Viola arrived at Olivia’s gates just as Feste was coming out.

‘God save you, friend,’ she said. ‘And your music,’ she added when she saw that Feste was carrying a drum. ‘Do you live by your drum?’

‘No, sir,’ he said, ‘I live by the church.’

‘Are you a clergyman?’

‘Certainly not, sir. I live by the church because I live at my house and my house is beside the church.’

‘So you might just as easily say, the king lives by begging if a beggar lives near him: or the church stands by your drumming if your drum lies near the church.’

‘You’ve said it, sir! What times we live in! A sentence is like a soft glove to an intelligent man. It can so easily be turned inside out.’

Viola nodded. ‘Yes, that’s true. Those who play on words can soon give them salacious interpretations.’

‘In that case I would rather my sister didn’t have a name, sir.’

‘Why man?’

‘Because, sir, her name is a word and to play about with that word might make her indecent. But, indeed, words have really become rascals since they were disgraced by being linked to bonds.’

‘Your reason, man?’

‘To tell the truth, sir, I can’t give you one without using words,and words have grown so false I’m reluctant to use them to make an argument.’

‘I’ll bet you’re a happy-go-lucky chap and don’t care about anything,’ she said.

‘Not so, sir. I do care for something, but the fact is, I don’t care for you. If that’s caring about nothing, sir, then I wish it would make you invisible.’

‘Aren’t you the Lady Olivia’s fool?’

‘Indeed not, sir. The Lady Olivia has no folly. She won’t have a fool till she’s married, and fools are to husbands as pilchards are to herrings – the husband’s the bigger. I’m certainly not her fool: I’m her corrupter of words.’

Viola laughed. ‘I saw you recently at the Count Orsino’s

‘Foolery, sir,’ he said, ‘roams around the world like the sun: it shines everywhere. I’d be sorry, sir, if the fool were not as often with your master as my mistress. I thought I saw your wisdom there.’

‘Alright then, if you’re going to make fun of me I’ll have nothing more to do with you. Wait!’ she called as he began to walk away. She pulled her purse strings and took out a coin. ‘There’s a tip for you.’

Feste took the coin and bowed low in a mocking way. ‘May God, in his next consignment of hair, send you a beard.’

Upon my word, I have to say that I’m almost sick for one, although I don’t want it growing on my chin. Is your lady at home?’

Feste held his hand up and inspected the lonely coin. ‘Wouldn’t a pair of these have bred better, sir?’ he said.

‘Yes, if you could keep them together and put them to good use.’

He shook his head. ‘I’d like to play Pandarus of Phrygia and bring a Cressida to this Troilus.’

‘Viola laughed. ‘I understand you, sir,’ She took another coin out of her purse. ‘You’ve argued well for it.’

She watched him go. He was wise enough to be a professional fool. To do that well needed a special skill. He had to take careful note of the mood of those he made jokes about – their social position and the timing. He couldn’t be like a wild undisciplined hawk, snatching at every feather in sight. It was a profession requiring as much hard work as those of wise men. Folly was fine when properly done but when wise men stooped to folly they brought disrepute on themselves.

The gate opened and Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek emerged.

Sir Toby bowed. ‘God save you, gentleman,’ he said.

Viola bowed to him. ‘And you too, sir.’

Sir Andrew bowed too. ‘Dieu vous guarde, monsieur.’

‘Et vous, aussi: votre serviteur,’ said Viola, bowing again.

Sir Andrew bowed again too. ‘I hope you are, sir, and I am yours.’

‘Will you enter the house, sir?’ said Sir Toby. ‘My niece desires you to enter, if your business here is with her.’

‘Yes, I’m on my way to see her. She’s the purpose of my visit.’

‘Taste your legs, sir,’ said Sir Toby. ‘Put them in motion.’

‘My legs understand me better than I understand what you mean by telling me to ‘taste’ my legs.’

‘I mean, to go in, to enter,’ he said.

‘I’ll answer you with walking and entering, But we’re anticipated,’ she said as Olivia and Maria came towards them. ‘Most excellent accomplished lady.’ She bowed. ‘The heavens rain odours on you.’

Sir Toby and Sir Andrew watched from a short distance. ‘That youth’s a rare courtier,’ said Sir Andrew. ‘Rain odours! Well!’

Viola continued. ‘My message has to be spoken only to your pregnant and vouchsafed ear.’

”Odours’, ‘pregnant’ and ‘vouchsafed’,’ said Sir Andrew. ‘I must remember all three.’

Olivia waved a hand at them. ‘Shut the garden door and leave me to my audience.’

When they had gone, shutting the gate behind them, Olivia offered Viola her hand. ‘Give me your hand, sir.’

Viola took her hand and bowed. ‘My duty to you, madam, and most humble service.

Olivia sat down on a garden bench and invited Viola to join her. ‘What is your name?’ she said.

‘Cesario is your servant’s name, fair princess.’

‘My servant, sir!’ Olivia laughed. ‘What’s the world coming to that fawning should be regarded as a compliment? You’re the Count Orsino’s servant, young man.’

‘And he is yours,’ said Viola. ‘And his servants are yours too.’ Your servant’s servant is your servant madam.’

‘Him? I don’t think about him. As for his thoughtsI wish they were blank rather than filled with me!’
‘Madam, I’ve come to focus your gentle thoughts on him.’

