| Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare|
|by Edith Nesbit|
|Twenty stories from Shakespeare retold in lively prose. The author makes the complex language of Shakespeare's greatest plays accessible to young children by relating the stories that form the core of the plays. Her graceful, vivid retellings are the perfect introduction to Shakespeare's works. Ages 9-12 |
VIOLA AND THE CAPTAIN.
RSINO, the Duke of Illyria, was deeply in love with a beautiful
Countess named Olivia. Yet was all his love in vain, for she
disdained his suit; and when her brother died, she sent back a
messenger from the Duke, bidding him tell his master that for
seven years she would not let the very air behold her face, but
that, like a nun, she would walk veiled; and all this for the sake
of a dead brother's love, which she would keep fresh and lasting
in her sad remembrance.
 The Duke longed for someone to whom he could tell his sorrow, and
repeat over and over again the story of his love. And chance
brought him such a companion. For about this time a goodly ship
was wrecked on the Illyrian coast, and among those who reached
land in safety were the captain and a fair young maid, named Viola.
But she was little grateful for being rescued from the perils of
the sea, since she feared that her twin brother was drowned,
Sebastian, as dear to her as the heart in her bosom, and so like
her that, but for the difference in their manner of dress, one
could hardly be told from the other. The captain, for her comfort,
told her that he had seen her brother bind himself "to a strong
mast that lived upon the sea," and that thus there was hope that
he might be saved.
Viola now asked in whose country she was, and learning that the
young Duke Orsino ruled there, and was as noble in his nature as
in his name, she decided to disguise herself in male attire, and
seek for employment with him as a page.
In this she succeeded, and now from day to day she had to listen
to the story of Orsino's love. At
 first she sympathized very
truly with him, but soon her sympathy grew to love. At last it
occurred to Orsino that his hopeless love-suit might prosper better
if he sent this pretty lad to woo Olivia for him. Viola unwillingly
went on this errand, but when she came to the house, Malvolio,
Olivia's steward, a vain, officious man, sick, as his mistress
told him, of self-love, forbade the messenger admittance.
 Viola, however (who was now called Cesario), refused to take any
denial, and vowed to have speech with the Countess. Olivia,
hearing how her instructions were defied and curious to see this
daring youth, said, "We'll once more hear Orsino's embassy."
VIOLA AS "CESARIO" MEETS OLIVIA.
When Viola was admitted to her presence and the servants had been
sent away, she listened patiently to the reproaches which this
bold messenger from the Duke poured upon her, and listening she
fell in love with the supposed Cesario; and when Cesario had gone,
Olivia longed to send some love-token after him. So, calling
Malvolio, she bade him follow the boy.
"He left this ring behind him," she said, taking one from her
finger. "Tell him I will none of it."
Malvolio did as he was bid, and then Viola, who of course knew
perfectly well that she had left no ring behind her, saw with a
woman's quickness that Olivia loved her. Then she went back to
the Duke, very sad at heart for her lover, and for Olivia, and
It was but cold comfort she could give Orsino,
 who now sought to
ease the pangs of despised love by listening to sweet music, while
Cesario stood by his side.
"Ah," said the Duke to his page that night, "you too have been in
"A little," answered Viola.
"YOU TOO HAVE BEEN IN LOVE."
"What kind of woman is it?" he asked.
"Of your complexion," she answered.
"What years, i' faith?" was his next question.
To this came the pretty answer, "About your years, my lord."
 "Too old, by Heaven!" cried the Duke. "Let still the woman take
an elder than herself."
And Viola very meekly said, "I think it well, my lord."
By and by Orsino begged Cesario once more to visit Olivia and to
plead his love-suit. But she, thinking to dissuade him, said—
"If some lady loved you as you love Olivia?"
"Ah! that cannot be," said the Duke.
"But I know," Viola went on, "what love woman may have for a man.
My father had a daughter loved a man, as it might be," she added
blushing, "perhaps, were I a woman, I should love your lordship."
"And what is her history?" he asked.
"A blank, my lord," Viola answered. "She never told her love, but
let concealment like a worm in the bud 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
"But died thy sister of her love, my boy?" the Duke asked; and
Viola, who had all the time been
 telling her own love for him in
this pretty fashion, said—
"I am all the daughters my father has and all the brothers—Sir,
shall I go to the lady?"
"To her in haste," said the Duke, at once forgetting all about the
story, "and give her this jewel."
So Viola went, and this time poor Olivia was unable to hide her
love, and openly confessed it with such passionate truth, that
Viola left her hastily, saying—
"Nevermore will I deplore my master's tears to you."
But in vowing this, Viola did not know the tender pity she would
feel for other's suffering. So when Olivia, in the violence of
her love, sent a messenger, praying Cesario to visit her once
more, Cesario had no heart to refuse the request.
