Twelfth Night Book Cover

Twelfth Night: A Verse Translation

ISBN: 0-9752743-0-9

ISBN-13: 978-0-9752743-0-9

160 pages

 

 

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Enjoy Shakespeare in beautiful verse translations

 

Enjoy Shakespeare with Sir Toby, Feste, and Sir Andrew

 

 

 

Twelfth Night: A Verse Translation

Excerpt

 

This excerpt from Act One shows how carefully the ENJOY SHAKESPEARE translations recreate all of Shakespeare's effects.

 

Shakespeare's original included a mixture of verse and prose. In Scene 2, Shakespeare used mostly blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter). Scene 3 is entirely prose. Twelfth Night is about 60% prose.

 

This translation respects Shakespeare's choices and preserves the basic line structure.


 

from Act One

 

Scene Two. The Sea-Coast

[Enter VIOLA, a CAPTAIN, and SAILORS]

VIOLA (a young woman shipwrecked in Illyria)

What country, friends, is this?

CAPTAIN (friend to Viola)

This is Illyria, lady.

Viola and

the Captain

mostly use

blank verse

VIOLA

What am I doing in Illyria

When I must fear my brother dwells in heaven?

Perhaps he is not drowned. Is there a chance?

CAPTAIN

It is by chance alone that you were saved.

VIOLA

O my poor brother! And so by chance may he.

CAPTAIN

True, and to take some comfort in that chance,

Assure yourself, that when our ship broke up,

When you and those scant few we saved with you

Hung on our drifting boat, I saw your brother,

Cool-headed though in peril, bind himself,

Courage and hope both serving as his guide,

To a strong mast that floated on the sea,

Where, as if riding on a dolphin’s back,

I saw him hold himself above the waves

So long as I could see.

VIOLA

For saying so, here’s gold.

My own escape allows me room to hope,

And your words furnish strength to my conviction

That he too lives. You know this country well?

CAPTAIN

Ay, madam, well. For I was born and bred

Not three hours’ journey from this very place.

VIOLA

Who governs here?

CAPTAIN

A noble duke, in character and name.

VIOLA

What is his name?

CAPTAIN

Orsino.

VIOLA

Orsino! Yes, my father spoke of him.

He was a bachelor then.

CAPTAIN

And should still be, though soon his state may change

For when I left this place a month ago,

I heard it whispered that (as you well know,

What nobles do becomes the rabble’s prattle)

Orsino seeks the love of fair Olivia.

VIOLA

Who’s she?

CAPTAIN

A virtuous lady, daughter of a count

Who died a year ago, and left his son

To serve as her protector, a dear brother,

Who also shortly died. To mourn his love,

They say, she has renounced the company

And sight of men.

VIOLA

                              If only I could serve her,

And were not forced to lay bare to the world

My social status till I can ensure

The moment’s ripe….

CAPTAIN

                                     That’s hard to navigate,

She won’t allow appeals of any kind,

Not even from the duke.

VIOLA

I sense a decent man inside you, captain.

And although nature often hides what’s foul

Behind a lovely wall, I can have faith

That you, sir, have a mind that matches well

This fair and outward character I see.

So could you (and I’ll pay you generously),

Keep secret what I am, and help design

Whatever manner of disguise will best

Advance my plans. Yes, I will serve this duke.

Present me there perhaps as a castrato.

It may reward your pains, for I can sing

And speak to him with many kinds of music

To prove I can be worthy in his service.

How will this end? With time I cast my lot.

Your perfect silence will preserve my plot.

CAPTAIN

You be the eunuch, silent I will be.

If my tongue blabs, then let my eyes not see.

VIOLA

I thank you. Now lead us there.

[Exit ALL]

 

 

Scene Three. Olivia’s House

[Enter SIR TOBY BELCH and MARIA]

SIR TOBY (cousin to Olivia)

What the devil does my cousin mean by mourning her brother’s death in this manner? I am sure that sorrow is an enemy to well-being.

MARIA (Olivia’s waiting woman)

Good lord, Sir Toby, you must come in earlier at night. Your cousin, my lady, greatly objects to your unusual hours.

This scene

uses prose

SIR TOBY

Well, as before, her objection has been duly recorded.

MARIA

Yes, but it’s time for you to address and refine the excesses of your behavior.

SIR TOBY

Address! Refine! I’ll address myself no finer than I am. These clothes are good enough to drink in, and so are these boots. And if they are not, let them hang themselves by their own laces.

MARIA

This carousing and drinking will be your undoing. I heard my lady talking about it yesterday and about some foolish knight you dragged in one night to woo her.

SIR TOBY

Who? Sir Andrew Aguecheek?

MARIA

Yes, him.

SIR TOBY

He towers over every man in Illyria.

MARIA

What does his height matter?

SIR TOBY

Why, his income is three thousand gold coins a year.

MARIA

Yes, but his gold will be good as gone within a year, for he’s a complete fool and spendthrift.

SIR TOBY

How dare you say that! He plays the bass fiddle and speaks three or four languages word for word by memory and has all the gifts and talents nature can bestow.

MARIA

Bestow indeed, upon a fool. For, besides being a fool, he’s a natural quarreler; and if his talent as a coward did not balance his gift for quarrelling, the wisest among us believe he would soon have had the gift of a grave.

SIR TOBY

By this hand, those who say these things are scoundrels and… sub…tractors. Who are they?

