David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scenes 2-3

— 3.2 —

Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Fabian were meeting in a room in Olivia’s house.

Sir Andrew, who was angry, said, “No, I will not stay in this house a second longer.”

“Your reason, dear venomous one,” Sir Toby said, “give us your reason.”

Fabian said, “Yes, you must tell us your reason.”

Sir Andrew said to Sir Toby, “I saw your niece treating Duke Orsino’s young messenger much better than she has ever treated me. I saw them together in the garden.”

Sir Toby asked, “Did my niece see you looking at her and Duke Orsino’s young messenger?”

“She saw me as plainly as I see you now,” Sir Andrew replied.

Fabian, who was as eager and willing as Sir Toby to make a fool of Sir Andrew by playing a trick on him, said, “This is evidence that Olivia loves you.”

“Are you trying to make a fool of me?” Sir Andrew asked.

“I can prove that Olivia loves you by using judgment and reason,” Fabian said.

Sir Toby noted that Fabian did not mention truth.

Sir Toby said to Sir Andrew, “Judgment and reason have been part of the grand jury since before Noah was a sailor.”

Fabian said, “Olivia showed favor to Orsino’s young messenger in your sight only to make you jealous, to exasperate you, to awaken your sleeping valor, to put fire in your heart and brimstone in your passion. You should then have accosted her; and with some excellent jests, as brilliant as coins fresh from the mint, you should have made the youth speechless. She wanted you to do that, but you did not. You have wasted a golden opportunity. Now you have sailed into the north of Olivia’s regard, and she regards you frostily, as if you were hanging like an icicle on a Dutchman’s beard, unless you redeem yourself by doing some praiseworthy deed either of bravery or cunning.”

Sir Andrew replied, “If it must be done, it must be done with a brave act because I hate cunning. I would rather be a heretic than a cunning schemer.”

“Why, then build your fortunes upon the basis of bravery,” Sir Toby said. “Challenge Orsino’s young messenger to a fight. Wound him in eleven places. My niece shall take note of it; assure yourself that nothing in the world is better than a report of valor in getting a woman to love you.”

Fabian said, “There is no other way to proceed than this, Sir Andrew.”

“Will either of you carry my challenge to Orsino’s young messenger?”

“Go and write your challenge in a martial hand,” Sir Toby said. “Be fierce and brief. Your letter does not need to be cunning, but it ought to be eloquent and filled with lies. Talk down to him and insult him. Write as many lies as will lie in your paper, no matter how big the sheet of paper is. Even if your paper is about three meters square — as big as a sheet that fits the bed of Ware in England — fill it with lies. Although you write with the pen of a goose — one made from a goose feather — let your ink be mixed with gall.”

Sir Toby thought, Yes, Sir Andrew will be writing with the pen of a goose — he is a goose.

“Where shall I find you after I have written the challenge?”

Sir Toby replied, “We will call on you in your bed-chamber. Go now and write.”

Sir Andrew left to write his challenge.

Fabian said, “He is a dear puppet to you, Sir Toby. You can manipulate him so easily.”

“I have been dear — expensive — to him, lad,” Sir Toby said. “I have spent approximately two thousand of his ducats. His income is three thousand ducats per year.”

“The letter he writes will be remarkable. Are you actually thinking of delivering the letter to Orsino’s young messenger?”

Fabian thought, We don’t want to carry the joke too far.

“Of course I will,” Sir Toby said. “If I don’t, never again believe a word I say. In the meantime, find Orsino’s young messenger and do whatever you can to make him ready to fight Sir Andrew. I think that oxen and heavy ropes will not be able to get Sir Andrew and the young messenger together so that they can fight. If you ever see Sir Andrew shirtless, look at his back. If he doesn’t have a yellow streak there, I swear that I will become a cannibal.”

Fabian said, “Sir Andrew’s opponent, the young messenger, bears in his face no sign of fierceness. He does not look like a fighter.”

Maria walked up to Sir Toby and Fabian.

Sir Toby said to Fabian, “Look, the youngest wren of nine is walking toward us.”

He was commenting on Maria’s small size. According to folklore, the smallest bird hatches last.

Maria said to them, “If you want to laugh so hard that you will have stitches in your side, come with me. The fool Malvolio has become a heathen and renounced Christianity. No one who wants to be saved by believing the right things could ever believe the absurdities that I put in my letter — and act them out! He is doing everything that my letter told him to do. He is wearing yellow stockings.”

“Is he cross-gartered?” Sir Toby asked.

“Yes, he is, and that style looks abominable,” Maria said. “He looks like a pedant who keeps a school in the church. He thinks that he looks stylish, but he looks old-fashioned and rustic and obsolete. I have dogged him — I have followed him as if I were his murderer and were going to ambush him. He is obeying every point of the letter that I dropped to betray him. He smiles his face into more lines than is in a new map with the newest island created by underwater volcanoes. You have never seen such a funny sight as his smiling face. I can hardly keep myself from throwing things at him. I know that Olivia will hit him. If she does, he will smile and think that she likes him.”

Sir Toby said, “Lead us to where Malvolio is.”

— 3.3 —

On a street in a town in Illyria, Sebastian and Antonio were talking.

Sebastian said, “I did not want to trouble you, but since you enjoy helping me, I will no longer nag you to stop.”

“I could not stay behind and let you travel alone,” Antonio said. “My desire, which is sharper than the point of a steel spur, spurred me on to follow and find you. I did not want just to see you, although that desire would have made me take an even longer voyage. Instead, I was worried about what might happen to you during your travels. You do not know this territory, which can be rough and inhospitable to an unguided and friendless stranger. My deep friendship for you, reinforced by my fear of what might happen to you, led me to set forth and follow you.”

“My kind Antonio,” Sebastian said, “I can make no other answer but thanks, and thanks, and thanks again. All too often good deeds are thanked with words and not money, but if my wealth were as great as my sense of gratitude to you, you would receive better treatment than I can now give you.”

He added, “What shall we do now? Shall we go and see the sights of this town?”

“Let us do that tomorrow, sir,” Antonio said. “It is best to first go and see about our lodging.”

“I am not tired, and it is a long time until night. Please, let us satisfy our eyes with the memorials and the things of fame that make this town renowned.”

“Please pardon me,” Antonio said. “I do not without danger walk these streets. Once, in a sea-fight, I fought against Duke Orsino’s galleys and did such deeds of note that if I were arrested here, I would be in serious trouble.”

“Do you kill a great number of his people?”

“No,” Antonio said. “That did not happen, although the time and reason of the quarrel could have led to great bloodshed. This quarrel could have been patched up by now. All that was needed to do was to return to Duke Orsino’s people what we had taken from them. In fact, most of us did that because we wanted to be able to do business with Illyria. I alone did not return what I had taken. Because of that, if I am arrested in Illyria, I shall pay a heavy price.”

“Don’t be conspicuous in this country.”

“I don’t intend to be,” Antonio said. “Wait, Sebastian, here is my wallet and money. The best place to lodge in this town is in the south suburbs at the Elephant Inn. You go ahead and take in the sights here and learn about the town; I will go to the Elephant and order our meals and arrange for our lodging. You will find me at the Elephant.”

“Why did you give me your wallet and money to hold for you?”

“Perhaps as you are wandering the town, you will see some trifle that you would like to buy. Your own money is not sufficient, I think, for unnecessary purchases.”

“I will be your money-bearer and leave you for an hour.”

“I will be at the Elephant Inn.”

“I will meet you there.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved




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