But the favors which Olivia bestowed upon this mere page aroused
the jealousy of Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a foolish, rejected lover
of hers, who at that time was staying at her house with her merry
old uncle Sir Toby. This same Sir Toby dearly loved a practical
joke, and knowing Sir Andrew to
 be an arrant coward, he thought
that if he could bring off a duel between him and Cesario, there
would be rare sport indeed. So he induced Sir Andrew to send a
challenge, which he himself took to Cesario. The poor page, in
great terror, said—
"I will return again to the house, I am no fighter."
"Back you shall not to the house," said Sir Toby, "unless you fight
And as he looked a very fierce old gentleman, Viola thought it best
to await Sir Andrew's coming; and when he at last made his
appearance, in a great fright, if the truth had been known, she
tremblingly drew her sword, and Sir Andrew in like fear followed
her example. Happily for them both, at this moment some officers
of the Court came on the scene, and stopped the intended duel.
Viola gladly made off with what speed she might, while Sir Toby
called after her—
"A very paltry boy, and more a coward than a hare!"
Now, while these things were happening, Sebastian had escaped all
the dangers of the deep, and had landed safely in Illyria, where
he determined to
 make his way to the Duke's Court. On his way
thither he passed Olivia's house just as Viola had left it in such
a hurry, and whom should he meet but Sir Andrew and Sir Toby.
Sir Andrew, mistaking Sebastian for the cowardly Cesario, took
his courage in both hands, and walking up to him struck him,
saying, "There's for you."
"Why, there's for you; and there, and there!" said Sebastian,
hitting back a great deal harder, and again and again, till Sir
Toby came to the rescue of his friend. Sebastian, however, tore
himself free from Sir Toby's clutches, and drawing his sword would
have fought them both, but that Olivia herself, having heard of
the quarrel, came running in, and with many reproaches sent Sir
Toby and his friend away. Then turning to Sebastian, whom she
too thought to be Cesario, she besought him with many a pretty
speech to come into the house with her.
Sebastian, half dazed and all delighted with her beauty and grace,
readily consented, and that very day, so great was Olivia's haste,
they were married before she had discovered that he was not Cesario,
 Sebastian was quite certain whether or not he was in a dream.
Meanwhile Orsino, hearing how ill Cesario sped with Olivia, visited
her himself, taking Cesario with him. Olivia met them both before
her door, and seeing, as she thought, her husband there, reproached
him for leaving her, while to the Duke she said that his suit was
as fat and wholesome to her as howling after music.
"Still so cruel?" said Orsino.
"Still so constant," she answered.
Then Orsino's anger growing to cruelty, he vowed that, to be revenged
on her, he would kill Cesario, whom he knew she loved. "Come,
boy," he said to the page.
And Viola, following him as he moved away, said, "I, to do you
rest, a thousand deaths would die."
A great fear took hold on Olivia, and she cried aloud, "Cesario,
"Her husband?" asked the Duke angrily.
"No, my lord, not I," said Viola.
"Call forth the holy father," cried Olivia.
And the priest who had married Sebastian and
 Olivia, coming in,
declared Cesario to be the bridegroom.
"O thou dissembling cub!" the Duke exclaimed. "Farewell, and take
her, but go where thou and I henceforth may never meet."
At this moment Sir Andrew came up with bleeding crown, complaining
that Cesario had broken his head, and Sir Toby's as well.
"I never hurt you," said Viola, very positively; "you drew your
sword on me, but I bespoke you fair, and hurt you not."
Yet, for all her protesting, no one there believed her; but all
their thoughts were on a sudden changed to wonder, when Sebastian
"I am sorry, madam," he said to his wife, "I have hurt your kinsman.
Pardon me, sweet, even for the vows we made each other so late
"One face, one voice, one habit, and two persons!" cried the Duke,
looking first at Viola, and then at Sebastian.
"An apple cleft in two," said one who knew Sebastian, "is not more
twin than these two creatures. Which is Sebastian?"
 "I never had a brother," said Sebastian. "I had a sister, whom
the blind waves and surges have devoured." "Were you a woman,"
he said to Viola, "I should let my tears fall upon your cheek,
and say, 'Thrice welcome, drowned Viola!' "
Then Viola, rejoicing to see her dear brother alive, confessed that
she was indeed his sister, Viola. As she spoke, Orsino felt the
pity that is akin to love.
"Boy," he said, "thou hast said to me a thousand times thou never
shouldst love woman like to me."
"And all those sayings will I overswear," Viola replied, "and all
those swearings keep true."
"Give me thy hand," Orsino cried in gladness. "Thou shalt be my
wife, and my fancy's queen."
Thus was the gentle Viola made happy, while Olivia found in Sebastian
a constant lover, and a good husband, and he in her a true and
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