Olivia was agitated. She walked in her garden with Maria, muttering under her breath. ‘I’ve sent for him. If he agrees to come how shall I entertain him, what will I give him? Youth is bought more often than begged or borrowed.’ Maria came closer and Olivia stopped muttering: she was speaking too loudly.

‘Where is Malvolio,’ she said. ‘He is full of gravity and polite, and that’s the kind of servant I need in my present mood.’

Maria went indoors and returned within a few moments.

‘Where is Malvolio?’ her mistress asked again.

‘He’s coming madam,’ said Maria, ‘but he’s behaving in a very strange manner. He’s gone mad, madam.’

‘Why, what’s the matter? Is he raving?’

‘No, madam, he does nothing but smile. Your ladyship had better be on the alert if he comes because I’m sure the man has lost his mind.’

‘Go and fetch him,’ said Olivia. ‘I am as mad as he is if serious madness and merry madness are the same thing.’

Malvolio was coming down the path. And what a sight he was! He was wearing yellow stockings and his garters were arranged according to the strange current fashion – crossed. And his face was fixed in a gruesome smile.

‘Hello Malvolio,’ said Olivia.

‘Sweeeeet lady,’ he said, bowing. ‘Ho, ho.’

‘Smiling?’ she said. ‘I sent for you because I’m sad.’

‘Sad, lady?’ he said, winking in an obvious way. I could be sad too – this cross-gartering obstructs the blood flow, but what of that? If it’s pleasing to someone then it suits me. As the poem says, “please one, please all.” ‘

She looked him up and down and her expression changed to one of alarm. ‘Are you alright, man?’ she said. ‘What’s the matter with you?’

‘Not black in my thoughts,’ he said, winking again,’although yellow in my legs.’ He took the letter out of his pocket and waved it in front of her. ‘It did fall into his hands, and commands will be carried out. I think we do know the sweet Roman hand.’

Olivia stepped back a few paces. ‘Do you want to go to bed, Malvolio?’

‘To bed?’ Malvolio blew her several kisses. ‘Yes, sweetheart, and I’ll come to you.’ His smile had become predatory. He took a step toward her, which made her retreat even further.

‘God help you!’ she exclaimed. ‘Why are you smiling like that and kissing your hand to me all the time?’

Maria went right up to him and looked up into his face. She assumed a mock sympathetic expression and tone of voice. ‘How are you Malvolio?’

He stopped smiling and looked down his nose at her. ‘You dare to ask?’ He sneered. ‘Do nightingales answer to jackdaws?’

Maria clicked her tongue. Looking sad she said: ‘Why do you present yourself to my lady with such ridiculous boldness?’

Malvolio ignored her. He leered at Olivia. ‘ “Don’t be afraid of boldness.” It was well put.’

‘What do you men by that, Malvolio,’ she said, glancing nervously at Maria.

‘ “Some are born great,” ‘ he said, grinning lecherously.


‘ “Some achieve greatness -” ‘

‘What are you talking about?’

‘ “And some have greatness thrust upon them -” ‘

‘Heaven help you!’

Malvolio leant forward and gave her a huge wink. ‘ “Don’t forget who praised your yellow stockings -” ‘

‘Your yellow stockings!’

‘ “And wish to see you cross-gartered.” ‘ He touched the side of his nose significantly.


‘ “So, you’re made if you want to be.” ‘

‘Who me?’ Olivia was turning pink. ‘Made?’

Malvolio pressed on, ignoring the signals she was giving him.’

“If not, remain a servant forever.” ‘

Olivia stared at him for a moment then threw her hands up impatiently. ‘Why, this is just midsummer madness.’ She turned as a servant approached.

‘Madam,’ the servant said, ‘Count Orsino’s young gentleman is back. It was hard getting him to agree. He’s waiting at your ladyship’s leisure.’

Olivia’s face was flushed with joy now. ‘I’ll come to him.’ She started running then stopped and turned. ‘Maria, dear, let this fellow be looked after. Where’s my cousin Toby? Tell some of my people to take special care of him. I wouldn’t have anything happen to him for half my dowry.’

Olivia left in a hurry. Maria stood looking at Malvolio with mock pity. Then she shook her head and dashed off to get Sir Toby. It was as though Malvolio hadn’t even seen her. He began pacing, gesturing, sniggering and talking to himself.

