Frederick Richard Pickersgill, Viola and the Countess (1859)

Oil on canvas, size 29 x 36.5 inches, Private collection.


In Act III, Scene i, of Twelfth Night Viola, disguised as a young man Cesario, once again comes to the Countess Olivia to press the suit of his master, the Duke Orsino. But Olivia is smitten with Cesario and declares her love for the young "man":

Cesario, by the roses of the spring,
By maidhood, honour, truth and every thing,
I love thee so, that, maugre all thy pride,
Nor wit nor reason can my passion hide.
Do not extort thy reasons from this clause,
For that I woo, thou therefore hast no cause,
But rather reason thus with reason fetter,
Love sought is good, but given unsought better.

Viola looks off, embarrassed, confused, and pondering the fine mess her disguise has created. She already know this, of course, for earlier when she had an inkling of Olivia's feelings she said, "Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness / Wherein the pregnant enemy does much." But true to the spirit of this comedy, she concludes, "O Time, thou must untangle this, not I; / It is too hard a knot for me t' untie" (II. ii).


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