; if not, let me see
thee a steward still, the fellow of servants, and
not worthy to touch Fortune’s fingers. Farewell.
She that would alter services with thee,
THE FORTUNATE-UNHAPPY.’

Malvolio was transported into raptures as one who has been granted a vision of the heavens. “Daylight and champaign discovers not more: this is open.” He stood and pulled himself erect, thrusting his shoulders back. “I will be proud. I will baffle Sir Toby, I will wash off gross acquaintance, I will be point-devise the very man.” Shaking a fist to any who dared dissuade him, he declared, “I do not now fool myself, to let imagination jade me.” He let the first fall, and a soft smile crept across his face. He looked down at the letter with eyes bright, “for every reason excites to this, that my lady loves me. She did commend my yellow stockings of late, she did praise my leg being cross-gartered, and in this she manifests herself to my love. Jove and my stars be praised!”

Then something caught his eye, and he sat down again. “Here is yet a postscript…”

‘Thou canst not choose but know who I am. If thou
entertainest my love, let it appear in thy smiling;
thy smiles become thee well; therefore in my
presence still smile, dear my sweet, I prithee.’

“Jove,” he said with a happy sigh, “I thank thee: I will smile; I will do everything that thou wilt have me.”

With firm purpose, he stood from the bench and strode off, ready to achieve his future.

As soon as he was out of sight, the box tree exploded with laughter. Fabian slid down the tree first, stammering between bursts of laughter, “I will not give my part of this sport for a pension of thousands to be paid from the Sophy.”

“I could marry this wench for this device,” Sir Toby chortled, stumbling down to trip over the bench, still laughing.

“So could I too,” agreed Sir Andrew, “trying to figure out how to get down from the tree.”

“And ask no other dowry with her but such another jest!” Toby continued, ignoring Sir Andrew.

“Nor I neither,” Sir Andrew agreed again.

“Here,” Fabian said, “comes my noble gull-catcher.”

Finding his feet again, Sir Toby knelt in front of Maria and bowed his head, “Wilt thou set thy foot o’ my neck?”

Maria put her hand to her mouth and dropped her eyes, unable, for a moment, to speak.

Finally, down from the tree, Sir Andrew threw himself on his knees beside Sir Toby, “Or o’ mine either?”

Looking up, Sir Toby offered Maria his hand, which she took and pulled him to his feet. “Why, thou hast put him in such a dream, that when the image of it leaves him he must run mad.”

Blushing, Maria asked, “Nay, but say true; does it work upon him?”

“Like aqua-vitae with a midwife,” Sir Toby assured her.

She grinned freely a moment, then, as if recalling herself, dropped his and stepped back. “If you will then see the fruits of the sport,” she said, “mark his first approach before my lady: he will come to her in yellow stockings, and ’tis a colour she abhors, and cross-gartered, a fashion she detests; and he will smile upon her, which will now be so unsuitable to her disposition, being addicted to a melancholy as she is, that it cannot but turn him into a notable contempt. If you will see it, follow me.”

Fabian was carefully not looking at Sir Andrew’s yellow stockings, but Sir Toby had eyes only for Maria. “To the gates of Tartar, thou most excellent devil of wit!”

“I’ll make one too,” Sir Andrew called out after the pair as they headed quickly for the manor.


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What You Will: A Queer-er Shakespeare (S1 Finale)

Season notes: violence, sexism, internalized homophobia

It was late morning when the duke had sought his bed (allowing Cesario, Curio, and Valentine to do the same). Not until evening did the fool finally answer the summons to the duke’s court.

“O, fellow, come, the song we had last night.” The duke greeted him eagerly. “Mark it, Cesario, it is old and plain. The spinsters and the knitters in the sun and the free maids that weave their thread with bones do use to chant it. It is silly sooth, and dallies with the innocence of love like the old age.”

When the duke wound down, the fool asked, “Are you ready, sir?”

“Ay; prithee, sing.”

Cesario started playing an introduction, and after a few bars, the fool began his song.