‘Oh ho! Isn’t it obvious? No less a man than Sir Toby to take care of me! This is exactly in the spirit of the letter. She’s sending him on purpose so that I can snub him, because she incites me to that in the letter. “Cast off your humble manner,” she says. “Be confrontational with a kinsman, surly with servants; let your conversation be about high matters: teach yourself to be an individual…” and then she sets out how it should be done,; for example, a serious face, a distinguished bearing, a considered manner of talking, the clothes of a nobleman, and so on. I’ve hooked her! But it’s Jove’s doing, and may Jove make me thankful!’

He clasped his hands together and looked up to heaven. ‘And when she went away a moment ago … “Let this fellow be looked after.” Fellow! Not Malvolio, nor by my position, but ‘fellow’! ‘ It all adds up. No grain of a doubt, no particle of a grain, no obstacle, no impediment of any kind…. What can I say? Nothing in the world could come between me and the full realization of my hopes. Well Jove, not I, has done this, and he is to be thanked.’

Maria, laughing, was holding Sir Toby’s hand, pulling him towards the area of the garden where Malvolio was.

‘Where is he, in the name of sanctity?’ gasped Sir Toby. ‘Even if all the devils in hell have been contracted together and all possessed him at once, I’ll speak to him.’

‘Here he is, here he is,’ called Fabian, who had rushed past them. He stopped. ‘How are you, sir?’ he said, unable to conceal a gloating expression.

Sir Toby stopped, panting. ‘How are you, man?’ he said, a wicked smile lighting up his face.

Malvolio drew himself up and gestured at them with a wave of his hand. ‘Go away. I discard you. Let me enjoy my privacy. Go away.’

Look how deeply the demon speaks from inside him,’ said Maria. ‘Didn’t I tell you? Sir Toby, my lady wants you to take special care of him.’

‘Aha!’ said Malvolio. ‘Is that so?’

Sir Toby frowned at the other two. ‘Wait, wait, shh, shh. We must deal gently with him. Leave it to me.’ He approached Malvolio with mock caution and stood in front of him. Speaking like a sympathetic doctor, he said: ‘How are you, Malvolio? How are you feeling?’ When Malvolio stared coldly at him Sir Toby clapped him on the back. ‘What, man, resist the devil! Remember that he’s the enemy of mankind.’

‘Do you know what you’re talking about?’ said Malvolio haughtily.

Maria drew her breath in dramatically. ‘Just look at that!’ she exclaimed. ‘When you speak ill of the devil he takes it to heart. Pray God he isn’t possessed!’

‘Better take a specimen of his urine to the wise old woman!’ said Fabian.

‘Absolutely!’ exclaimed Maria. ‘I swear it will be done tomorrow morning. My lady wouldn’t lose him for more money than I could tell you.’

She shuffled tentatively towards him. He looked down and snapped: ‘What do you want, madam?’

She sprang back in mock alarm. ‘O Lord!’ she exclaimed and threw herself into Sir Toby’s arms.

Sir Toby pushed her away gently. ‘Quietly please,’ he said, looking very concerned. ‘This isn’t the way. Can’t you see you’re annoying him? Leave him to me.’

”Gentleness is the only way,’ said Fabian. ‘Gently, gently: the demon is vicious and won’t be treated roughly.’

Sir Toby nodded at this wisdom. He smiled. ‘Hello my cocksparrow,’ he said. ‘How are you dear?’

Malvolio looked down his nose at him. ‘Sir!’ he said frostily.

Sir Toby took his arm. ‘Yes, deary,’ he said, ‘come with me.’ Malvolio shook his hand off roughly.

‘What man!’ said Sir Toby. ‘Distinguished men like you shouldn’t be playing trivial games with Satan. Hang him, evil denizen of the underworld!’

‘Get him to say his prayers, dear Sir Toby,’ said Maria. ‘Get him to pray!’

Malvolio gave her a withering look. ‘My prayers, minx!’

She shook her head in resignation. ‘No, of course not. He won’t have anything to do with godliness.’

Malvolio began to walk away. He turned and sneered. ‘Go hang yourselves, all of you! You are idle, shallow creatures. I’m not your kind. You haven’t heard the last of this!’

