Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene IV
Sooth, but you must.
Say that some lady, as perhaps there is,
Hath for your love a great a pang of heart
As you have for Olivia. You cannot love her.
You tell her so. Must she not then be answered?
There is no woman’s sides
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 called appetite,
No motion of the liver, but the palate,
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.
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
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,
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
Our shows are more than will, for still we prove
Much in our vows, but little in our love.
Twelfth Night has always been my personal favorite when it comes to Shakespeare. I remember as a young child, probably seven or eight, watching the BBC film of this play. I found it intriguing even thought it was completely incomprehensible to me. In the following years I watched it over and over and over until every line was memorized and every emotion depicted by each character was fixed in my mind. This particular scene, when Orsino agonizes over the possibility of requited love vents to his new confidant, Sebastian aka Viola of the unfairness and shallow nature of women struck my young mind. (For one reason or another.)
I found myself indigent that he was so blind to the agony Viola felt in that very moment, understanding his heart was breaking along with her own as she looked upon a man she was not allowed to love. Such passion was her, felt to the depths of the sea and he, Orsino so stupidly blind to her pain. It’s forever stayed with me, the passion, the intensity. I often wondered if I would ever feel that kind of heartbreak, frustration, and love in the same moment. As a grown man I can say, I have. And every so often, to this day, I find myself repeating the lines, “Aye, but I know- too well what love women to men may owe”