‘Oh please! I’ve asked you never to mention him again!’ Olivia sighed, started to speak again, stopped, then blurted: ‘But if you insist on making another plea, I’d rather hear you do it than hear music from heaven.’

Viola looked her in the eye. ‘Dear lady …’

‘Please let me speak,’ interrupted Olivia. ‘I sent you a ring after your last charming visit. In doing that I abused myself, my servant and, I’m afraid, you. Now I have to accept your judgment for forcing something on you, with shameful cunning, that you knew wasn’t yours. What must you have thought! Haven’t you had some cruel laughs at the expense of my honour and indulged yourself in all kinds of thoughts that the strong can think about the defenseless?’

She stopped. Viola was staring at her, not knowing what to say. ‘I’ve revealed enough for someone of your intelligence to understand,’ said Olivia, blushing. ‘I’ve shown you my heart.’

Viola continued to stare at her. ‘So,’ said Olivia, ‘say something.’

Viola shook her head slowly. ‘I pity you,’ she said.

‘That’s a degree towards love,’ said Olivia hopefully.

‘No, not even the slightest,’ said Viola. ‘It’s commonly known that we very often pity our enemies.’

Olivia tried a smile. ‘Oh well,’ she sighed, ‘I think I should try to smile again. Oh world, how proud the poor can be. If one has to be prey, how much better to submit to the lion than the wolf.’

The clock on the roof of Olivia’s house began clanging. She sprang up. ‘The clock is reprimanding me for wasting time. Don’t be afraid, my dear young man, I won’t have you. And yet, once you’ve matured, your wife is going to have a fine man.’ She pointed to the gate. ‘That’s the way out. Due west.’

Viola stood up. ‘Then Westward ho! Blessings and best wishes to your ladyship. You won’t send any message to my master, madam, through me?’

‘Wait,’ said Olivia. ‘Please, tell me, what do you think of me?’

Viola hesitated, then: ‘That you think you’re doing something that you aren’t.’

‘If you think that then I think the same of you!’

‘Then you’re right. I’m not what I am.’

‘I wish you were what I want you to be!’ exclaimed Olivia.

‘Would that be better, madam, than I am now?’ snapped Viola. ‘I hope so because I’m your fool at the moment.’
Olivia watched the young man. Oh, how beautiful he was in his anger. Love that tried to hide itself was as obvious as murderous guilt. Even at it’s most secretive moments love was as bright as the noonday sun. ‘Cesario,’ she said, ‘by the roses of spring, by maidenhood, honour, truth, everything, I love you so much that in spite of all your pride neither reason nor caution can conceal my passion. Don’t blame yourself for this declaration because you’ve done nothing to encourage me. Look at it this way instead: love that’s sought is good but love that’s given unsought is better.’

Viola’s turned in her alarm. She took a few steps then turned back to the wretched Olivia. ‘I swear by my innocence and youth, my heart, my loyalty and my honour are as one, and no woman shares that, and no woman ever will, except for me! So farewell, madam, I’ll never bring my master’s tears to you again.’ She turned once more and strode off to the gate.

Olivia called desperately to her through her tears: ‘But you must come again. You may perhaps make me have a change of heart from loathing him to liking him!’

But Viola had gone.

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Read more scenes from Twelfth Night:

Twelfth Night in modern English | Twelfth Night original text
|
Modern Twelfth Night Act 1, Scene 1 | Twelfth Night original text, Act 1, Scene 1
Modern Twelfth Night Act 1, Scene 2 | Twelfth Night original text, Act 1, Scene 2
Modern Twelfth Night Act 1, Scene 3 | Twelfth Night original text, Act 1, Scene 3
Modern Twelfth Night Act 1, Scene 4 | Twelfth Night original text, Act 1, Scene 4
Modern Twelfth Night Act 1, Scene 5 | Twelfth Night original text, Act 1, Scene 5
|
Modern Twelfth Night Act 2, Scene 1 | Twelfth Night original text, Act 2, Scene 1
Modern Twelfth Night Act 2, Scene 2 | Twelfth Night original text, Act 2, Scene 2
Modern Twelfth Night Act 2, Scene 3 | Twelfth Night original text, Act 2, Scene 3
Modern Twelfth Night Act 2, Scene 4 | Twelfth Night original text, Act 2, Scene 4
Modern Twelfth Night Act 2, Scene 5 | Twelfth Night original text, Act 2, Scene 5
|
Modern Twelfth Night Act 3, Scene 1 | Twelfth Night original text, Act 3, Scene 1
Modern Twelfth Night Act 3, Scene 2 | Twelfth Night original text, Act 3, Scene 2
Modern Twelfth Night Act 3, Scene 3 | Twelfth Night original text, Act 3, Scene 3
Modern Twelfth Night Act 3, Scene 4 | Twelfth Night original text, Act 3, Scene 4
|
Modern Twelfth Night Act 4, Scene 1 | Twelfth Night original text, Act 4, Scene 1
Modern Twelfth Night Act 4, Scene 2 | Twelfth Night original text, Act 4, Scene 2
Modern Twelfth Night Act 4, Scene 3 | Twelfth Night original text, Act 4, Scene 3
|
Modern Twelfth Night Act 5, Scene 1 | Twelfth Night original text, Act 5, Scene 1

 

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