The speech takes place in Act 2, scene 2. After disguising herself as the
boy Cesario in order to serve Illyria's Duke Orsino, Viola has revealed to
the audience her love for the Duke during first act. Orsino himself has
grown so fond of Cesario that he entrusts the youth with the task of wooing
the Lady Olivia on his behalf, arguing that her "constellation is right apt
for this affair"(1.4.35-36). Cesario does indeed prove to be a persuasive
suitor; as a result, Olivia falls in love with the youth who is Viola in
disguise. To reveal her feelings and insure that Cesario will return,
Olivia sends her steward Malvolio to "return" a ring to Orsino's messenger.
Once Malvolio leaves the ring with her, Viola gives a long soliloquy,
underscoring the complications of her situation:
I left no ring with her: what means this lady?
The variations in this speech may come as something of a surprise. You might see it as an ongoing interchange between editors--as they achieve Viola's frailty. The show will take about 5 minutes, probably more over a modem.
Fortune forbid my outside have not charm'd her!
She made good view of me; indeed so much
That 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 are 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.
breaking out of the text