Come away, come away, death,
And in sad cypress let me be laid;
Fly away, fly away breath;
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
O, prepare it!
My part of death, no one so true
Did share it.
Not a flower, not a flower sweet
On my black coffin let there be strown;
Not a friend, not a friend greet
My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown:
A thousand, thousand sighs to save,
Lay me, O, where
Sad true lover never find my grave,
To weep there!

Over the course of the song, Orsino’s feet took him wandering. He stopped once more behind Cesario, hand resting on his shoulder. The duke’s eyes were afire as he stared at his man. Cesario looked at his hands on the keys, showing no sign he was aware of the duke’s closeness.

The fool watched the duke closely, this man who so strongly courted the Lady Olivia.

For a few moments, after the song ended, the duke and his man remained unmoving. The duke staring, Cesario avoiding.

It was the duke who shook himself first and stepped away. He reached into his purse for coins and offered them to the fool. “There’s for thy pains.”

The fool took the coins with a bow. “No pains, sir: I take pleasure in singing, sir.”

“I’ll pay thy pleasure then,” the duke replied with a grin.

Still watching the duke and Cesario — who leaned toward the duke while still looking away from him — the fool shook his head. “Truly, sir, and pleasure will be paid, one time or another.”

The duke gave the fool leave to depart. The fool shook his head again. “Now, the melancholy god protect thee,” he said slowly, “and the tailor make thy doublet of changeable taffeta, for thy mind is a very opal.” He shouldered his bag and turned toward the door. “I would have men of such constancy put to sea, that their business might be every thing and their intent every where; for that’s it that always makes a good voyage of nothing. Farewell.”

Everyone stared after the fool a moment, confused. Then the duke put a hand on Cesario’s shoulder again, saying, “Let all the rest give place.”

Cesario noodled a bit on the piano, using the playing as an excuse to continue avoiding the duke.

When the others had left, the duke took Cesario’s hand in his, and said softly, “Once more, Cesario, get thee to yond same sovereign cruelty. Tell her, my love, more noble than the world, prizes not quantity of dirty lands. The parts that fortune hath bestow’d upon her, tell her, I hold as giddily as fortune. But ’tis that miracle and queen of gems that nature pranks her in attracts my soul.”

Cesario pulled his hand away, closed the lid of the keyboard, and moved to the windows framing the setting sun. “But if she cannot love you, sir?”

“I cannot be so answer’d.”

“Sooth, but you must.” Words began tumbling out of Cesario’s lips like water over rocks in a stream. “Say that some lady, as perhaps there is, hath for your love a great a pang of heart as you have for Olivia. You cannot love her. You tell her so. Must she not then be answer’d?”

Cesario thought that this might get through to Orsino. Had not the duke, just the night before, spoken of how much greater was the love women held for men? But the fool had been right to name the duke of opal nature, changeable as the day’s light. The duke stalked toward Cesario, all but growling in his outrage. “There is no woman’s sides can bide the beating of so strong a passion as love doth give my heart. No woman’s heart so big, to hold so much. They lack retention.”

Cesario’s hands fisted at his sides. Since he had faced down himself at the pond, Cesario had thought much, fought much. And came to acceptance — he was Cesario. The dead would walk the earth before he would again answer to the name ‘Viola.’

If he was not a woman now, had he ever been a woman? Or had Viola been the mask all along? What right had he to offense, what claim to knowledge had he the right to make?

“Alas,” the duke continued, hissing in Cesario’s ear, “their love may be call’d appetite. But mine is all as hungry as the sea, and can digest as much: make no compare between that love a woman can bear me and that I owe Olivia.”

It was too much. Right, reason, and good sense fled. Cesario spun around to find himself face-to-face with Orsino, a bare whisper separating their lips. Again.

Cesario stepped back, glaring. “Ay, but I know–”

“What dost thou know?” the duke mocked, stepping forward to crowd Cesario again.

“Too well what love women to men may owe!” he shoved the duke then, shoved him back and all but ran for the door.

“Cesario!” the duke called, not angry but pained. And the young man, confused man, stopped. For a long moment, neither said anything. “Cesario?”

