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Twelfth Night Commentary provides a comprehensive description of every act with explanations and translations for all important quotes.
Act I. Scene I. - A Room in the Duke's Palace. Orsino: "If music be the food of love, play on...." The play opens with Orsino, the Duke of Illyria revealing his great love for the fair Olivia whom we learn has decided to veil herself from others for seven years to honor her recently deceased brother's memory. Profoundly impressed by this, the Duke continues his pursuit of Olivia undeterred... The play begins amid the sounds of Musicians, attended by Orsino, the Duke of Illyria. Famously, he opens the play with the lines, "If music be the food of love, play on; / Give me excess of it, that surfeiting, / The appetite may sicken, and so die" (Line 1). The Duke is hopelessly in love, specifically with Lady Olivia. He remarks upon the nature of love, "O! spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou, / That, notwithstanding thy capacity / Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there," (Line 9) and remarks on its fleeting, fantastic nature (Lines 1-16). When Curio, a Gentleman, asks Orsino on whether he will hunt, the Duke replies by describing his first meeting with Olivia: "O! when mine eyes did see Olivia first, / Methought she purg'd the air of pestilence. That instant I was turn'd into a hart, / And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds, / E'er since pursue me" (Lines 1822). (When I first saw her, I thought she had purged the air of its pestilence or smell. That instant I was turned into a hart and my desires like cruel and lowly hounds have chased me ever since). Valentine, Orsino's messenger now arrives. He has news from Lady Olivia. Eager to learn of it, Orsino asks "what news from her?" (Line
Because of this. . This Duke is pursuing the fair Olivia. Viola asks the Captain where she is (Line 1). tie himself to a strong mast "that liv'd upon the sea. We learn that Lady Olivia. the Captain and several Sailors enter our view. Viola's brother (Sebastian) was able to "hold acquaintance [stay afloat] with the waves" for as long as the Captain could see (Lines 8-15). Viola instead has the Captain disguise her as a boy so she can serve Orsino. he saw Viola's brother who was "Most provident in peril. Impressed that Olivia is a woman who has "a heart of that fine frame [virtue]" to honor her brother in this way. Viola rewards the Captain with gold for delivering her this good news (Line 16) and wonders what she will do next. but will rather "like a cloistress. Viola learns from the Captain of their doomed ship that they are now in Illyria. fearing for his safety. a woman who like Viola has lost a brother." walk veiled to mourn her dead brother's love whose memory she intends to keep. The Captain replies that Viola is lucky to have survived herself and informs us that when their ship broke up (Line 8). flotsam). which is ruled by Orsino. Scene II." (resourceful in disaster). Viola wishes to serve Olivia but when she learns that this will be impossible.23)." (was floating in the wreckage." will not reveal her face for seven years. Identifying with Olivia's grief. We discover that her brother was lost at sea but may not be dead. the Duke decides that he will continue to pursue her (Lines 32-41). Viola asks of her brother. The Duke of Illyria. Act I. She asks the Captain about this country and learns that the Captain himself was born "Not . (Lines 10-14). The Duke is shattered. We learn from the Captain that they are now in Illyria. Viola is introduced to us as a survivor of a shipwreck.The Sea-coast. "The element herself. Viola.
"Who shortly also died:" (who soon died as well). that the Duke was seeking "the love of fair Olivia" (Lines 28-32)." . identifies with Olivia and resolves to serve her. She also remembers that "He [Orsino] was a bachelor then" (Line 27) and the Captain confirms this to still to be the case. Viola remembers this name.A Room in Olivia's House. her father spoke it many years before. They say now that Olivia "hath [has] abjur'd [forsworn / sworn off] the company / And sight of men" altogether says the Captain (Lines 3638)." not even the Duke's (Line 44). Viola also learns that "A noble duke." (Line 34). in nature as in name" (Line 23). as a eunuch to the Duke.three hours' travel from this very place" (Line 21). Viola now thanks the Captain for his troubles and decides to serve this Duke instead. Act I. Viola is confident of success for she can "sing / And speak to him [the Duke] in many sorts of music" that should earn her the Duke's favor. she "will admit no kind of suit. However it was rumored very recently according to the Captain. Olivia lost her father twelve months earlier. The plan agreed. named Orsino rules this land. Sir Toby to Sir Andrew Aguecheek: "Tut. man. . We learn from the Captain however. fearing her own brother lost. (Line 37). Scene III. now disguised as a man. Described by the Captain as "A virtuous maid. that this will be impossible. her care to be entrusted to her brother. the Captain and Viola set off on their separate ways (Lines 55-56). Viola. there's life in 't. The Captain will be richly rewarded for his pains and he will present Viola.
