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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And so had mine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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, E1)
What You Will (S1, E9)

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What You Will (S1, E11)

What You Will — A Queer-er Shakespeare (S1, E3)

Season notes: violence, sexism

It was well into the dark of night when a short ruddy-cheeked man came stumbling through the kitchen door of Countess Olivia’s manor and nearly tripped over the grim woman in livery who waited for him.

The man, barely noticing in his drunken ramble, continued a long-running (and oft-repeated) rant. “What a plague means my niece, to take the death of her brother thus? I am sure care’s an enemy to life.”

The woman sighed and stood up, brushing out her skirts. “By my troth, Sir Toby,” she said, “you must come in earlier o’ nights: your cousin, my lady, takes great exceptions to your ill hours.”

As usual, Sir Toby brushed the admonishment away. “Why, let her except, before excepted.”

Knowing better than to argue directly with a drunk, the woman tried another tack, “Ay, but you must confine yourself within the modest limits of order.”

“Confine!” Came the instant objection. “I’ll confine myself no finer than I am: these clothes are good enough to drink in; and so be these boots too: an they be not, let them hang themselves in their own straps.”

Shaking her head, the woman took his arm and tried to lead him toward his bed. As she did, she muttered under her breath, “That quaffing and drinking will undo you: I heard my lady talk of it yesterday; and of a foolish knight that you brought in one night here to be her wooer.”

Sadly, she did not mutter softly enough. Sir Toby heard her and took exception.

“Who, Sir Andrew Aguecheek?”

“Ay, he.”

Sir Toby shook free of her hand and pulled himself up straight, a portrait of offended dignity. “He’s as tall a man as any’s in Illyria.” The portrait was ruined by a great burp that ripped free on the last syllable.

Poor delivery or not, the point couldn’t be argued. Sir Andrew was indeed taller than most men of Illyria. Still, “What’s that to the purpose?”

“Why, he has three thousand ducats a year.”

Somewhere in a drunk man’s mind, ideas connect in ways that even a fool can never make sense of.

“Ay, but he’ll have but a year in all these ducats: he’s a very fool and a prodigal.”

“Fie, that you’ll say so! he plays o’ the violin, and speaks three or four languages word for word without book, and hath all the good gifts of nature.”

The woman shook her head again and turned to face Sir Toby. “He hath indeed, almost natural: for besides that he’s a fool, he’s a great quarreller: and but that he hath the gift of a coward to allay the gust he hath in quarreling, ’tis thought among the prudent he would quickly have the gift of a grave.”

Jowls bouncing, face flushed now with anger, Sir Toby explained, “By this hand, they are scoundrels and subtractors that say so of him. Who are they?”

Done with the conversation, she turned and began walking away, calling over her shoulder, “They that add, moreover, he’s drunk nightly in your company.”

The anger drained out of Sir Toby, and he said pleadingly, “With drinking healths to my niece.” When the woman did not stop, he took a few steps after her and grabbed her arm. “I’ll drink to her as long as there is a passage in my throat and drink in Illyria: he’s a coward and a coystrill that will not drink to my niece till his brains turn o’ the toe like a parish-top.

The door opened again, and Sir Toby put a hand over the woman’s mouth, silencing whatever reply she might have made “What, wench! Castiliano vulgo! For here comes Sir Andrew Agueface.”

“Sir Toby Belch!” Sir Andrew staggered in and pulled up short. He stared at Sir Toby, who still had his hand over a strange (to Andrew) woman’s mouth. “how now, Sir Toby Belch!”

“Sweet Sir Andrew!” Sir Toby replied. He dropped his hands away from the woman and stepped away suddenly.

Sir Andrew turned to the woman, saying, “Bless you, fair shrew.”

“And you too, sir,” She replied, edging once again toward the door.

Not wanting her to escape, Sir Toby urged Sir Andrew forward. “Accost, Sir Andrew, accost.”

Confused, Sir Andrew blinked blearily around the room. “What’s that?”

“My niece’s chambermaid,” Sir Toby said, with a wave (more drunken than gallant) toward the poor woman.

Sir Andrew dropped into an exaggerated bow, “Good Mistress Accost, I desire better acquaintance.”

“My name is Mary, sir.” She rubbed her forehead against a headache and looked longingly for the door.

“Good Mistress Mary Accost,–” began Sir Andrew again, striding toward her.

Mistress Mary Not Accost moved quickly to put a bench between herself and the approaching knave… err… knight.

Groaning, Sir Toby put a hand on Sir Andrew’s arm. “You mistake, knight; ‘accost’ is front her, board her, woo her, assail her.” These last terms were joined by gestures meant to illustrate the good knight’s meaning.

“By my troth,” Sir Andrew exclaimed. “I would not undertake her in this company.” Then in what might have been meant as a whisper but was loud enough to be heard across the bailey, he spoke directly into Sir Toby’s ear. “Is that the meaning of ‘accost’?”

Sir Toby winced away, rubbing his ear. Mary (Maria actually) took advantage of his distraction to make once more for the door. “Fare you well, gentlemen.”

Sadly for her, he was not distracted enough. “An thou let part so, Sir Andrew, would thou mightst never draw sword again.”

If nothing else, Sir Andrew could recognize a cue and jumped into his role: “An you part so, mistress, I would I might never draw sword again.” He smiled at her, a smile such as no lady would ever wish to receive, and said, “Fair lady, do you think you have fools in hand?”

“Sir, I have not you by the hand,” Maria answered, thinking perhaps the time had come for insult to drive the knights away.

Sir Andrew, however, was Sir Andrew. “Marry, but you shall have,” he replied, “and here’s my hand.”

He bowed again, extending hand and leg in a gesture she could not courteously ignore. So with visible reluctance, she reached out to touch the tips of the drunken knight’s fingers.

“Now, sir,” she said, releasing him almost immediately, ‘thought is free:’ I pray you, bring your hand to the buttery-bar and let it drink.”

Sir Andrew peered around the room a moment, confirming for himself there was no buttery-bar in view. “Wherefore, sweet-heart?” he asked then, “what’s your metaphor?”

“It’s dry, sir,” Maria said, in a voice dry as a desert.

“Why, I think so:” Sir Andrew said, “I am not such an ass but I can keep my hand dry. But what’s your jest?”

Only a step away from the door now, Maria glared at Sir Toby and said. “A dry jest, sir.”

“Are you full of them?”

“Ay, sir, I have them at my fingers’ ends.” She took the final step to the door and out of Sir Andrew’s reach. “Marry, now I let go your hand, I am barren.”

In a flurry of skirts, she turned and stepped out of the room, closing the door behind her.

Sir Toby shook his head and sighed while Sir Andrew stared at the door in perplexity. A moment later, there came the sound of a key being turned in a lock.

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What You Will (S1, E1)
What You Will (S1, E2)

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What You Will (S1, E4)