They watched till he was out of sight then burst into laughter.

‘I don’t believe it!’ exclaimed Sir Toby.

‘If this were happening on the stage I’d dismiss it as an improbable fiction!’ said Fabian.

‘He’s fallen for it completely,’ said Sir Toby.

‘Yes, but go after him now,’ said Maria, ‘in case he gets the joke and it wears off.’

‘This is really going to make him go mad,’ said Fabian.

‘That will make the house quieter,’ laughed Maria.

Sir Toby was beaming. ‘Come,’ he said. ‘We’ll put him in a dark room and tie him up. My niece already believes he’s gone mad. We can play it that way – for our pleasure and his discomfort – until we show him mercy because we’re tired of the game, at which time we’ll own up and you’ll be hailed as a detector of madmen. But look who’s here.’

It was Sir Andrew, weaving excitedly towards them, holding a letter.

‘Another subject for a mad May morning,’ said Fabian.

‘Here’s the challenge; read it,’ cried Sir Andrew. ‘I promise you there’s vinegar and pepper in it!’

‘It’s that saucy?’ said Fabian.

Sir Andrew nodded excitedly, completely missing the pun. ‘Yes it is, I promise you. Just read it!’

‘Give it to me.’ Sir Toby snatched the letter. He began reading it out loud. ‘Youth, whoever you are, you are nothing but a scurvy fellow.’

‘Good,’ said Fabian. ‘And valiant.’

Sir Toby continued. ‘Don’t wonder, nor try and find the reason why I call you that, because I’m not going to tell you.’

‘Good point,’ said Fabian. ‘That keeps you on the right side of the law.’

‘You come to the Lady Olivia and she treats you kindly in front of me, but you lie in your teeth. And that’s not the matter I’m challenging you for.’

Fabian clapped. ‘To the point and exceptionally good sense.’ Not, he mouthed to Sir Toby.

‘I will waylay you on your way home, when, if you’re lucky enough to kill me…’

Fabian nodded at the excited Sir Andrew. ‘Good.’

‘…you would be killing me like a rogue and a villain.’

‘You’re still on the right side of the law,’ said Fabian. ‘Good.’

‘Farewell, and may God have mercy on one of our souls! He may have mercy on mine but I have a better chance. So look to yourself. Your friend, as you treat him, and your sworn enemy, Andrew Aguecheek.’

Sir Toby looked at Sir Andrew with admiration. He stepped forward and shook his hand warmly. ‘If this letter doesn’t make him run his legs won’t be able to. I’ll deliver it to him.’

‘It’s perfect timing,’ said Maria. ‘He’s in conversation with my lady at this very moment and will be leaving soon.’

‘Go, Sir Andrew,’ said Sir Toby. ‘Go and watch out for him at the bottom of the orchard like a sheriff’s man. As soon as you see him, draw. And as you draw, swear something horrible because it’s often the case that a fearsome oath spoken with self assurance does more for a man’s image than action could have done.’ He placed his hands on Sir Andrew’s shoulders, turned him round and gave him a shove. ‘Off you go!’

‘I’ll show you how to swear!’ cried Sir Andrew as he took off.

So much entertainment in one day! Sir Toby and Fabian shook hands. Then Sir Toby solemnly tore the letter up.

‘Now,’ he said. ‘I’m not delivering this letter because the behaviour of the young gentleman suggests that he’s of high rank and good breeding. His function of go-between for his master and my niece confirms no less than that. And so this letter, being so wonderfully ignorant, won’t strike any terror into the youth’s heart. He’ll know it comes from a blockhead. But, sir, I’ll deliver his challenge by word of mouth instead. I’ll make Aguecheek out to be famously brave and induce in the gentleman – I know he’ll fall for it because of his youth – a completely false idea of his anger, skill, ferocity and lust for action. They will both be so frightened that they’ll kill one another with looks, like the legendary cockatrices.’

‘Here he comes with your niece. Leave him till he goes, then follow him.’

‘In the meantime I’ll think about some terrifying wording for a challenge.’

They all slipped away as Olivia and Viola approached. ‘I’ve said too much to a heart of stone,and exposed my honour too indiscreetly,’ said Olivia. ‘There’s something inside me that disapproves of that fault, but it’s such a headstrong fault that it defies reprimands.’