(Line 21). Lady Olivia's maid makes this clear to us in her unsuccessful attempts to quieten Sir Toby down. why should he not drink? Maria now explains that she has learnt from Olivia of her displeasure of Sir Toby's behavior and of Sir Toby presenting "a foolish knight" Sir Andrew Aguecheek to woo (court) her (Lines 15-20). happens to also possess "three thousand ducats a year" and is therefore a man of useful wealth.Sir Toby. Maria. When Maria suggests that Sir Toby "confine" himself "within the modest limits of order" (behave himself). Maria also reveals Lady Olivia's annoyance that Sir Toby has encouraged Sir Andrew Aguecheek to court her. asking him to keep earlier nights. Sir Andrew Aguecheek is now introduced. no doubt so Sir Toby can use Sir Andrew's wealth further. "speaks three or four languages word for word without . Lady Olivia's cousin is introduced. This "foolish knight" is Sir Andrew Aguecheek.. keeps late hours and is generally rowdy by nature. Finally realizing Olivia will not be courted by him. explaining that Sir Andrew "plays o' the viol-de-gamboys. Maria asks Sir Toby to cease keeping such "ill hours" (late hours)." a musical instrument. to which Sir Toby disagrees. Lady Olivia's cousin is staying at Olivia's house. Sir Toby has manipulated Sir Andrew into pursuing Olivia so Sir Toby can continue benefiting from Sir Andrew's great wealth. He wonders aloud why Olivia is taking the death of her brother so badly (Line 1).. We quickly discover that he drinks a good deal. clearly quite unimpressed. Lady Olivia's waiting women is now introduced. now goes on to describe him as "a very fool and a prodigal" (Line 25). Sir Toby Belch. who as well as being "as tall a man as any's in Illyria" (as tall a man as any in Illyria). Maria. (Line 5). Sir Toby explains that since his clothes and boots are good enough for drinking. quickly revealing himself to be rich but rather unintelligent. Maria. Sir Andrew makes preparations to leave but Sir Toby convinces Sir Andrew to stay a month longer.
Sir Toby is now criticized by Maria for his drinking. already be dead as a result of his quarrelsome nature (Lines 31-36). he is natural Maria replies." (Line 27) and "hath [has] all the good gifts of nature" (is handsome). Maria still isn't impressed. He will not however. Maria's reply is simple. (Line 30). Yes. When Sir Toby asks who Sir Andrew's detractors (critics) are." not realizing the word "accost" means Sir Toby would want to "front her. Now we learn of Sir Andrew's less than stellar intellect. woo her. Sir Andrew has not meet Maria. and is soon introduced. in many people's opinion. all those "that add. stop: "I'll drink to her [Olivia] as long as there is a passage in my throat and a drink in Illyria" (I'll drink as long as I can and there's a drink in Illyria) he defiantly vows (Lines 41-44). assail her" or in other words court Mary which Sir Toby has to explain to Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Sir Andrew arrives and both he and Sir Toby are glad to see each other once again. Embarrassed. adding that besides being a fool. Sir Andrew attempts to regain face only to lose it again to a now very unimpressed Maria (Lines 64-88). after all Sir Toby's niece (Olivia) will not see him. Sir Andrew would. let alone be ." or everyone of intelligence (Lines 37-40). Sir Andrew now announces that he will soon be heading home (Line 113). Sir Andrew laments that he never studied the arts (Lines 98101). board her. When Sir Andrew does not understand the French word "pourquoi?" (Why). He mistakenly calls Maria "Good Mistress Mary Accost. Sir Andrew is also a great quarreller and a coward adding that were it not for his cowardice.book.