Cesario turned back, slowly this time. The duke held a hand to him, Cesario took one hesitant step forward. He licked his lips and decided to forget all his questions and confusion and just… speak.

“In faith,” he said, “they are as true of heart as we.” He paused, but the duke said nothing, just waited. Cesario took another step. “My father had a daughter loved a man, as it might be, if I were a woman,” That damnable ‘if,’ truth and lie in one and Cesario himself knew not which. “If I were a woman, I should your lordship.”

The duke smiled slightly, an almost hopeful expression teasing the edges of his face. “And what’s her history?”

Another step, Cesario took the duke’s hand but turned away from his face, staring again out the windows. “A blank, my lord. She never told her love, but let concealment, like a worm i’ the bud, feed on her damask cheek.” Cesario had no other choice. For Orsino to love Viola would be as a fairytale — nothing that had anyplace in the real world. But for him to love Cesario… even a young man in the pangs of first love knew better than to dream. “She pined in thought, and with a green and yellow melancholy she sat like patience on a monument, smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed?”

Some bitterness leaked into his voice, but he did not resist when the duke squeezed his hand and moved to stand close behind him. “We men may say more, swear more: but indeed our shows are more than will. For still we prove much in our vows, but little in our love.”

The duke’s eyes were bright, and he was almost praying as he asked, “But died thy sister of her love, my boy?”

Cesario shook his head with a sharp laugh. “I am all the daughters of my father’s house,” he replied. Then, hurriedly, “And all the brothers too. And yet I know not.”

He turned to face the duke again, this time taking care to leave space between them. “Sir, shall I to this lady?”

The duke hid a wince by looking down to pull a ring off his fingers. “Ay, that’s the theme. To her in haste; give her this jewel.” He paused, gazing deep into Cesario’s eyes. “My love can give no place, bide no denial.”

And any watching in that moment might be forgiven for wondering just whom his words were meant for.


We’ll leave Cesario and his duke here. Cesario, at least, has come to know himself. Next week we’ll return to Lefeng & family with seasons 2 of Planting Life in a Dying City. Grandparent-to-be Tsouchm has some challenges ahead of em.

After a lifetime as a loner with no family, Tsouchm must now step up to become a parent and grandparent to five orphans and a spouse to the love ey thought far beyond eir reach. Lefeng’s determination took them this far. Can Tsouchm find it in emself to step forward and help not only eir new family, but the community of familyless ey is leaving behind?

If you missed it (or just want a re-read) you can find Season 1 here.

Return to:
What You Will (S1, E1)
What You Will (S1, E11)

Continue to:
Webserial Catalog
Alexi’s Tale — A Transgender Fairytale
How NOT to Save the World

What You Will (S1 E11)

Season notes: violence, sexism

After Malvolio left, Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, the fool, and Maria stared after him a moment. Then, “Go shake your ears,” Maria growled after him.

The others laughed, and Sir Toby and Sir Andrew began trading comments about the steward. In a few moments, Sir Andrew was ready to go issue him a challenge to duel, and Sir Toby eager to be his second.

Maria hushed them, worried for Lady Olivia’s temper. A duel could not help but come to her attention. Instead, she said, “Let me alone with him: if I do not make him a common recreation, do not think I have wit enough to lie straight in my bed.” She scooped up the wine and came to pour it for Sir Toby. “I know I can do it.”

“Possess us, possess us,” Sir Toby slung an arm around her shoulders again. “Tell us something of him.”

“Marry, sir, sometimes he is a kind of puritan.”

“O, if I thought that I would beat him like a dog!” Sir Andrew exclaimed.

“What, for being a puritan?” Sir Toby turned to the other knight in confusion, “Thy exquisite reason, dear knight?”

“I have no exquisite reason for’t,” Sir Andrew said stubbornly, “but I have reason good enough.”

Maria ignored them. “The devil a puritan that he is, or anything constantly, but a time-pleaser; an affectioned ass. The best persuaded of himself, so crammed, as he thinks, with excellencies, that it is his grounds of faith that all that look on him love him.”

“What wilt thou do?” Sir Toby asked.