‘My master’s passion is the same as yours,’ said Viola pointedly.

Olivia looked at her with desperation in her eyes. Then she undid the clasp of a locket that hung round her neck. ‘Here, wear this jewel for me,’ she said. ‘It’s my picture. No don’t refuse it,’ she said as Viola shook her head, ‘it has no tongue to vex you.’

Viola accepted the locket and Olivia took it as a positive sign. ‘And I beg of you, come back tomorrow,’ she said. When Violashook her head again she put her hand on the young ‘man’s’ shoulder. ‘What could you ask of me that I would deny you, provided it wasn’t something dishonourable?’

‘Only this: your true love for my master.’

‘How could I honourably give him that when I’ve given it to you?’

‘I’ll release you,’ said Viola.

There was a tear on Olivia’s cheek. ‘Well come again tomorrow. Farewell. A fiend like you could easily carry my soul off to hell.’ She turned and ran off, the tears flowing freely now. Viola turned. And found her way barred by Sir Toby and Fabian.

‘Gentleman, God save you,’ said Sir Toby.

‘And you sir.’ Viola bowed.

‘Prepare to defend yourself with whatever weapon you have,’

said Sir Toby. ‘I don’t know the nature of the wrongs you’ve done him, but your challenger, full of rage, bloodthirsty as a hunter, is waiting for you at the bottom of the orchard. Dismount your weapon, get shipshape in your preparation, because your adversary is fast, skillful and deadly!’

Viola smiled. ‘You must be mistaken, sir. I’m sure no man has any quarrel with me. My mind is completely free and clear of any memory of an offence done to any man.’

‘You’ll find it otherwise, I assure you,’ said Sir Toby. ‘So if you value your life, take up your guard. Your opponent has everything that youth, strength, skill and anger can inspire.’

Viola’s expression changed to one of concern. ‘May I ask who he is?’ she said.

Sir Toby drew himself up in what he thought was a dignified pose. ‘He is a knight, dubbed, kneeling on a royal carpet, with ceremonial sword; but he’s a devil in private fighting. He’s divided the bodies and souls of three men, and his rage at this moment is so intransigent that the only satisfaction for him will be by death and burial. ‘Go for it’ is his motto. Take it or leave it.’

Viola was alarmed now. ‘I’ll go back to the house and ask the lady for an escort,’ she said. ‘I’m no fighter. I’ve heard that there are some men who provoke quarrels on purpose, to test their bravery. This is probably a man like that.’

‘Sir, no!’ Sir Toby smiled, shaking his head slowly. ‘His indignation rises out of a specific offence. So you’d better get on with it and satisfy him.’

Viola turned but Sir Toby moved swiftly to get in front of her. ‘You won’t go back into the house unless you take me on, with just as much danger as it would be with him. So carry on, or take your sword out now because it’s certain that you have to fight, or swear never to wear a sword again.’

Viola was trembling. ‘This is as uncivil as it is strange,’ she said. ‘I beg of you, do me the courtesy of asking the knight what I’ve done to offend him. It’s something I’ve done unconsciously, not deliberately.’

‘I’ll do so,’ said Sir Toby. ‘Mr Fabian, stay with this gentleman till I return.’

Viola and Fabian stood together. Fabian looked up at the sky and began whistling.

‘Tell me, sir, if you don’t mind,’ said Viola, do you know anything about this?’

‘I know the knight is incensed against you, enough to want a fight to the death, but I don’t know the details.’

‘Please, tell me, what kind of man is he?’

‘His appearance shows nothing of the wonderful promise that you’re likely to find in his actions. He really is, sir, the most skilful, violent and fatal adversary that you could possibly have come across anywhere in Illyria. Do you want to go and meet him halfway? I’ll make your peace with him if I can.’

‘I’ll be very much obliged to you for it. I’m a person who would rather go with sir priest than sir knight. I don’t care who knows that about me.’

