Act II - Scene IV

Duke Orsino's Court.

[Enter Duke, Viola, Curio, and others.]

Give me some music. Now, good morrow,
Now, good Cesario, but that piece of song,
That old and antique song we heard last night:
Methought it did relieve my passion much,(5)
More than light airs and recollected terms
Of these most brisk and giddy-paced times:
Come, but one verse.
He is not here, so please your lordship that should
sing it.(10)
Who was it?
Feste, the jester, my lord; a fool that the Lady Olivia's
father took much delight in. He is about the house.
Seek him out, [to musicians] and play the tune the while.

[Exit Curio. Music plays.]

[to Viola]
Come hither, boy: if ever thou shalt love,(15)
In the sweet pangs of it remember me;
For such as I am all true lovers are,
Unstaid and skittish in all motions else,
Save in the constant image of the creature
That is beloved. How dost thou like this tune?(20)
It gives a very echo to the seat
Where Love is throned.
Thou dost speak masterly:
My life upon't, young though thou art, thine eye
Hath stay'd upon some favour that it loves:(25)
Hath it not, boy?
A little, by your favour.
What kind of woman is't?
Of your complexion.
She is not worth thee, then. What years, i' faith?(30)
About your years, my lord.
Too old by heaven: let still the woman take
An elder than herself: so wears she to him,
So sways she level in her husband's heart:
For, boy, however we do praise ourselves,(35)
Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm,
More longing, wavering, sooner lost and worn,
Than women's are.
I think it well, my lord.
Then let thy love be younger than thyself,(40)
Or thy affection cannot hold the bent;
For women are as roses, whose fair flower
Being once display'd, doth fall that very hour.
And so they are: alas, that they are so;
To die, even when they to perfection grow!(45)

[Enter Curio and Feste.]

O, fellow, come, the song we had last night.
Mark it, Cesario; it is old and plain;
The spinsters and the knitters in the sun,
And the free maids that weave their thread with bones
Do use to chant it: it is silly sooth,(50)
And dallies with the innocence of love
Like the old age.
Are you ready, sir?
Ay; prithee, sing.(55)
[sings] Come away, come away, death,
And in sad cypress let me be laid;
Fly away, fly away breath;
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,(60)
O, prepare it!
My part of death, no one so true
Did share it.
Not a flower, not a flower sweet
On my black coffin let there be strown;(65)
Not a friend, not a friend greet
My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown:
A thousand thousand sighs to save,
Lay me, O, where
Sad true lover never find my grave,(70)
To weep there!
[handing him money] There's for thy pains.
No pains, sir: I take pleasure in singing, sir.
I'll pay thy pleasure, then.
Truly, sir, and pleasure will be paid one time or(75)
Give me now leave to leave thee.
Now the melancholy god protect thee; and the tailor
make thy doublet of changeable taffeta, for thy mind
is a very opal. I would have men of such constancy put(80)
to sea, that their business might be everything, and their
intent everywhere; for that's it that always makes a good
voyage of nothing. Farewell.

[Exit Feste.]

Let all the rest give place.
Once more, Cesario,(85)
Get thee to yond same sovereign cruelty:
Tell her, my love, more noble than the world,
Prizes not quantity of dirty lands;
The parts that fortune hath bestow'd upon her,
Tell her, I hold as giddily as fortune;(90)
But 'tis that miracle and queen of gems
That nature pranks her in attracts my soul.

[Exit Curio and attendants.]

But if she cannot love you, sir?
I cannot be so answer'd.
Sooth, but you must.(95)
Say that some lady, as perhaps there is,
Hath for your love as great a pang of heart
As you have for Olivia: you cannot love her;
You tell her so; must she not then be answer'd?
There is no woman's sides(100)
Can bide the beating of so strong a passion
As love doth give my heart; no woman's heart
So big, to hold so much; they lack retention.
Alas, their love may be call'd appetite,
No motion of the liver, but the palate,(105)
That suffer surfeit, cloyment and revolt;
But mine is all as hungry as the sea,
And can digest as much: make no compare
Between that love a woman can bear me
And that I owe Olivia.(110)
Ay, but I know—
What dost thou know?
Too well what love women to men may owe:
In faith, they are as true of heart as we.
My father had a daughter loved a man,(115)
As it might be, perhaps, were I a woman,
I should your lordship.
And what's her history?
A blank, my lord. She never told her love,
But let concealment, like a worm i' the bud,(120)
Feed on her damask cheek: she pined in thought,
And with a green and yellow melancholy
She sat like patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief. Was not this love, indeed?
We men may say more, swear more: but indeed,(125)
Our shows are more than will; for still we prove
Much in our vows, but little in our love.
But died thy sister of her love, my boy?
I am all the daughters of my father's house,
And all the brothers too: and yet I know not.(130)
Sir, shall I to this lady?
Ay, that's the theme.
To her in haste: give her this jewel; say,
My love can give no place, bide no denay.[hands her a jewel]

[Exeunt in different directions.]


  1. Viola refers to her love as a “show.” This metaphor further emphasizes the idea that her love is a type performance: it depends on its audience’ perception to “prove” its worthiness.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. This is an instance of dramatic irony. The audience knows that Viola is a woman and that the story she tells Orsino is about her own love for him. This is a comedic moment because Orsino does not realize she is talking about herself.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Orsino’s final speech contradicts what he said earlier about men being fickle in their love. This is a sign of Orsino’s weak reasoning. When Viola offers a counter claim to his argument about women, Orsino changes his opinions in order to prove her wrong. This demonstrates that Orsino is not only fickle in love but in opinion, and it shows that he does not like to be proven wrong.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. By “melancholy god” Feste means Saturn the Roman god of sadness and melancholy. Notice that Feste remarks on Orsino’s sadness rather than his love as the dominant characteristic of his personality. This further reinforces Orsino’s investment in the pose of love rather than the feeling of love.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. In love poetry, women are frequently compared to roses and flowers in order to demonstrate their delicate beauty and tragically ephemeral youth. Most love poetry uses this comparison in order to show that beauty is only precious and revered because it is fleeting. However, Orsino seems to miss this point in this metaphor. He sees the ephemerality of female beauty as a negative quality of loving women.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Notice that Orsino’s description of a woman in love demonstrates his lack of consideration for her character or personality. He says that she “wears to him” meaning she adapts herself to suit him. Orsino imagines as wife who only lives to serve, which may explain his seemingly empty love for Olivia and the monetary metaphors he uses to describe her.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. Orsino is saying that men are more fickle than women. He claims that a man should take a young wife so that he dies before he grows bored of her. This line of reasoning seems contrary to his description of his own love as an undying burning passion.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Here, Viola means that she is in love with Orsino. He assumes that she is talking about a woman, but she is actually confessing her love for him. Notice that Orsino does not notice that his “servant” is in love with him. One could compare this blindness to Sebastian’s ignorance of Antonio’s love at the beginning of Act II.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff