Twelfth Night

by: William Shakespeare

Original Text

Modern Text

VIOLA

The honorable lady of the house, which is she?

VIOLA

Which one of you is the lady of the house?

OLIVIA

Speak to me. I shall answer for her. Your will?

OLIVIA

You can speak to me. I represent her. What do you want?

VIOLA

Most radiant, exquisite and unmatchable beauty—I pray you, tell me if this be the lady of the house, for I never saw her. I would be loath to cast away my speech, for besides that it is excellently well penned, I have taken great pains to con it. Good beauties, let me sustain no scorn. I am very comptible, even to the least sinister usage.

VIOLA

What stunning, exquisite, and unmatchable beauty—but please, tell me if you’re the lady of the house, because I’ve never seen her. I’d hate to waste my speech on the wrong person, because It’s very well written and I spent a lot of time and energy memorizing it. Beautiful ladies, please don’t treat me badly. I’m very sensitive, and even the smallest bit of rudeness hurts my feelings.

OLIVIA

160Whence came you, sir?

OLIVIA

Where do you come from, sir?

VIOLA

I can say little more than I have studied, and that question’s out of my part. Good gentle one, give me modest assurance if you be the lady of the house, that I may proceed in my speech.

VIOLA

I’m sorry, but I memorized what I’m supposed to say here today, and that question isn’t part of the speech I learned. Please, my lady, just confirm that you’re the lady of the house so I can get on with my speech.

OLIVIA

165Are you a comedian?

OLIVIA

Are you an actor?

VIOLA

No, my profound heart. And yet, by the very fangs of malice I swear, I am not that I play. Are you the lady of the house?

VIOLA

No, madam. But I swear I’m not the person I’m playing. Are you the lady of the house?

OLIVIA

If I do not usurp myself, I am.

OLIVIA

I am, unless I somehow stole this role.

VIOLA

170Most certain, if you are she, you do usurp yourself, for what is yours to bestow is not yours to reserve. But this is from my commission. I will on with my speech in your praise and then show you the heart of my message.

VIOLA

If you’re the lady of the house, then it’s true you’re stealing your role, because what’s yours to give away is not yours to keep for yourself. But that’s not part of what I’m supposed to say. I’ll go on with my speech praising you, and then I’ll get to the point.