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, 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 (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 (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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What You Will (S1, E7): A Queer-er Shakespeare

Season notes: violence, sexism

Maria stood and crossed to the door. “Will you hoist sail, sir? here lies your way.”

“No.” Viola’s voice was weak, her boldness again wilting. She took hold of herself. As she had in many a past prank, she disguised herself behind her brother’s mien. “No, good swabber; I am to hull here a little longer.” She crooked an eyebrow at Olivia and, in her most sarcastic voice, continued, “Some mollification for your giant, sweet lady.”

Unsurprisingly, Olivia did nothing to ‘mollify’ Maria but also did not order Viola removed.

She and Viola stared at each other a moment, then Viola reached out a hand in offering and said quietly, “Tell me your mind: I am a messenger.”

“Sure, you have some hideous matter to deliver,” Olivia replied, “when the courtesy of it is so fearful. Speak your office.”

Viola stepped closer, dropping her voice to a murmur as her brother had done when flirting. “It alone concerns your ear. I bring no overture of war, no taxation of homage,” she lifted her outstretched hand. “I hold the olive in my hand;” Another step closer and her voice a touch softer, a touch deeper. “My words are as fun of peace as matter.”

Olivia was flustered now, looked away, fiddled with her fan. “Yet you began rudely,” she objected. Standing now, pacing the floor. “What are you? what would you?”

A half step back, giving space without retreating. The voice was softer yet, so now Olivia had to strain to hear, to stop pacing and step closer. Viola, within the well-learned mask of her brother’s ways, smiled. “The rudeness that hath appeared in me have I learned from my entertainment.

For the first time, the low voice took on the hint of a whisper: not just soft now but secret. “What I am, and what I would, are as secret as maidenhead; to your ears, divinity, to any other’s, profanation.”

Silence then. The lure was cast, and Viola knew — Sebastian knew, but for the moment, Viola was Sebastian — better than to speak further.

Olivia glanced at her (him — Cesario was who Olivia saw. Viola was perhaps too many people that morning.) Olivia glanced at him and away. The countess had been well sheltered before her father’s death, and this may have been the first time she had met the games of love. Certainly, the duke’s earlier messengers had little sense of how to woo her.

Finally, she decided. “Give us the place alone: we will hear this divinity.”

Olivia used Maria’s stiff exit to gather herself. She was flustered, yes; taken by surprise, but the daughter and granddaughter and sister of counts, a countess in her own right. She made herself don the mask of serenity she wore when she held court, to sit gracefully on her chair. When she spoke, it was in a steady voice and firm tone. “Now, sir, what is your text?”

Viola smiled and began, “Most sweet lady,–”

But this was more what Olivia had expected, and she was able to cut the speech short, “A comfortable doctrine, and much may be said of it.

“Where lies your text?”

Surprised but willing to play along, Viola replied, “In Orsino’s bosom.”

“In his bosom! In what chapter of his bosom?”

“To answer by the method, in the first of his heart.”

“O, I have read it: it is heresy. Have you no more to say?”

Viola stumbled, not ready to give up the task she had been set, but the game had ended too abruptly, and her memories of playing Sebastian were no help. But she was not Sebastian now; she was Cesario. And she knew what Cesario would say, the words bubbling up within her from her heart that was also his. “Good madam, let me see your face.”

“Have you any commission from your lord to negotiate with my face?” Olivia shook her head but continued. “You are now out of your text: but we will draw the curtain and show you the picture.” She pulled back her veil and gave Viola a moment to admire her face. “Look you, sir, such a one I was this present: is’t not well done?”

Vanity, oh vanity, all is vanity!

“Excellently done,” Cesario prodded, “if God did all.”

Stung Olivia jumped to defend her beauty. “‘Tis in grain, sir; ’twill endure wind and weather.”

Cesario smiled. “‘Tis beauty truly blent, whose red and white Nature’s own sweet and cunning hand laid on. Lady,” the soft voice again, entreating, “you are the cruell’st she alive, If you will lead these graces to the grave And leave the world no copy.”

“O, sir,” Olivia flirted now, looking up at him from behind her lashes, “I will not be so hard-hearted; I will give out divers schedules of my beauty: it shall be inventoried, and every particle and utensil labeled to my will: as, item, two lips, indifferent red; item, two grey eyes, with lids to them; item, one neck, one chin, and so forth.” The flirtation dropped the countess spoke again, “Were you sent hither to praise me?”