“I will drop in his way some obscure letters of love, wherein, by the color of his beard, the shape of his leg, the manner of his gait, the expressure of his eye, forehead, and complexion, he shall find himself most feelingly personated.” She smiled at Sir Toby before stepping away and crossing the room to a writing desk. Sir Toby followed her. From the desk she pulled two notes written on the thick cream paper Olivia preferred for personal matters. “I can write very like my lady, your niece.” She showed the notes to Sir Toby, who examined them with delight. “On a forgotten matter, we can hardly make distinction of our hands.”

“Excellent! I smell a device.”

Sir Andrew now crowded up behind Sir Toby. “I have it in my nose too.”

Sir Toby cackled. “He shall think, by the letters that thou wilt drop, that they come from my niece, and that she’s in love with him.”

Maria nodded, smiling at the older knight.

“My purpose is, indeed, a horse of that color.”

She took the notes from Sir Toby and put them back in the draw. When she turned around Sir Toby was so close their lips nearly met. Maria stared for a moment before pulling away and pacing to the door. “Sport royal, I warrant you: I know my physic will work with him.

“I will plant you two and let the fool make a third, where he shall find the letter.” She opened the door and stopped. “Observe his construction of it. For this night, to bed, and dream on the event.” With one long look over her shoulder, she was gone. “Farewell.”

“Good night, Penthesilea.” Sir Toby called after her.

Sir Andrew shook his head in admiration. “Before me, she’s a good wench.”

“She’s a beagle,” Sir Toby sighed, “true-bred, and one that adores me.” Sir Andrew stared at him and seemed almost to be blinking away tears. “What o’ that?”

“I was adored once too.” Sir Andrew said quietly.

Grunting, Sir Toby patted Sir Andrew on the shoulder. “Let’s to bed, knight. Thou hadst need send for more money.”

Sir Andrew grimaced, “If I cannot recover your niece, I am a foul way out.”

“Send for money, knight: if thou hast her not i’ the end, call me cut.”

“If I do not, never trust me. Take it how you will.”

Through the window, the first light of dawn could be seen peeking over the horizon. Sir Toby glared at it a moment, then shook his head. “‘Tis too late to go to bed now.” He signaled for the fool, almost forgotten in the corner, to begin a song. “Come, knight.” He started to dance and waved for Sir Andrew to join him, “Come, knight!”

While the fool helped Sirs Toby and Andrew ring in the dawn, others in Duke Orsino’s court were also blearily facing the first light after a too-long night.

Duke Orsino, unnaturally alert, sat on a settee with his arm around Cesario (who was Viola). Curio stood (someone less than alertly) by the door, and Valentine sat behind the duke, tired enough to forget himself and glare at the duke’s over-familiar arm. The rest of the duke’s court had been dismissed to seek their beds some hours earlier. But these, the duke’s favorites, must remain, blinking against the dawn’s light and stifling eager yawns.

The duke, seeing dawn peek through the windows, perked up. “Now, good morrow, friends. Give me some music!” He shook Cesario gently, rousing him from half stupor. “Now, good Cesario, but that piece of song, that old and antique song we heard last night.

“Methought it did relieve my passion much, more than light airs and recollected terms.”

Cesario blinked at him and mustered a scowl. In the weeks since he entered the duke’s court, he had grown comfortable with the duke. Comfortable enough to make plain when he thought the duke was being outrageous — which was often. Comfortable enough that he did not object to the duke’s arm around his shoulders, though he knew he should have.

“Come,” Orsino wheedled, “but one verse.”

From the door, Curio cleared his throat. “He is not here, so please your lordship that should sing it.”

“Who was it?” the duke asked, turning to face Curio.

“Feste, the jester, my lord; a fool that the lady Olivia’s father took much delight in. He was about the house.”

“Seek him out!” He gave a shove to Cesario, “And play the tune the while.”

Cesario dragged himself to his feet and took a moment to be sure of his balance before walking carefully to the piano. He seated himself and ran through a short warm-up to loosen his sleep-dogged fingers. Then he began picking out the tune. (After listening to the fool play it for near an hour the night before, he had it memorized and needed no sheet music.)

