Original Text

Modern Text

Such duty to the drunkard let him do
110With soft low tongue and lowly courtesy,
And say, “What is ’t your Honor will command,
Wherein your lady and your humble wife
May show her duty and make known her love?”
And then with kind embracements, tempting kisses,
115And with declining head into his bosom,
Bid him shed tears, as being overjoyed
To see her noble lord restored to health,
Who for this seven years hath esteemed him
No better than a poor and loathsome beggar.
120And if the boy have not a woman’s gift
To rain a shower of commanded tears,
An onion will do well for such a shift,
Which in a napkin being close conveyed
Shall in despite enforce a watery eye.
125See this dispatched with all the haste thou canst:
Anon I’ll give thee more instructions.
That’s just how I want him to behave toward the drunkard, speaking in a low, soft voice and in humble, courteous tones and saying fancy stuff like, “What does your Honor wish to command your lady, your humble wife, to do to show her devotion and demonstrate her love?” Tell him to give the drunkard fond embraces and alluring kisses, and lay his head on the other man’s breast, weeping like a woman overjoyed to see a husband restored to health who for the last seven years has imagined he was no better than a poor, pathetic beggar. The boy may lack a woman’s gift for weeping at will, so it might be good to have an onion handy, hidden in a handkerchief. That’ll make his eyes stream. Get this done as quickly as you can. I’ll give you more instructions later.
Exit a servingman
A servant exits.
I know the boy will well usurp the grace,
Voice, gait, and action of a gentlewoman.
I long to hear him call the drunkard “husband,”
130And how my men will stay themselves from laughter
When they do homage to this simple peasant.
I’ll in to counsel them. Haply my presence
May well abate the over-merry spleen
Which otherwise would grow into extremes.
I know the boy will be a convincing gentlewoman, taking up her exact walk and talk and gentle gestures. I can’t wait to hear him call the drunkard “husband,” and to watch my men smother their laughter as they pay their respects to this simple peasant. I’ll go and coach them. My presence may put a damper on their high spirits, which might otherwise get out of control.
They all exit.