Her success with Orsino has been so great that she or rather "He" is now a favorite with Orsino who believes Viola to be the man named Cesario. at the Duke's palace. Even the "count himself [Orsino] here hard by woos her" (even The Duke of Orsino is unsuccessful)." (a type of dance).A Room in the Duke's Palace. man" (there's still a chance). Orsino entrusts Cesario (Viola) to convey his love for Olivia. on his amazing rise through Orsino's ranks into his affections. telling him not to give up on his niece Olivia. a barful strife! Whoe'er I woo." Viola has successfully disguised herself as a man named Cesario. one of Orsino's servants remarks to Cesario (referred to as Viola in the text but appearing to all as the man named Cesario). deeply divided by her own love for Orsino. Sir Andrew decides to continue his pursuit of Olivia. Valentine. Cesario. Scene IV. He will stay "a month longer" and will not give up on the fair Olivia (Line 121). myself would be his wife.courted by him. Sir Andrew is convinced. Sir Toby convinces his friend to stay a little longer. Sir Andrew enjoys masques (masked parties) and revels (lively festivities) "sometimes altogether [sometimes combined]" and Sir Toby now builds up his friend's confidence by reminding him of his prowess at "kickchawses. Act I. nonetheless dutifully represents Orsino. He points out that the Duke has only known him (Cesario disguised as Viola) for three days and already "you are no stranger" (Line 4). Meanwhile. (Line 116). As such." (acrobatic maneuvers) and his "excellence in a galliard. Cesario (Viola in disguise as a man): "I'll do my best / To woo your lady: [Aside] yet. . . much to the delight of the already suspiciously manipulative Sir Toby. Newly confident. to woo Olivia successfully (Line 120). Worried that his rich friend and gravy train (source of easy income) may leave. after all "there's life in 't. telling his friend not to hide his many virtues.
Cesario's pleasing appearance should help his cause. (Line 40). to Olivia. He instructs Cesario not to be easily discouraged and to "leap all civil bounds" (break the normal rules of society if necessary) rather than return to the Duke empty-handed (Line 21).A Room in Olivia's house. since he now honors and trusts him to "address thy gait" (make your appearance known). whoever I woo. namely heaven. The Duke replies to Cesario (Viola) that he should express the Duke's feelings to her. Orsino believes. . Scene V. Orsino now arrives. so that the Duke's affections may be known (Line 15). Cesario (Viola) complimenting Olivia: "Excellently done. Olivia's Clown. Cesario (Viola) disagrees but Orsino is convinced that Cesario's good looks will help him (Lines 30-39). Feste redeems himself with Lady Olivia by telling her she should not mourn her brother since he is in a better place. myself would be his wife" (I'll do my best to woo your lady: yet. I would rather be Orsino's wife). We now learn of the strength of Cesario's (Viola's) love for Orsino. a terrible strife. Act I. if God did all. (Lines 24-28).Viola now asks Valentine of the consistency of Orsino's affections." Olivia's maid is angry with Feste. Olivia is . Cesario (Viola) learns from Valentine that the Duke's affections are constant. a barful strife! Whoe'er I woo. Cesario has indeed made quite an impression on the Duke. Viola: "I'll do my best / To woo your lady:" then speaking her private thoughts to the audience in an aside says "yet. When Cesario asks what he should say if he gets Olivia's attention.
Olivia answers that she is certain it is in heaven. He now begins a speech of contradiction (Lines 45-58)." (Line 22).pleased. Lady Olivia is quite taken by Cesario but tells him. "why mournest thou?" (Why do you mourn?). Lady Olivia sends Malvolio after him to give back a ring Cesario left behind as an excuse to express her affection for him. Intrigued.. Olivia now arrives and Maria warns the Clown that he better have a good excuse for her lady (Olivia). but Feste refuses. Intrigued by Cesario. she cannot return Orsino's affections for her. eventually gaining her audience. and when Maria threatens to hang the Clown. however like to see Cesario again. but Olivia's uptight steward. Malvolio is not. (Lines 25-39). The Clown (Feste) now dangerously explains to Olivia that he will prove her a fool. Olivia enters with her steward Malvolio. She wants to know where Olivia's Clown (Feste) has been (Lines 1-4).. for my brother's death" (Line 72)." (Feste the Clown) now says that he thinks Olivia's dead brother's soul must therefore be in hell. he replies that "Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage. regarding Feste as old and lacking in wit. Olivia orders the Clown away. Olivia gives us an insight into Malvolio's character by saying that he suffers from self-love or is arrogant and vain. standing his ground. asking him to come back to report to her how Orsino took the news. Maria is angry. In Olivia's house. A war of words between the two follows. she lets the Clown proceed (Lines 58-70). The "fool. . The Clown then replies that Olivia must then be a fool to mourn for a brother whose soul is in heaven (Lines 72-77). Cesario petitions Lady Olivia. (Line 71). The Clown now asks Olivia. Lady Olivia would. Olivia responds that it is "Good fool.
two eyes and so forth (Lines 263-270).Malvolio now reluctantly agrees with Olivia that the Clown has indeed redeemed himself. in fact he is quite insistent on speaking with Olivia. but does get the private audience "he" wanted (Lines 177-248). . adding that Malvolio is too sick with "self-love. who wishes to speak with Olivia. / If you will lead these graces to the grave / And leave the world no copy" (Olivia must be the cruelest women alive to go to her grave without leaving the world a copy). Olivia decides to let this man approach. weak and lacking in wit (Lines 79-105). drawing a veil on her face. The Clown comments on this and Malvolio reenters. Cesario (Viola) initially offers little explanation of "his" background. Olivia finds out that Sir Toby has held this man in delay and now curses him. Maria now announces the arrival of a young man at the gate (Cesario). She tells Malvolio that if the person speaks for the Duke. The serious. considering him old. uptight and humorless Malvolio does not however especially like Feste. that he should make an excuse. and he speaks very shrewishly [cleverly]" and of an age which is neither man nor boy (Lines 164-174). We learn that this young man is "Of very ill manner: [rude]" and yet "He is very well-favoured. and Cesario comments that her face is most "Excellently done. tell him Olivia is sick (Lines 108-123). if God did all" (Line 256). Olivia is more patient and chides Malvolio for lacking patience. Olivia responds my playfully cataloging her face as two lips. Sit Toby now enters half drunk. pointing out that Olivia must be "the cruell'st she [woman] alive." (Line 96) and that a fool (Feste) does no harm by his actions (Lines 87-105). (Line 261). Cesario also sees Olivia's face unveiled. Cesario now continues to flatter Olivia. telling Olivia that the young man will not be turned away.
you [Cesario] come to me again. telling her that "I am no fee'd post. Olivia is smitten and commands Malvolio to enter her chamber (Lines 310-319). perchance. Cesario (Viola) explains that if he loved Olivia. he left his ring behind at Olivia's house. (Line 301). (Line 305). Olivia tells Cesario "I cannot love him" (The Duke). Olivia now asks Cesario's parentage. he would not accept rejection easily and would cry out her name (Lines 288-296). lady. Cesario (Viola) now leaves. Cesario cryptically answers "Above my fortune.Cesario now professes the Duke's love for Olivia. yet my state is well: / I am a gentleman" (Line 299). when she tells Cesario to tell the Duke to no longer woo (court) her "Unless." adding that Olivia should keep her "purse:" (money). already knows this and is not interested. Olivia tells Malvolio to run after Cesario. Additionally Malvolio is to convince Cesario to return tomorrow so she can explain to him why she cannot love Orsino (Lines 320-331). leaving Olivia to recall her questioning of Cesario's parentage. She now hints at her affection for Cesario. Olivia also offers Cesario money which Cesario (Viola) refuses. . Olivia however. / To tell me how he [Orsino] takes it" (Line 302).
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