I am preparing for an audition using Helena's monologue from Act III Scene 2. I am working on it on my own and was hoping someone might be able to help me understand the text. When Helena asks herself "Shall I stay her to do't?", what exactly is she referring to? I have a few ideas but I want to be very specific and would appreciate some help from fellow Shakespeare fans!
Thanks in advance!!
Last edited by evepandora; 09-23-2009 at 01:28 AM.
Regarding Helena's monologue, it may have been just an incidental typo, but the line you quote is "Shall I stay here to do't" rather than "Shall I stay her to do't."
"Here" refers to the court of Rousillion, which is Bertram's home. As you know, Bertram was earlier forced to marry Helena, and rather than accept his marriage, he travels to Italy in order to participate in military adventures. Helena hears of the dangerous battles that Bertram is experiencing and is overcome with the fear he will lose his life. Knowing their forced marriage is what motivated Bertram to go to war and turn his back on his home, Helena decides to leave Rousillion, hoping that he will depart the war and return home. In other words, she hopes to save Bertram's life by leaving.
My being here it is that holds thee hence:
Shall I stay here to do't? no, no, although
The air of paradise did fan the house
And angels officed all: I will be gone,
When she says, "Shall I stay here to do't? she is asking a rhetorical question. Put another way she is saying, "If I'm the reason you're in harm's way and not safe at home, then does it make sense for me to stay here? No, it makes no sense at all; even if this place were as wonderful as heaven, I couldn't stay if it means putting Bertram's life at risk. Therefore, I'll leave.
Thank you for this...yes it was a typo- my mistake. I guess what's been confusing me is that i first read this monologue in a Shakespeare monologue book ("Soliloquy"). The commentary given by the editor interpreted this speech as Helena reproaching herself for putting Bertram in harm's way and contemplating suicide. So that this line: "Shall I stay here to do't" really means shall I commit suicide. But I haven't found much evidence to support this and so far your help has been the most useful. So thank you!!
I'm pleased to have provided useful advice. I was surprised by the interpretation offered in the monologue book; like you, I don't find support for that reading in the text. Hope the performance of your speech went well!