Meanwhile, Sir Toby had found Sir Andrew at the bottom of the orchard and was putting the fear of God into him. ‘Why man,’ he continued, ‘he’s the devil himself!I’ve never seen such a fiery fellow. I had an exchange with him, rapier, scabbard and all.’ He drew his sword and demonstrated. ‘He gives me the tuck-in…’ thrusting,’…with such deadly precision that I can’t duck it.’ He thrust at the air again. ‘And on the return action he strikes as surely as your feet strike the ground they walk on. They say he’s been fencer to the Shah”

Sir Andrew’s face had turned increasingly white as he listened. ‘Dammit!’ he exclaimed. ‘I won’t tangle with him!’

‘Yes, but he won’t be pacified now.’ Sir Toby jerked his thumb over his shoulder. ‘Fabian can hardly hold him back there.’

‘Damn it!’ Sir Andrew’s eyes darted about, as though looking for an escape. ‘If I had thought he was going to turn out to be such a fierce and skilful a fencer I’d have seen him damned before I’d challenged him. If he’ll let the matter drop I’ll give him my horse, grey Capilet!’

‘I’ll put it to him. Wait here. Put a brave face on it and it will end without anyone getting killed.’ Sir Toby left him there, his knees knocking together. He would ride the cowardly knight’s horse as well as the knight himself!

‘I have his horse as a bribe to end the dispute,’ he told Fabian. ‘I’ve persuaded him the youth’s a devil.’

Fabian laughed and indicated Viola with a nod. ‘He’s just as terrified of him and he’s panting and looks pale. As if he were being chased by a bear.’

Sir Toby approached the trembling creature. ‘There’s no way round it,’ he said heartily. ‘He will fight with you because he’s sworn an oath to do so. Indeed, he’s had second thoughts about this quarrel and has decided it’s hardly worth mentioning. Therefore draw, out of respect for his vow. He insists he won’t hurt you.’ he beckoned her to follow.

Viola swallowed. God help her! It wouldn’t take much now, to tell them how little of the man there was in her.

Fabian was trying hard to conceal his laughter ‘Retreat if he seems furious,’ he said .

Sir Andrew was almost paralysed. ‘Come on, Sir Andrew,’ said Sir Toby. ‘There’s no way round it. The gentleman is determined to have one bout with you for the sake of his honour. According to the rules of duelling he can’t avoid it. But he has promised me, as a soldier and a gentleman, that he won’t hurt you. Come on, let’s go!’

Sir Andrew followed his host, hanging back as much as he could. When he saw Viola standing there with Fabian he shut his eyes tight. ‘Pray God he keeps his word!’

Viola’s eyes were also screwed tightly shut. ‘I do assure you it’s against my will!’ she exclaimed .

Sir Toby took her hand and placed on her sword’s hilt. She withdrew it slowly and stood, the sword waving about. She kept her eyes shut.

Sir Andrew had balked too and Fabian was standing behind him, pushing him forward. He also drew his sword and stood, his eyes shut too. Their swords touched and they both sprang backwards. Sir Andrew shrieked. At that moment, the sea captain, Antonio, pursued by the Illyria Watch, ducked through the gates of Olivia’s house and ran into the orchard to hide. To his surprise, the young man he took to be Sabastian, was fighting with a man much bigger than him. Without thinking, and disregarding the danger he was in he rushed forward, drawing his sword.

‘Put up your sword,’ he shouted, thrusting Sir Andrew’s blade aside with his own. ‘If this young gentleman has offended you, I’ll take the responsibility for it. If you’ve offended you I’ll take you on on his behalf!’

Sir Toby stepped between them. ‘You, sir! Who are you?’ he demanded.

Antonio paused and Sir Andrew squealed and scrambled to hide behind Fabian, who stepped aside, leaving him standing, his sword dragging on the ground.

‘Someone, sir, who dares do even more for his friend than you will have heard him boast he would.’

‘Well, if you want to take his place I am for you.’ Sir Toby drew his sword.

Fabian tugged at his arm. ‘No, good Sir Toby,’ he said. ‘Stop! Here come the officers.’

The watch poured into the orchard. Sir Toby hurriedly put his sword away. ‘I’ll see you later,’ he said, giving Antonio what he thought was a murderous look.

Viola put her sword away too. She gestured to the near-paralysed Sir Andrew. ‘Please, sir, please put your sword away.’