The duke came to stand behind him and rested a hand on Cesario’s shoulder. (Valentine, who had begun to relax, took up his glare again.)

“If ever thou shalt love, boy,” the duke murmured, “In the sweet pangs of it remember me. For such as I am all true lovers are, unstaid and skittish in all motions else, save in the constant image of the creature that is beloved.”

Cesario was saved from needing to reply by his playing, and the duke was content to listen in silence to the music.

For a time.

“How dost thou like this tune?”

Speaking and playing leaves one distracted even at the best of times. But after a long night when one wishes nothing more than to seek one’s bed? Then truths can slip out that a man would never willingly speak in the light of day. “It gives a very echo to the seat where Love is throned,” Cesario replied.

Orsino stared down at him, “Thou dost speak masterly. My life upon’t, young though thou art, thine eye hath stay’d upon some favor that it loves.” With visible reluctance, the duke pulled his hand from Cesario’s shoulder. To cover his awkwardness, he continued, “Hath it not, boy?”

Cesario stared down at his hands, appalled at his slip. In the background, Valentine breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed into the chair.

After a moment, Cesario replied, “A little, by your favor.”

“What kind of woman is it?” the duke asked.

Cesario shrugged, not showing his relief that the duke assumed he spoke of a woman. Of course, he did. But his tongue was not guarded enough and what slipped out was, “Of your complexion.”

It was Curio, now, who perked up, glancing with raised eyebrows toward Valentine.

Orsino missed this by play, dismissing the hypothetical woman with a wave. “She is not worth thee, then.” A pause. “What years, i’ faith?”

With a prayer to the fates who watched out for fools and drunkards, Cesario replied honestly — “About your years, my lord.”

Cesario, unnoticing, was now leaning back so his shoulder rested on the duke’s thigh. Valentine, of course, did not miss it. His eyebrows, too, climbed to meet his much-receded hairline. He looked to Curio who smiled and nodded toward the two by the piano. Valentine sighed and shrugged. Then stole a pillow from the settee to prop behind his head. Hands folded across his middle he closed his eyes.

The duke’s hand was once more upon Cesario’s shoulder. He shook his head regretfully. “Too old by heaven! Let still the woman take an elder than herself. So wears she to him, so sways she level in her husband’s heart. For, boy,” and he squeezed Cesario’s shoulder gently as he spoke. “However we do praise ourselves, our fancies are more giddy and unfirm, more longing, wavering, sooner lost and worn, than women’s are.”

What else the duke might have said was interrupted by a soft snore coming from Valentine’s chair. Orsino and Cesario turned in surprise, then looked at each other and giggled.

Cesario knew it was foolish, but he let a giddy smile show upon his face. The duke would think it a response to Valentine when in truth it was a response to the duke’s words. “I think it well, my lord.”

“Then let thy love be younger than thyself,” Orsino turned back to Cesario with a more somber expression. “Or thy affection cannot hold the bent. For women are as roses, whose fair flower being once display’d, doth fall that very hour.”

“And so they are: alas, that they are so,” Cesario could not bring himself to be bothered by this assessment of women or men’s affection to them. The duke felt that men should seek out younger lovers. In that moment of exhaustion and dawn light and foolishness, he allowed himself one moment to believe in fantasies. “To die, even when they to perfection grow!”

Out of sight of the duke and his man, Curio watched how their gazes caught, how they leaned into each other, only to start back, and smiled.

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What You Will (S1 Finale)

What You Will (S1 E10)

Content notes: violence, sexism, internalized transphobia

It was late — so late it was early, or so Sir Toby claimed — when he and Sir Andrew came staggering back into the manor. Sir Toby closed the door with exaggerated care, an effort immediately wasted as Sir Andrew walked right into the coat rack and knocked it clattering to the floor.

Sir Toby hauled Sir Andrew up, and they picked their way around the fallen coats, continuing their whispered argument.

“Faith, so they say,” Sir Andrew said, “but I think life rather consists of eating and drinking.”

