Monday, September 06, 2010

Liveblogging Twelfth Night: The Pivot

We're through Act II, Scene 3,  now--that last one hard to read aloud because it has a lot of Sir Toby and Sir Andrew and Feste doing more or less what guys do, in prose--hard to  make sense of in a modern voice.  But the real high point is the end of Scene 2 where Olivia offers a soliloquy which Pennington presents as the pivot-point of the whole play.  He makes no effort to conceal his affection for this, one of the most charming of Shakespeare's gallery of charming and resouceful women:
More than anyone else in the play, Viola speaks simply, with classic Shakespearian diction, fresh and springy--her talent always being to experience painful ideas with an essential lightness of spirit.   Resigned like Olivia but without Olivia's narcissism, believing with Toby that care's an enemy to life but without Toby's spiritual decay, this is a tolerant voice in an increasingly  barmy world, and it softens a situation alarming for the speaker and apparently hopeless for all of them.
 Here's the scene.  Malvolio has just chased her down and returned "the ring" which, in fact, Viola did not leave behind.  Viola:

I left no ring with her: what means this lady?
Fortune forbid my outside have not charm’d her!
She made good view of me; indeed, so much,
That sure methought her eyes had lost her tongue,
For she did speak in starts distractedly.
She loves me, sure; the cunning of her passion
Invites me in this churlish messenger.
None of my lord’s ring! why, he sent her none.
I am the man: if it be so, as ’tis,
Poor lady, she were better love a dream.
Disguise, I see, thou art a wickedness,
Wherein the pregnant enemy does much.
How easy is it for the proper-false
In women’s waxen hearts to set their forms!
Alas! our frailty is the cause, not we!
For such as we are made of, such we be.
How will this fadge? My master loves her dearly;
And I, poor monster, fond as much on him;
And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me.
What will become of this? As I am man,
My state is desperate for my master’s love;
As I am woman,—now alas the day!—
What thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe!
O time! thou must untangle this, not I;
It is too hard a knot for me to untie.
Searching the web for the text, I find that this passage ranks high on the list of done, or overdone, audition monologues.

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