“I see you what you are, you are too proud,” Cesario spoke with censure now, vanity exposed being the greatest of ugliness.

“But, if you were the devil, you are fair. My lord and master loves you:” and Cesario tried hard not to hear the whisper in his heart — loves you as he can never love me, mismatched monster that I am — “O, such love Could be but recompensed, though you were crown’d The nonpareil of beauty!”

“How does he love me?”

“With adorations, fertile tears, With groans that thunder love, with sighs of fire.”

As he spoke, Olivia listened, leaning forward, taking in the passion and fire that peaked through, burning all the brighter for the love of his own Cesario did not dare — never dared — to show the world.

Shaking off the impact of those words, Olivia dismissed them. “Your lord does know my mind; I cannot love him: Yet I suppose him virtuous, know him noble, Of great estate, of fresh and stainless youth; In voices well divulged, free, learn’d and valiant; And in dimension and the shape of nature A gracious person: but yet I cannot love him; He might have took his answer long ago.”

“If I did love you in my master’s flame, With such a suffering, such a deadly life, In your denial I would find no sense; I would not understand it.” Did not understand it, that Olivia would so easily set aside what he — she. She was Viola; Cesario was only a mask! — would have given all the gold of the Indies for.

“Why, what would you?”

And Cesario — Viola — opened her heart for one time. What she would do if she could… “Make me a willow cabin at your gate, and call upon my soul within the house. Write loyal cantons of contemned love and sing them loud even in the dead of night. Halloo your name to the reverberate hills and make the babbling gossip of the air cry out…” she caught herself, replaced one name with another, and hid her stumble with a cry that reverberated through the house, if not the hills. “‘Olivia!’ O, You should not rest Between the elements of air and earth, But you should pity me!”

Olivia, of course, had no idea that this paean of love was not directed to her. It left her stunned and feeling much she did not recognize. “You might do much. What is your parentage?”

Surprised, Viola stared a moment before answering. “Above my fortunes, yet my state is well: I am a gentleman.”

Shaking her head, Olivia stood and made for the door, made to escape, “Get you to your lord; I cannot love him: let him send no more;” A pause, a thought, a fear and a hope… ” Unless, perchance, you come to me again, To tell me how he takes it. Fare you well: I thank you for your pains:” Eager to give him something though not understanding why she dug out a few coins from her purse. “spend this for me.”

“I am no fee’d post, lady,” Viola sneered at the coins, “keep your purse: My master, not myself, lacks recompense.

“Love make his heart of flint that you shall love; And let your fervor, like my master’s, be placed in contempt!” With a backward wave, and a heart both light and grieving, Viola strode out of the room and towards the main doors. “Farewell, fair cruelty.”

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What You Will (S1 E6): A Queer-er Shakespeare

Season notes: violence, sexism

As the fool left, Malvolio re-entered wearing a deep scowl. “Madam, yon young fellow swears he will speak with you. I told him you were sick; he takes on him to understand so much, and therefore comes to speak with you. I told him you were asleep; he seems to have a foreknowledge of that too, and therefore comes to speak with you.” He shook his head and growled. “What is to be said to him, lady? he’s fortified against any denial.”

“Tell him he shall not speak with me!” Now Olivia, too, was scowling, her peace and humor of the moment before quickly wiped away.

“Has been told so,” Malvolio grated out. “And he says, he’ll stand at your door like a sheriff’s post, and be the supporter to a bench, but he’ll speak with you.”

“What kind o’ man is he?”

Malvolio blinked, stammered out, “Wh- why, of mankind.”

Olivia had long suspected that Malvolio’s dislike of humor came from his literalness. The fool did not agree with her, for had known many others with like literalness who had learned to use it to make jokes, rather than squash them. Be that as it may, the Lady likely should have expected this response from him. Thus her rolled eyes were probably directed at herself. Though who can say for sure. “What manner of man?” she asked with studied patience.

“Of very ill manner; he’ll speak with you, will you or no.”

What was the lady thinking now? Who could say. Perhaps she had begun to grow tired of grief. Perhaps the return of her fool reminded her that there was life outside her manor. Or perhaps she was simply intrigued. For all she had long been subjected to the Duke’s advances, to come wooing with rudeness had the sole virtue of novelty.

So instead of dismissing the matter she asked further.

“Of what personage and years is he?

