Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Twelfth Night

What You Will

by

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subjects: Plays: Classic & Pre-20th Century

Description

Set in a topsy-turvy world like a holiday revel, this comedy devises a romantic plot around separated twins, misplaced passions, and mistaken identity. Juxtaposed to it is the satirical story of a self-deluded steward who dreams of becoming Count Malvolio only to receive his comeuppance at the hands of the merrymakers he wishes to suppress. The two plots combine to create a farce touched with melancholy, mixed throughout with seductively beautiful explorations on the themes of love and time, and the play ends, not with laughter, but with a clown’s sad song.


85 pages, with a reading time of ~2.75 hours (21,301 words), and first published in 1601. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

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Excerpt

Duke Orsino’s palace.

[Enter DUKE ORSINO, CURIO, and other Lords; Musicians attending]

DUKE ORSINO

If music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, The appetite may sicken, and so die. That strain again! it had a dying fall: O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound, That breathes upon a bank of violets, Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more: ‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before. O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou, That, notwithstanding thy capacity Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there, Of what validity and pitch soe’er, But falls into abatement and low price, Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy That it alone is high fantastical.

CURIO

Will you go hunt, my lord?

DUKE ORSINO

What, Curio?

CURIO

The hart.

DUKE ORSINO

Why, so I do, the noblest that I have: O, when mine eyes did see Olivia first, Methought she purged the air of pestilence! That instant was I turn’d into a hart; And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds, E’er since pursue me.

[Enter VALENTINE]

How now! what news from her?

VALENTINE

So please my lord, I might not be admitted; But from her handmaid do return this answer: The element itself, till seven years’ heat, Shall not behold her face at ample view; But, like a cloistress, she will veiled walk And water once a day her chamber round With eye-offending brine: all this to season A brother’s dead love, which she would keep fresh And lasting in her sad remembrance.

DUKE ORSINO

O, she that hath a heart of that fine frame To pay this debt of love but to a brother, How will she love, when the rich golden shaft Hath kill’d the flock of all affections else That live in her; when liver, brain and heart, These sovereign thrones, are all supplied, and fill’d Her sweet perfections with one self king! Away before me to sweet beds of flowers: Love-thoughts lie rich when canopied with bowers.

[Exeunt]

SCENE II

The sea-coast.

[Enter VIOLA, a Captain, and Sailors]

VIOLA

What country, friends, is this?

Captain

This is Illyria, lady.

VIOLA

And what should I do in Illyria? My brother he is in Elysium. Perchance he is not drown’d: what think you, sailors?

Captain

It is perchance that you yourself were saved.

VIOLA

O my poor brother! and so perchance may he be.

Captain

True, madam: and, to comfort you with chance, Assure yourself, after our ship did split, When you and those poor number saved with you Hung on our driving boat, I saw your brother, Most provident in peril, bind himself, Courage and hope both teaching him the practise, To a strong mast that lived upon the sea; Where, like Arion on the dolphin’s back, I saw him hold acquaintance with the waves So long as I could see.

VIOLA

For saying so, there’s gold: Mine own escape unfoldeth to my hope, Whereto thy speech serves for authority, The like of him. Know’st thou this country?

Captain

Ay, madam, well; for I was bred and born Not three hours’ travel from this very place.

VIOLA

Who governs here?

Captain

A noble duke, in nature as in name.

VIOLA

What is the name?

Captain

Orsino.

VIOLA

Orsino! I have heard my father name him: He was a bachelor then.

Captain

And so is now, or was so very late; For but a month ago I went from hence, And then ‘twas fresh in murmur,–as, you know, What great ones do the less will prattle of,– That he did seek the love of fair Olivia.

VIOLA

What’s she?

Captain

A virtuous maid, the daughter of a count That died some twelvemonth since, then leaving her In the protection of his son, her brother, Who shortly also died: for whose dear love, They say, she hath abjured the company And sight of men.

VIOLA

O that I served that lady And might not be delivered to the world, Till I had made mine own occasion mellow, What my estate is!

Captain

That were hard to compass; Because she will admit no kind of suit, No, not the duke’s.

VIOLA

There is a fair behavior in thee, captain; And though that nature with a beauteous wall Doth oft close in pollution, yet of thee I will believe thou hast a mind that suits With this thy fair and outward character. I prithee, and I’ll pay thee bounteously, Conceal me what I am, and be my aid For such disguise as haply shall become The form of my intent. I’ll serve this duke: Thou shall present me as an eunuch to him: It may be worth thy pains; for I can sing And speak to him in many sorts of music That will allow me very worth his service.