Sir Toby chuckled and just missed the door frame as he led Sir Andrew into one of the sitting rooms. “Thou’rt a scholar; let us therefore eat and drink.” Then, he dropped the whisper to call loudly, “Marian, I say! a stoup of wine!”

It was not Maria who answered, but the fool. He, being sober and thus capable of actual quiet, came up behind the pair and pulled them down onto a couch with him. “How now, my hearts!”

Sir Toby and Sir Andrew shrieked like one who saw the dead walk, then Sir Toby started laughing. “Welcome, ass. Now let’s have a catch.”

Clapping (and trying to hide how he gasped from fright) Sir Andrew hurried to praise the fool, “Thou wast in very gracious fooling last night, when thou spokest of Pigrogromitus, of the Vapians passing the equinoctial of Queubus.” (It had, in fact, been Queubus passing the tropic of the Vapians, but let it go. Sir Andrew was a fool of a different sort.) “Twas very good, i’ faith. I sent thee sixpence for thy pleasure: hadst it?”

The fool assured Sir Andrew that he had received the money and turned it into a joke on Malvolio. At that time, Malvolio was always good for a laugh, and laugh Sir Andrew did. “Excellent! Why, this is the best fooling, when all is done. Now, a song.”

Sir Toby agreed, tossing the fool a coin. Sir Andrew gave another, and the fool cut him off before he could say aught more. “Would you have a love-song, or a song of good life?”

“A love-song, a love-song,” demanded Sir Toby, and Sir Andrew went along with it, as he did.

The fool began to sing, “O mistress mine, where are you roaming? O, stay and hear; your true love’s coming…”

As he sang, the knights commented to each other on the choice of song and tenor of his voice. The fool sang for several minutes, watching their eyes drift close. He sang and played more softly, “In delay there lies no plenty. Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty, youth’s a stuff will not endure…” until he trailed off into silence.

For a moment, none moved, and the fool made ready to take himself from the room. Then Sir Toby snorted himself awake.

The couch creaked as he sat up, rousing Sir Andrew to blinking awareness. “To hear by the nose…” Sir Toby mumbled, “it is dulcet in contagion. Very… contagious.”

Shaking himself, he jumped to his feet and dragged Sir Andrew up with him, calling, “But shall we make the welkin dance indeed?” he grabbed the fool’s arm, pulling him into a huddle with the two knights. “Shall we rouse the night-owl in a catch that will draw three souls out of one weaver?” he demanded, with all the enthusiasm of the hearty drunk, “shall we do that?”

“An you love me, let’s do’t,” Sir Andrew rubbed his hands together. “I am dog at a catch.”

“By’r lady, sir,” The fool saluted, “and some dogs will catch well.”

“Most certain. Let our catch be, ‘Thou knave.’ ”

“‘Hold thy peace, thou knave,’ knight?” The fool asked Sir Andrew, “I shall be constrained in’t to call thee knave, knight.”

Sir Andrew gave the fool several more openings, which he was pleased to take. But before long, they began the song, a popular drinking catch meant to be bellowed at the top of one’s lungs.

Since getting them to sleep it off had failed, to fool joined in fully. If he would not be allowed to sleep, he might as well enjoy himself.

They were well into the catch when Maria, eyes full of sleep, stepped into the doorway and stared at them. It took her a moment to find her voice, but she found it well-tended and in good form. “What a caterwauling do you keep here!” She stomped up to Sir Toby and shook her finger in his face. “If my lady have not called up her steward Malvolio and bid him turn you out of doors, never trust me.”

Sir Toby burped and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. He bent to whisper in her ear. “My lady’s a Cataian, we are politicians, Malvolio’s a Peg-a-Ramsey, and” suddenly in full voice, he sang, “‘Three merry men be we.’

“Am not I consanguineous? Am I not of her blood? Tillyvally. Lady!” And he swept her up into a dance, singing, “‘There dwelt a man in Babylon, lady, lady!'”

The fool and Sir Andrew sat back on the couch together and watched Sir Toby spin Maria around the room, singing along.