Sir Andrew sighed his relief. ‘I will,’ he said, ‘ and as for thehorse I promised you I’ll be as good as my word. He will carry you comfortably and he responds well to the rein.’

Some officers came into view. ‘That’s the man!’ said one of them. ‘Do your duty.’

Another officer put his hand on Antonio’s shoulder. ‘Antonio, I arrest you in the name of Count Orsion.’

‘You’ve got the wrong man,’ said Antonio.

‘No sir, not a bit. I know well enough what you look like although you’re now wearing a sailor’s cap. Take him away. He knows how well I know him.’

‘I’ll go with you,’ said Antonio. He caught the eye of the still-trembling Viola. ‘This comes from looking for you,’ he said. But there’s nothing I can do about it: I’ll have to take responsibility. How will you manage now that I’m forced to ask you for my purse back. I’m far unhappier about what I can’t do for you than what happens to me. You look astonished but cheer up.’

‘Come on, sir,’ an officer said. ‘Let’s go.’ When Antonio stood staring at Viola he took him roughly by the arm. Antonio shook his hand off. ‘I must ask you for some of that money,’ he said.

‘What money, sir?’ said Viola. ‘For the genuine kindness you have shown me and partly because of your present problem I’ll lend you something from the little that I have. I don’t have much but I’ll share it with you. Wait, here’s half of what I have.’

‘Are you going to refuse me now?’ said Antonio. ‘Is it possible that my services to you carry no weight? Don’t tempt me into lowering myself by reproaching you with those kindnesses I have done for you.’

‘I don’t know of any!’ exclaimed Viola. ‘Nor do I know you by voice or any feature of yours. I hate ingratitude in a man more than lying, vanity, insobriety or any of the other vices that our weakness makes us vulnerable to.’

Antonio raised his eyebrows. ‘Oh heavens!’ he exclaimed.

‘Come on, sir,’ the officer insisted, pulling him. ‘Off you go.’

‘Let me just say something,’ said Antonio. ‘This youth you see here, I snatched out of the very jaw of death, restored him with care and worshipped the ground he walked on.’

The officer made an impatient gesture. ‘What’s that to us? We’re wasting time. Take him away!’

‘But this idol is not worth worshiping,’ said Antionio. ‘Sebastian, you’ve brought shame on what seems a handsome image. In nature there’s nothing worse than a corrupt mind. Only the uncharitable can be called deformed. Virtue is beautiful but those who are physically beautiful but have evil souls are empty boxes decorated by the devil.’

‘The man’s going mad,’ said the officer. ‘Take him away. Come on, sir, come on now.’

Antonio submitted. ‘Take me then,’ he said.

Viola watched as Antonio was led away. The sailor was speaking so passionately that he seemed to believe himself. That was more than she did. She stared after them and a thought struck her suddenly. Perhaps that thought was true! Oh, please be true – that she had been mistaken for her dear brother!

Sir Toby beckoned to his friends: ‘Come here, knight,come here Fabian. We need to talk this through.’

As Viola walked slowly to the gate the thought developed. He had called her Sebastian. She knew from her mirror that they looked like each other, and he had been dressed in the same fashion as she was now – the same colour and design. Oh, if it was true, storms are kind and salt waves full of love! She walked through the gate and back to Orsino’s palace.

Sir Toby appeared really angry now. ‘A very dishonest, good-for-nothing boy,’ he said, and more cowardly than a hare. His dishonesty is shown in abandoning his friend in his need and denying that he knew him. As for his cowardice, ask Fabian.’

Fabian nodded. ‘A coward, a devout coward, religious in it.’

Sir Andrew stirred himself to the action they had hoped he would. ‘By God, I’ll chase him again and beat him!’ he exclaimed.

‘Do,’ called Sir Toby after the retreating figure. ‘Cuff him soundly but don’t draw your sword.’

‘ If I don’t…’ called Sir Andrew over his shoulder but the rest of his threat was lost as he hurried to catch his quarry.

‘Come,’ said Fabian, ‘let’s go and watch.’

Sir Toby set off, laughing. ‘I’ll put any amount of money on it, it will come to nothing.’

1 reply
  1. Norma Combs
    Norma Combs says:

    I love this version. I send my students here when they need a translation of the Shakespeare selection we are studying. Mahalo for your hard work!


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