Viola, from Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare

VIOLA: I left no ring with her. What means this lady?
Fortune forbid my outside have not charmed her.
She made good view of me; indeed, so much
That, as 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 t’ untie.


Dramaturg Notes:

In this speech from Twelfth Night, the traditionally female character Viola is dressed in male drag so that she may work for the Duke of Illyria after her brother was possibly lost in a shipwreck. For non-binary actors, this speech could be taken in a variety of ways, as Viola consistently refers to themselves as a “man” and as a “woman”. Due to this consistent confounding of gender, this role could be played by non-binary AFAB or AMAB people (assigned-female-at-birth or assigned-male-at-birth, respectively). In doing so, the implications of particular relations within this speech could be complicated with respect to gender and sexuality. In the play, Viola is a woman dressed in male drag who develops feeling for the male Duke she serves, while Olivia (the Duke’s love interest) develops feelings for Viola. The possibilities for queering this speech are endless. As this a speech to themselves, there are possibilities to address gender, sexuality, and attraction from the outside, but also from within the character themselves; bringing attention to possible dysphoria or dissonance within Viola. Depending on the individual choices, any non-binary actor could use this piece as an active resistance to the hetero- and cis-normativity which are ever-present within Shakespeare’s work.

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