After two rounds of the room, Maria broke free, trying not to laugh herself. “For the love o’ God, peace!” But she couldn’t keep a straight face, and her giggles broke free.

The fool was the first to notice Malvolio lurking in the doorway. He sobered himself, grabbed up his instrument, and retreated to a corner. Maria, giddy but not drunk, noticed him next and moved away from Sir Toby to stand quietly, head down, hands clasped.

Still thoroughly drunk, it took Sir Toby and Sir Andrew nearly a full minute to notice the steward. Finally, they quieted and stared at the steward, shamefaced.

“My masters,” the steward asked, “are you mad? or what are you? Have ye no wit, manners, nor honesty, but to gabble like tinkers at this time of night? Is there no respect of place, persons, nor time in you?”

Sir Toby quickly lost his shame in the face of Malvolio’s scorn. “We did keep time, sir,” he growled, “in our catches.”

“Sir Toby,” Malvolio sneered. “I must be round with you. My lady bade me tell you, that, though she harbors you as her kinsman, she’s nothing allied to your disorders. If you can separate yourself and your misdemeanors, you are welcome to the house; if not, and it would please you to take leave of her, she is very willing to bid you farewell.”

Sir Toby stood up, walked right up to the steward, sneered back at him, and began to sing. “‘Farewell, dear heart, since I must needs be gone.'”

“Nay, good Sir Toby,” Maria tried to stop him. But the fool had had more than enough of Malvolio and was quite willing to encourage Sir Toby. “‘His eyes do show his days are almost done.'”

The two of them traded lines the song back and forth to the increasing upset of the steward. With each line, the fool egged Sir Toby on further until Sir Toby dropped the game to confront Malvolio directly.

“Art any more than a steward? Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”

“Yes, by Saint Anne,” the fool put in, “and ginger shall be hot i’ the mouth too.”

“Thou’rt i’ the right,” Sir Toby nodded at the fool. “Go, sir, rub your chain with crumbs. A stoup of wine, Maria!”

Maria, like Sir Toby, had lost what shame she’d had in the face of Malvolio’s arrogance. She turned immediately and headed for the wine on the sideboard.

“Mistress Mary,” Malvolio stepped in front of her, “if you prized my lady’s favor at any thing more than contempt, you would not give means for this uncivil rule.”

Maria stuck her tongue out at him and stepped around to continue on her way. “She shall know of it,” Malvolio yelled, “by this hand.”

Then he stalked out of the room like a wet cat, closing the door with blatant quiet behind him.

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What You Will (S1, E11)

What You Will (A Queer-er Shakespeare): S1 E9

Season notes: violence, sexism, internalized transphobia

Olivia paced the sitting room, replaying the odd audience that had just ended. “‘What is your parentage?’ ‘Above my fortunes, yet my state is well: I am a gentleman.’ I’ll be sworn thou art.” She shook her head, unable to banish the image of the impudent man from her thoughts. “Thy tongue, thy face, thy limbs, actions, and spirit, do give thee five-fold blazon: not too fast,” she stopped pacing and looked at her hands, turning them over and back as if there was some secret message she could read if only she found the right angle.

“Soft, soft! Unless the master were the man. How now!” her voice dropped to a horrified whisper. “Even so quickly may one catch the plague? Methinks I feel this youth’s perfections, with an invisible and subtle stealth, to creep in at mine eyes.” She stood a long moment, opening and closing her hands. Then she lifted her head, dropped her arms, and in a firm voice declared, “Well, let it be.

“What ho, Malvolio!”

Malvolio opened the door and stepped in, bowing. “Here, madam, at your service.”

“Run after that same peevish messenger, the county’s man. He left this ring behind him: would I or not.” She twisted a ring off her finger and held it out to the steward, who took it gingerly. “Tell him I’ll none of it. Desire him not to flatter with his lord, nor hold him up with hopes. I am not for him.” Malvolio bowed and turned to go, but Olivia stopped him. “If- If that the youth will come this way tomorrow, I’ll give him reasons for it.” Malvolio blinked in surprise, and she shoo’d him out. “Hie thee, Malvolio.”

“Madam, I will.”