Malvolio’s scowl deepened. “Not yet old enough for a man, nor young enough for a boy;” he paused seeking words to convey his sense of the messenger. “As a squash is before ’tis a peascod, or a cooling when ’tis almost an apple: ’tis with him in standing water, between boy and man.” Giving up the rambling attempt to say what was plain to anyone at his first words, he continued, “He is very well-favoured and he speaks very shrewishly; one would think his mother’s milk were scarce out of him.”

Truly intrigued now, Olivia murmured, “Let him approach,” then started, as if the words had surprised even her. In a firmer tone she ordered, “Call in my gentlewoman.”

After a stunned moment, Malvolio strode out of the hall, calling ahead of himself, “Gentlewoman, my lady calls.”

Maria, of course, came to the call and walked with her lady to Olivia’s prefered receiving room.

“Give me my veil:” Olivia said once she was settled. “Come,” when Maria did not move quickly enough, “throw it o’er my face.” Maria soon had the black lace veil settled across her lady’s countenance, hiding clear view of her. With a sigh, already regretting her impulse, Olivia leaned back into the cushions of her chair. “We’ll once more hear Orsino’s embassy.”

A few moments later, Malvolio bowed in Cesario — that is, Viola — and quickly left the room. The discourtesy of not announcing the Duke’s messenger was not lost on anyone. Viola stepped further into the room looking nervously between Olivia and Maria. Her boldness deserted her at the very moment it won her entrance.

Silence stretched a long moment and Viola nervously asked, “The honourable lady of the house, which is she?”

Olivia had been studying Viola, surprised in spite of Malvolio’s report at how young ‘he’ was. She was surprised again that the Duke’s messenger did not recognize her despite her veiling. New, she quickly realized, not only to the Duke’s service but to the realm. New and intriguing, with exotic accent and coloring. New to the Duke, and perhaps not firmly tied to him.

“Speak to me;” she said, “I shall answer for her.

“Your will?”

Viola bowed to her, took a breath and began, “Most radiant, exquisite and unmatchable beauty,–” the words had felt foolish enough when she practiced them on her way over. Addressing them to a veiled unknown who might or might not be the one she sought crossed over from foolish to madness and she could not continue. She was embarrassed, and becoming angry at the lady (and a small bit at Orsino) for putting her in this position. With anger returned her former boldness and she turned to Maria. “I pray you, tell me if this be the lady of the house, for I never saw her.” A stage whisper, “I would be loath to cast away my speech, for besides that it is excellently well penned, I have taken great pains to con it.” In truth is had not been ‘penned’ at all, being the product of Viola’s thoughts on the way there. Though she had ‘conned’ — that is, memorized — it as best she could hoping to avoid making a fool out of herself. An effort now gone to waste.

When no response came, she let herself be drawn into pleading — she was not there of her own will and well they knew it. “Good beauties, let me sustain no scorn; I am very comptible, even to the least sinister usage.”

Take some small pity, Olivia asked, “Whence came you, sir?”

Not willing to get drawn into discussion, Viola replied, “I can say little more than I have studied, and that question’s out of my part. Good gentle one, give me modest assurance if you be the lady of the house, that I may proceed in my speech.”

“Are you a comedian?” Olivia asked.

Viola couldn’t help a small laugh at the idea. “No, my profound heart,” but some imp slipped between her lips and made her continue, “and yet, by the very fangs of malice I swear, I am not that I play.” That confounded the lady and Viola continued quickly before she could ask further: “Are you the lady of the house?”

Done with the game, Olivia replied, “If I do not usurp myself, I am.”

“Most certain,” Viola muttered with a snort, “if you are she, you do usurp yourself; for what is yours to bestow is not yours to reserve.” With a shake of her head she recalled herself to duty. “But this is from my commission: I will on with my speech in your praise, and then show you the heart of my message.”

“Come to what is important in’t: I forgive you the praise.”

” Alas, I took great pains to study it, and ’tis poetical.”

“It is the more like to be feigned,” Olivia snapped, “I pray you, keep it in.

“I heard you were saucy at my gates, and allowed your approach rather to wonder at you than to hear you. If you be not mad, be gone; if you have reason, be brief: ’tis not that time of moon with me to make one in so skipping a dialogue.”

Viola, who had her own suffering when the moon had it’s way with her, winced in sympathy

Maria stood and crossed to the door. “Will you hoist sail, sir? here lies your way.”

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