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.
What You Will (S1 Finale)