She watched him leave, then moved to a mirror hung on the wall and checked her appearance. “I do I know not what,” she muttered to herself, “and fear to find mine eye too great a flatterer for my mind.”

Turning away from the mirror, she saw a painting of a farmhouse under a night sky. She examined the stars, as those constellations might mirror the real stars that guide our lives. “Fate, show thy force: ourselves we do not owe. What is decreed must be, and be this so.”

Viola did not rush on her way back to Orsino’s manor. She had much to think on — not so much her meeting with the Lady Olivia, but what she had revealed in that meeting. So she ambled and stopped now and again to enjoy a stand of wildflowers. Because she did so, Malvolio had an easy time catching up with her.

“Were not you even now with the Countess Olivia?”

“Even now, sir; on a moderate pace I have since arrived but hither.” Viola offered an abbreviated bow of greeting, but Malvolio did not return it. Instead, he reached into a pocket and pulled out the ring Olivia had given him.

“She returns this ring to you, sir:” Malvolio sneered. You might have saved me my pains, to have taken it away yourself.”

Viola stared at the ring, shaking her head. Malvolio tried to push the ring on her. She stepped back, holding her hands up to ward him off.

“She adds, moreover,” Malvolio continued, “that you should put your lord into a desperate assurance she will none of him. And one thing more, that you be never so hardy to come again in his affairs, unless it be to report your lord’s taking of this. Receive it so.”

“She took the ring of me?” Viola turned her back on him and started walking again. “I’ll none of it.”

Malvolio chased after her and grabbed her arm. “Come, sir, you peevishly threw it to her.” When Viola did not respond, he threw it on the ground in front of her. “And her will is, it should be so returned. If it be worth stooping for, there it lies in your eye; if not, be it his that finds it.”

With a derisive sniff, the steward turned and hurried back toward the manor

Viola stared at the departing steward, then at the ring lying there on the ground. “I left no ring with her: what means this lady?” One thing sure: she could not bring a ring from Olivia back to the manor. Lord Orsino would likely take it as encouragement for his suit. And if he didn’t, she feared to know what else his mercurial mind might think… her own mind caught up with her, and her jaw dropped. “Fortune forbid my outside have not charm’d her!” She paused and said slowly, “She made good view of me. Indeed, so much, that sure methought her eyes had lost her tongue, for she did speak in starts distractedly.

“She loves me, sure; the cunning of her passion invites me in this churlish messenger.” She kicked at the ring, knocking it deep into the weeds along the road. “None of my lord’s ring! Why, he sent her none.”

She continued down the road but could not shake Olivia’s token from her mind. “I am the man.” And the words roused a hope in her that she dared not look at. A hope she crushed ruthlessly. “If it be so, as ’tis, poor lady, she were better love a dream.” Without conscious thought, she wrapped her arms about herself. Her own dreams made no sense to her. “Disguise, I see, thou art a wickedness, wherein the pregnant enemy does much.”

She passed by a still pond, and her reflection caught her eye. The man Cesario stared back at her. “How easy is it for the proper-false in women’s waxen hearts to set their forms!” A hand raised to touch her — his! cheek. He was her; she was him. “Alas,” she murmured, “our frailty is the cause, not we! For such as we are made of, such we be.” His hands explored his face, confirming that what eyes saw was truth. Brushed the ends of the short hair. Hope and fear and disbelief warred in his reflected eyes. “How will this fadge?”

Viola forced herself to turn away from the pond, to closer her eyes to the image there. “My master loves her dearly; and I, poor monster,” her voice broke, and her eyes turned back to the pond, but she forced them forward, “fond as much on him.

“And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me.”

She walked for a time, pausing again only when she came in sight of Orsino’s manor.

“What will become of this? As I am man,” and she bit off the words, “my state is desperate for my master’s love. As I am woman,–now alas the day!” and these words too were heartfelt, burdened with dredged up pain, “what thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe!”

A deep breath, a sterning of her features, and she strode up the lane to face her master and his disappointment. “O time! thou must untangle this, not I. It is too hard a knot for me to untie!”

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