David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scene 1

— 3.1 —

A little later, Viola walked into Olivia’s garden, where she met Feste, who had a small drum — known as a tabor —hanging around his neck.

“God bless you and your music, friend,” Viola said. “Do you live by your drum?”

Feste replied, “No, sir, I live by the church.”

“Are you a member of the clergy?”

“No, sir, but I live by the church; for I live at my house, and my house stands by the church.”

“When I asked, ‘Do you live by your drum?’ I meant, ‘Do you make your living by playing your drum?’ I see that you are playing with language. You would say that the King lies by a beggar if a beggar dwells near him. But then you would make ‘lies by the beggar’ mean ‘sleeps with the beggar.’ Or you would say that the church stands by your drum, if the church is standing by — that is, located next to — your drum. But then you would have ‘stands by’ mean the church ‘is supported by’ your drum if you donate to the church some of the money your playing the drum earns for you. Or you would have ‘stands by’ mean the church ‘is supported by’ your drum if your drum leans against the church.”

“Well said, sir,” Feste replied. “We live in a wonderful age. A sentence is like a glove to a good wit. A good wit can turn a sentence inside out as easily as he can turn a glove inside out.”

“That’s the truth,” Viola said. “People who play with words can quickly make them wanton and undisciplined.”

“That’s why I wish that my sister had no name, sir,” Feste replied.

“Why is that?”

“Why, sir, her name is a word; and to play with that word might make my sister wanton. But indeed words are very untrustworthy now that they are used in legal documents.”

“Why can’t the words in legal documents be relied on?” Viola asked.

“To tell the truth, in order to answer your question I would have to use words, and words are so wanton and undisciplined that I am loath to try to talk sense with them,” Feste said.

“I believe that you are a merry fellow and care for nothing. You are carefree, and you don’t care what you say.”

“That’s not true,” Feste said. “I do care for something. I care for Olivia. In my heart, I do not care for you. If that means that I do not care for nothing, sir, then you should disappear because you are nothing to me. If you are bringing another unwelcome message from Orsino to Olivia, it would be best if you left.”

Viola had no intention of leaving, but she realized that Feste was witty.

“I think I recognize you now,” Viola said, “Aren’t you the Lady Olivia’s fool?”

“No, indeed not, sir,” Feste replied. “The Lady Olivia has no folly. She will keep no fool, sir, until she is married. Fools are to husbands as oranges are to grapefruits; the husband is bigger and makes the bigger fool. Indeed, I am not Olivia’s fool — I am her corrupter of words.”

“I saw you recently at the palace of Duke Orsino.”

“Foolery, sir, walks around the world like the Sun does. Foolery and the Sun shine everywhere. Shouldn’t Orsino’s fool be with him as much as I am with Olivia? I think I saw your wisdom at the palace of Duke Orsino.”

“Whoa!” Viola said. “If you are going to call me a fool, I will have no more to do with you. Wait. Here is a coin for you.”

Feste took the coin and said, “The next time Jove receives a delivery of hair, may he give you a beard.”

“To tell the truth, I am almost sick because I don’t have a beard,” Olivia replied.

That’s true, she thought. I love and want Orsino, and he has a beard. I certainly don’t want a beard that grows on mychin.

She asked Feste, “Is Olivia inside?”

He held out the coin and said, “Would not a pair of these breed, sir?”

“They would, indeed, if kept together and invested wisely.”

“I would like to play Lord Pandarus of Phrygia, sir, and introduce this coin, whose name is Troilus, sir, to a coin named Cressida.”

Troilus and Cressida were two Trojans who had had a famous love affair with Pandarus as their go-between.

Viola gave him a second coin and said, “I understand you, sir. It is well begged. Here is a female coin to go with the male coin I gave you earlier.”

Earlier, Feste had made a jab at Viola when he said that he did not care for her. Now, Viola returned the jab by calling Feste a beggar. (Professional fools are not beggars, even when they jest for tips.) Tit for tat, and Feste respected that — but he would make it clear that Cressida, and not he — was a beggar.

“I hope that my request for a second coin is not a big deal, sir,” Feste said, “Begging for a beggar is not wrong. It is said that Cressida became a beggar in her old age.”

A beggar’s begging is not wrong. It is the beggar’s vocation, and it is no sin to labor in one’s vocation.

