Act II - Scene II

A street

[Enter Viola; Malvolio following.]

Were you not even now with the Countess
Even now, sir; on a moderate pace I have since arrived
but hither.
She returns this ring to you, sir: you might have(5)
saved me my pains, to have taken it away yourself. She
adds, moreover, that you should put your lord into a
desperate assurance she will none of him: and one thing
more, that you be never so hardy to come again in his
affairs, unless it be to report your lord's taking of this.(10)
Receive it so.
She took the ring of me: I'll none of it.
Come, sir, you peevishly threw it to her; and her
will is, it should be so returned: if it be worth stooping
for, there it lies in your eye; if not, be it his that finds it.(15)

[Exit Malvolio.]

[Picking up the ring] 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.(20)
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.(25)
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!(30)
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,(35)
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!(40)

[Exit Viola.]


  1. Here, Viola separates women’s “frailty,” which she suggests is inherent, from an individual’s actual identity. She claims that Olivia’s love comes from her frailty, which is out of her control, rather than her person. This ability to separate individuals from their sex suggests that gender expectations are faulty: one’s actions depend more on their identity than their sex.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Here, Viola realizes that she is the object of Olivia’s desire. She is “the man.” Notice that Olivia’s love and assumptions about Viola’s identity create her manliness: her gender is constructed by the perceptions of it.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Lady Fortune, or Fortuna, was a medieval concept borrowed from antiquity used to explain changes in one’s fate. Lady Fortune operated the “wheel of fate” that controlled the lives of all men. Each person was positioned on the wheel, those with wealth and social status were at the top and those without were on the bottom. Fortuna would spin the wheel at random: those at the top could just as easily end up on the bottom as those at the bottom could end up at the top.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff