Friday, September 7, 2012

Thirteenth Night

by Jean Roberta.

Backstory: In Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night, Viola has landed in Illyria as a result of a shipwreck. It’s not safe for her to appear in a strange place as a young woman, so she disguises herself as a young man named Cesario and enters the service of Count Orsino, ruler of Illyria. Orsino is in love with Countess Olivia, who is in mourning for her dead brother and refuses to see her suitor.

Orsino is so impressed by his new “manservant,” Cesario, that he sends him (her) to Olivia with messages of love. Olivia is so impressed with Cesario that she asks to see him (her) again.

The courtship scenes between Cesario (Viola) and Olivia are popular with lesbian Shakespeare fans. In Shakespeare’s version, Olivia conveniently marries “Cesario’s” (Viola’s) twin brother Sebastian, who looks just like her (mighty strange, that), and Viola finally gets to take off her disguise and reveal her love for her boss, Count Orsino, who finally gives up Olivia as a lost cause, and marries his adoring servant, Viola.

But what if …?


Olivia: Oh fair youth, please tell thy master that I prefer his messenger.

Viola (blushing): You musn’t, madam.

Olivia: Why musn’t I?

Viola: Because I am not what I appear to be.

Olivia: Then I wish to see what is hidden behind thy rich doublet and cunning codpiece. How can I trust the sincerity of thy protestations of thy master’s love unless thou art fully revealed as nature intended?

Viola (panicking): For the love of God, your Grace! You would be sorely disappointed.

Olivia: How so?

Viola: I am a poor impostor who lacks all the equipment of a man.

Olivia (laughing): That equipment is available in yon Sex Market, my fair angel. “Tis said that angels have no organs of generation, but I shall believe that when I see it for myself. If you were born without a boyish cock, Cesario, you must have the hairy clam of a woman, and that would please me more.

Viola: Oh, madam! I will disrobe down to my bare skin right here in your garden if you swear not to laugh.

Olivia: What self-injury is this? Cesario, do you think I find my own parts to be a matter for jest? If your breasts and hips and the fruit between your thighs are as ripe and eager as my own, we shall have ourselves a banquet. No one may dare laugh at you in my presence.

(Olivia sweeps Viola into her arms and they kiss passionately. Olivia manages to help Viola out of her doublet with one hand while unlacing various other parts of her livery with the other.)

Viola: Oh, madam! I never thought to feel such pleasure!

Olivia: You have barely had a taste, little rosebud. How innocent you must be! How I shall enjoy claiming your maidenhood and keeping you safe from drunken asses like my stupid kinsman Sir Toby and his buddy Sir Andrew. And even your pretentious master the Count, if you only knew. Call me Olivia.

Viola: Olivia, you seem to have a wealth of knowledge and experience, and I am so young and so starved for touch. I deserve to be spanked soundly for appearing to you in disguise.

Olivia: Then I will see to your correction forthwith. (Olivia dexterously finishes unlacing, unbuttoning and removing Viola’s livery. Viola boldly tries to help Olivia out of her gown.)

Olivia: Alas, my dear, these clothes are my suit of armor. (Calling her maid) Ho there, Maria! Come help me to prepare myself for sport. Young Cesario is our guest.

Maria (entering briskly): Shall I bring the birch and the dildo, madam?

Olivia: Of course! You never fail me, Maria. You may help me to leave my imprint on our guest’s impudent pink bottom, and then you shall receive your reward.

(Viola vainly tries to cover her small, perky breasts and curly brown public hair with her two delicate hands. Maria marches up to her and pulls them away.)

Maria: She’s a fine one, madam. Has she a maidenhead still?

Olivia: I believe so, dear, but not for long. (Maria helps Olivia out of layers of clothing until the countess steps out of a pool of satin, revealing lush curves and a smooth golden complexion. She shakes out her long, glossy black hair which matches her bush.)

Olivia (after seating herself on a garden bench) Maria, please position our guest over my lap.

Maria: Gladly. (She lifts Viola by the waist and lays her across Olivia’s lap, face-down. Viola squeals, more as an invitation than a protest.)

Olivia: Spread your legs. I must sample this honeypot first. (Viola’s squealing increases as Olivia slides two fingers down the crack of Viola’s bottom and finds her slit.) This may hurt a bit, little angel, but you must endure it if you wish to become a woman. (Olivia tickles Viola’s clit and angles one finger into her cunt.)

Viola: Oh!

Olivia: Be brave for me, little messenger. You may carry this message back to the Count.
(Olivia skilfully pushes past Viola’s hymen and gently strokes the walls of her cunt.)

Viola: Oh!

Maria (grinning): Save your breath for when I get to you with the dildo.

Viola (spasming): Oh! I think I shall die!

Olivia: Not by a long shot. (Olivia withdraws her finger, smeared with fluid.) You haven’t felt the birch yet.

(Maria, now naked, hands the birch to Olivia.)

Olivia: Are you ready, little one?

Viola: Olivia, I am at your mercy. Do to me what you will. (Olivia and Maria chuckle together like conspirators who know each other’s intentions.)


To be continued.


  1. Jean! I have toyed with the idea of rewriting this story too. Isn't it just lush with possibilities? I love your take on it.

  2. Thank you, Kathleen.
    This play is definitely lush. As someone else commented (I can't remember where), this is a queer play. Not only are the love scenes between Olvia and "Cesario" full of lesbian flavour, there are implications of m/m as well. And even if the plot is taken at face value, the notion that Viola & Sebastian are identical twins who can trade places is a challenge to traditional, opposite, unchangeable gender roles.

  3. This is delicious, Jean!

    I must say that your language captures much of the Bard's rhythm, though when you introduce the birch and the dildo you slide a bit toward the Victorian!

    Thanks for a great take on the topic.

  4. Utterly delightful. If only the NT would take it on as a project.

  5. As a Shakespeare fan I enjoyed it, I thought it was pretty funny. Its been awhile since I read any of his comedies but I remember now this was one of his favorite things, having men and women change places, which was easier to do back then when boys played the ladies roles. Women weren't allowed to play women's roles on stage.


  6. Late thanks for the comments, all. Lisabet, it hadn't occurred to me that I was drifting toward the Victorian with the birch & dildo, but I'm sure you're right. (I need to research the period vocabulary.) Rachel, I suspect something like this could be performed in a fringe festival (& prob. not televised for BBC). :)


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