MARIA

[mocking his malapropism] “Subtractors” who add that he gets drunk every night while in your company.

SIR TOBY

And drinking to the health of my cousin. I’ll drink to her as long as there is a passage in my throat and drink in Illyria. He’s a coward and a knave who will not drink to my cousin till his brains spin around like a top. So there, wench. Castiliano vulgo! For here comes Sir Andrew Ague...face.

[Enter SIR ANDREW AGUECHEEK]

SIR ANDREW (Sir Toby’s companion)

Sir Toby Belch! Greetings, Sir Toby Belch!

SIR TOBY

Sweet Sir Andrew!

SIR ANDREW

Bless you, fair chipmunk.

MARIA

And you too, sir.

SIR TOBY

[aside to Sir Andrew] Accost, Sir Andrew, accost.

SIR ANDREW

[aside to Sir Toby] What do you mean?

SIR TOBY

[aside to Sir Andrew] My cousin’s chambermaid.

SIR ANDREW

Dear Miss Accost, may I make your acquaintance.

MARIA

My name is Mary, sir.

SIR ANDREW

Dearest Miss Mary Accost—

SIR TOBY

[aside to Sir Andrew] You’re confused, knight. “Accost” means engage her, tie up alongside her, board her, woo her, overwhelm her.

SIR ANDREW

[aside to Sir Toby and motioning to the audience] Good lord, I cannot do that with her before this audience. Is that what “accost” means?

MARIA

I will leave you gentlemen to yourselves.

SIR TOBY

[aside to Sir Andrew] If you let her walk off like that, Sir Andrew, you have no hope of ever drawing your sword again.

SIR ANDREW

If you leave like that, miss, I hope I never draw my sword again. Fair lady, do you think two fools have been placed in your hands?

MARIA

Sir, I have not taken you by the hand.

SIR ANDREW

By Golly, you will, and here’s my hand.

MARIA

Now, sir, I’ll form my opinion. [takes his hand] Why not belly your hand up to the bar and let it drink?

SIR ANDREW

Why, sweet lady? Your metaphor confuses me.

MARIA

[examining Sir Andrew's hand] It’s parched, sir.

SIR ANDREW

Why, I hope so. Even a fool can keep his hands dry. So where’s the humor?

MARIA

It’s dry humor, sir.

SIR ANDREW

Are you full of such jokes?

MARIA

Correct, sir, I keep them at my finger tips. But “by golly,” as soon as I release your hand, I run dry.

[Exit MARIA]

SIR TOBY

O knight, you need a cup of sherry. When have I ever seen you laid so flat?

SIR ANDREW

Never in your life, I think—unless you’ve seen sherry lay me flat. Sometimes it seems I have no more brains than a civilian or an ordinary man. You know I am a great eater of beef, and I believe it harms my intellect.

SIR TOBY

No question about it.

SIR ANDREW

And I thought that I’d swear it off. [pauses] I am going to ride home tomorrow, Sir Toby.

SIR TOBY

Pourquoi, my dear knight?

SIR ANDREW

What is pourquoi? Go or not go? I wish I had spent the time acquiring foreign tongues that I spent on fencing, dancing, and bear-baiting! If only I had pursued the arts!

SIR TOBY

With all those tongs, you could have curled your hair.

SIR ANDREW

Would that improve my hair?

SIR TOBY

No question. You can see that nature hasn’t curled it.

SIR ANDREW

But it’s attractive enough, isn’t it?

SIR TOBY

It’s excellent. It hangs like yarn on a mop, and I hope to see a hussy take it between her legs and scrub floors till none’s left.

SIR ANDREW

Yes, I’ll go home tomorrow, Sir Toby. Your cousin will see no one. Or, if she will, it’s four to one she won’t see me. The duke himself is here to woo her.

SIR TOBY

She wants nothing of the duke. She’ll accept no match above her rank in wealth, years, or intellect. I’ve heard her swear it. Tut, you are alive, man, so there’s still hope.

SIR ANDREW

I’ll stay a month longer. I am a fellow with the strangest mind in the world. I take pleasure in plays, dances, and revelry, sometimes all at once.

SIR TOBY

Are you good at these diversions, knight?

SIR ANDREW

As good as any man in Illyria, whoever he may be, as long as he’s not more skilled or more experienced.

SIR TOBY

How well do you dance a galliard, knight?

SIR ANDREW

Why, I caper, gambol, and leap with great relish.

SIR TOBY

Then I’ll garnish my mutton with your capers and relish.

SIR ANDREW

And I think I can back-step as vigorously as any man in Illyria.

SIR TOBY

Why hide these things? Why cover these gifts with curtains? Are they likely to collect dust, like a lady’s portrait? Why, you should waltz your way to church and race home dancing a reel. My very walk would be a jig. And I would not so much as relieve myself without a curtsy. Now, you tell me, is this a world where you should hide your talents? The excellent contour of your legs convinces me they must have been formed under the star of dance itself.

SIR ANDREW

Yes, they are strong and look appealing enough in a mouse-colored stocking. Shall we get on with some revelry?

SIR TOBY

What else would we do? Were we not born under the sign of Taurus?

SIR ANDREW

Taurus! Now that controls ribs and hearts.

SIR TOBY

No, sir; it is legs and thighs. Let me see you leap. Ha! Higher! Ha, ha, excellent!

[Exit ALL]

 

© 2004 by Kent Richmond

 

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