The sea coast.
(Viola; Captain; Sailors)
Shipwrecked, Viola lands on the coast of Illyria, along with the Captain of the ship that went down and some other sailors. She hopes against hope that her brother has not drowned either, and the Captain comforts her by telling her that she saw her brother holding on to a mast. She questions him about the country; as he was born nearby he is able to tell her that it is Orsino’s land, and that rumor has it he is wooing Olivia. Viola wishes she could serve Olivia when she hears how the Countess lives in retreat, but the Captain tells her that would be impossible, as Olivia is receiving no-one. She resolves instead to serve Orsino, and pays the Captain to help her disguise herself as a eunuch. (65 lines)
Enter Viola, a Captain, and Sailors.
What country, friends, is this?
This is Illyria, lady.
And what should I do in Illyria?
My brother he is in Elysium.
Perchance he is not drown’d—what think you, sailors?
It is perchance that you yourself were saved.
O my poor brother! And so perchance may he be.
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 practice)
To a strong mast that liv’d 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.
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?
Ay, madam, well, for I was bred and born
Not three hours’ travel from this very place.
Who governs here?
A noble duke, in nature as in name.
What is his name?
Orsino! I have heard my father name him. He was a bachelor then.
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.
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 abjur’d the company
And sight of men.
O that I serv’d that lady,
And might not be delivered to the world
Till I had made mine own occasion mellow
What my estate is!
That were hard to compass,
Because she will admit no kind of suit,
No, not the Duke’s.
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 shalt 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.
What else may hap, to time I will commit,
Only shape thou thy silence to my wit.
Be you his eunuch, and your mute I’ll be;
When my tongue blabs, then let mine eyes not see.
I thank thee. Lead me on.