Feste added, “To answer your question, Olivia is inside the house. I will tell the people inside that you are here and from where you have come. Who you are and why you have come is not part of what I know. I would say that I’m out of my element, but that’s a cliché.”

Feste left to tell Olivia that a young man wanted to talk to her.

Viola respected Feste’s wit, but she was loyal to Orsino. Feste respected Viola’s wit, but he was loyal to Olivia.

She said to herself about Feste, “This fellow is wise enough to play the fool; and to do that well requires a kind of wit. He must observe the mood of those with whom he jests. He must observe their social standing and the occasion. He can’t be like a hungry hawk that seizes every opportunity to hunt; instead, Feste must seize every properopportunity to get what he wants, which means that he must know when and when not to make a joke. His is a skill as full of labor as the art of a wise man. A fool’s folly is full of wit and wisdom, but a wise man who falls into folly loses his reputation for wit and wisdom.”

Viola also thought about Feste calling her a fool. Normally, that is an insult, but when a professional fool — a wise fool — calls you a fool, and even refers to you as “your wisdom,” perhaps it ought to be regarded as a compliment.

Sir Toby and Sir Andrew walked up to Viola.

“God bless you, gentleman,” Sir Toby said to Viola.

She replied, “And you, sir.”

Sir Andrew said to her, “Dieu vous garde, monsieur,” which is French for “God keep you, sir.”

Viola replied, “Et vous aussi; votre serviteur,” which is French for “And you, too; at your service.”

Sir Andrew, who did not know French well, replied, “I hope, sir, you are; and I am yours.”

Sir Toby’s language could be odd. He said to Viola, “Will you encounter the house? My niece is desirous that you should enter, if your business is with her.”

Viola replied, “I am bound for your niece, sir. She is the list — the destination — of my voyage.”

“Taste your legs, sir; put them to motion,” Sir Toby said.

“My legs do better understand me, sir — they stand under me — than I understand what you mean by bidding me to ‘taste’ my legs,” Viola replied.

“I mean, to go, sir, to enter,” Sir Toby said.

I understand now, Viola thought. “Taste” is a word for the verb “test.” I have heard of tasting valor, but I have never before now heard of tasting legs. Also, Sir Toby made a malapropism when he said “encounter” rather than “enter.” Another way for words to be unmanageable is for them to be misused. Sir Toby is trying to be fancy in his word choice, and he is making mistakes. Yet another way for words to be unmanageable is when someone does not understand a language well.

She replied, “I would answer you with gait and entrance, but we are forestalled. I see Olivia and Maria walking toward us.”

Viola said to Olivia, “Most excellent accomplished lady, may the Heavens rain perfume on you!”

Sir Andrew appreciated Viola’s choice of words. He said to himself, “‘Rain perfume’ — well said.”

Viola said to Olivia, “My message is for only your receptive and attentive ears.”

Sir Andrew said to himself, “‘Rain perfume,’ ‘receptive,’ and ‘attentive’ — I intend to memorize all three and have them ready to use in conversation.”

Olivia said, “Leave me and this young man alone, and shut the door to the garden.”

Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Maria all left, leaving Viola and Olivia alone in the garden.

Olivia said to Viola, “Give me your hand, sir.”

Viola gave Olivia her hand, and she bowed, then let go of Olivia’s hand.

Viola said, “I give you my duty, madam, and my most humble service.”

“What is your name?”

“Cesario is my name, and I am your servant, fair princess.”

“You are my servant! The world has never been happy ever since fake humility was called flattery. You are Duke Orsino’s servant, young man.”

“Count Orsino is your servant, and therefore what is his is yours. Your servant’s servant is your servant, madam.”

“As for Duke Orsino, I never think about him. As for his thoughts, I wish that they were blank rather than filled with me.”

“Madam, I have come to urge you to like him.”

“Please, I beg you to never speak again about him to me. However, if you would like to undertake another suit — your own — I had rather hear you do that than to hear the music from the spheres.”

Viola was shocked: “Dear lady!”

“Let me speak, please. After you first visited me — and enchanted me — I sent a servant after you to give you a ring. Thus did I wrong myself, my servant, and, I fear, you. I wronged myself by lying, I wronged my servant, Malvolio, by making him lie, and I wronged you by implying that you had thrown the ring at me. You must have a harsh interpretation of my deed and of myself because I tried to force the ring on you with shameful cunning. You knew that the ring did not belong to you. What must you think?

“Haven’t you been setting me and my honor at the stake like a bear and tormenting me? Haven’t you been cruelly laughing at me for my so passionate actions? I have revealed enough of myself to you that you, with your intelligence and perception, understand me. Only a thin piece of gauze covers my heart, which I know that you can see. So, let me hear you speak.”

Viola, who knew that Olivia was passionately in love with her, said, “I pity you.” She also put Olivia’s ring on a piece of furniture.

Olivia replied, “Pity is a step toward love.”

“No, it is not a step toward love,” Viola replied. “It is common knowledge that often we pity our enemies.”

“Well, then I can smile again because my enemy shows me pity,” Olivia said. “How proud the poor are! The poor and the deprived such as myself are so quick to grasp at straws that might bring them a little happiness! If one should be a prey, how much better it is to fall before the lion than the wolf! In other words, although you do not love me, at least I fell in love with a man who is worthy to be loved. I have been destroyed by a noble enemy rather than an ignoble one.”

Olivia also thought, You, Cesario, are only a servant and I am a Countess, but you show that you are proud by rejecting my love for you.

The clock struck.

Olivia said, “The clock criticizes me for wasting time. Do not be afraid, young man — I cannot force you to marry me. However, when your wit and youth have arrived at maturity, your wife is likely to reap a proper man.”

Olivia pointed to the garden gate and said, “There lies your way, due west.”

“Then westward-ho!” Viola replied. “May God bless you and give peace of mind to you.”

She added, “Do you have a message for me to take to Orsino?”

Olivia did not speak, and Viola turned to go.

“Wait,” Olivia said. “Please, tell me what you think of me.”

“I think that you do think you are not what you are,” Viola said.

This sentence is ambiguous. Viola meant this: You do not think that you are in love with a woman, but you are.

Olivia, however, understood the sentence to mean this: You do not think that you are behaving beneath your social class — you are a Countess who is in love with a gentleman servant — but you are.

Olivia replied, “If I think so, I think the same of you.”

By this, she meant that she believed that Viola was of a higher social class than she was pretending to be.

This was true. As Cesario, of course, Viola was working as a gentleman servant, but she was born into a higher class.

Viola said, “Then know that you think rightly: I am not what I am.”

Viola meant that yes, she was not what she was pretending to be. She meant that she was a woman pretending to be a man, but Olivia thought that Viola was talking about social class.

Olivia said, “I would you were as I would have you be!”

She meant this: I wish that you would return my love!

Viola replied, “Would that be an improvement? I wish that it would be. Right now I am your fool. You are wasting my time. You told me to leave, and then you told me to stay. You are treating me as if I were your fool. I must obey you because I represent Orsino and he would not want me to be rude to you and leave.”

Olivia thought, Cesario looks beautiful when he’s angry and scornful! His lips show his anger and contempt! He is showing that he is angry at me, but that increases my love for him. Guilt due to murder cannot conceal itself, and neither can love. Love’s night is noon. Love tries to hide itself, but it is as obvious as the noon Sun. I have made Cesario angry, but even now I cannot conceal my love for him.

Olivia said to Viola, “Cesario, by the roses of the spring, by virginity, honor, truth, and everything, I love you so much that despite all your pride, and you show your pride by rejecting me, neither my intelligence nor my reason can hide my passion for you. Don’t think that you ought not to love me because I have pursued you. Instead, reason this way: Love sought is good, but love given unsought is better.”

Viola replied, “I swear by my innocence and by my youth that I have one heart, one bosom, and one truth, and that no woman has ever been or ever will be mistress of it, except for me. And so goodbye, good madam. I will never again bring to you Orsino’s tearful love messages that so deplore you.”

“Please come here again,” Olivia said. “Perhaps you may move a heart, which now hates, to like his love.”

Olivia was deliberately ambiguous, hoping that Viola would misunderstand what she had said.

She hoped that Viola would think that she had meant this: Perhaps you may move my heart, which now hates Orsino, to like his love for me.

But Olivia actually meant this: Perhaps you may move your own heart, which now hates me, to like Orsino’s love, who is me.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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