From Twelfth Night Or What You Will. Ed. Kenneth Deighton. London: Macmillan.
1. What a plague. In such expressions as "What a plague,"
"What a devil," i. H. IV. ii. 2. 39, "a" is equivalent to 'in the name of,' 'by,' etc. See Abb. § 24.
1, 2. to take ... thus, to feel it so seriously, show such grief
about it. care's ... life, cp. the proverbial saying in M. A. v. I.
133, "care killed a cat."
3. By my troth, by my faith, assuredly: o' nights, of nights,
at night; see Abb. § 182.
4. cousin, used of those not in the first degree of relationship,
e.g. nephew, niece, uncle, brother-in-law, grandchild: takes ...
hours, is much displeased with your staying out so late at night:
exceptions, objections; Shakespeare uses to 'take exception' at,
to, against; nowadays 'to' is the only preposition used; ill
hours, evil because late.
6. Why ... excepted. A ludicrous use of a formal law phrase,
exceptis, excipiendis, those things being excepted, excluded, which
are to be excepted, excluded; before excepted, i.e. what was
before excepted; except here = object to.
7. confine yourself, restrict yourself; cp. Oth. ii. 3. 2, 3,
"Let's teach ourselves that honourable stop Not to outsport
discretion"; Macb. v. 2. 15.
9. I'll confine ... am: I'll dress myself no finer than I am; an
intentional misunderstanding of the word. Cp. ii. H. IV. i. 2.
159-62, "Ch. Just. Your means are very slender, and your waste
is great. Fal. I would it were otherwise; I would my means
were greater, and my waist slenderer."
11, 2. an they ... straps, if they are not, let them be punished
with a halter made of their own straps; i.e. the pieces of leather
attached to the boots by which they were drawn on: for an, see
Abb. § 101.
18. He's as tall ... Illyria. "That is, as able a man. 'A tall
man of his hands meant a good fighter; a tall man of his tongue,
a licentious speaker; and a tall man of his trencher, a hearty
feeder,' Gifford" (Staunton).
19. What 's ... purpose? That matters nothing; that does not
make your behaviour and his any the less disgraceful.
21. Ay, but ... ducats; i.e. he will have run through his whole
property, principal as well as annual interest, in a single year;
'ducat,' "O. Fr. ducat, 'the coyne termed a ducket, worth
vis. viii d; Cot. — Ital. ducato ... Low Lat. ducatus, a duchy.
So called because, when first coined in the duchy of Apulia
(about A.D. 1140), they bore the legend 'Sit tibi, Christe, datus,
quem tu regis, iste ducatus'" [i.e. let that ducat be given, O
Christ, to you, who are lord of it] (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).
22. a very fool, a thorough, complete fool.
23. Fie, that ... say so. We should say, 'Fie, that you should
24. the viol-de-gamboys. Sir Toby's corruption of 'viol-de-gambo' a fashionable instrument of the time, now called the
violoncello [cello] or base viol; cp. Marston's Malcontent, Induction,
20-4, "Sly. O cousin, come you shall sit between my legs.
Sinklo. No, indeed, cousin; the audience then will take me for
a viol-de-gambo, and think that you play upon me"; gambo
being the Italian for 'leg.' word for word, with the greatest
26. almost natural, with a pun on the word 'natural' in its
ordinary sense, and in that of a fool, idiot; Dyce follows Upton
in reading "he hath indeed all, most natural."
28. the gift of a coward, that with which a coward is gifted,
i.e. cowardice: to allay the gust, to qualify the delight; for
allay, cp. Cor. ii. 1. 53, "a cup of hot wine with not a drop of
allaying Tiber in 't": 'gusto' is the word in modern usage.
31. By this hand, I swear by this hand; a common form of
asseveration: substractors, slanderers, those who take from a
person the reputation which belongs to him: Warburton would
correct the misspelling, which, however, is probably intentional.
35. drinking healths, drinking toasts to the health of, etc.
37. coystrill, "is a paltry groom, one only fit to carry arms,
but not to use them. So in Holinshed's Description of England ... 'Costerels, or bearers of the armes of barons or knights'"
38. turn o' the toe, spin round, become giddy: parish-top.
"A large top was formerly kept in every village, to be whipped
in frosty weather, that the peasants may be kept warm by exercise, and out of mischief, while they could not work"...
39. Castiliano vulgo. What the meaning of this phrase is, if
it had any meaning, has never been satisfactorily explained.
Warburton proposed 'volto' for vulgo, with the sense 'put on a
grave, solemn, expression of face, such as the Spaniards wear,'
which is perhaps borne out by Sir Toby's changing 'Aguecheek'
into 'Agueface,' though Sir Andrew was not a person before
whom any reserve or reticence was necessary.
41. how now ... Belch? How is it with you now? how are you?
43. fair shrew, my fair maiden with the sharp, witty,
tongue. For shrew, from which came the verb shrewen, to
curse, and its past participle, shrewd, malicious, bitter, acute,
see Craik, Eng. of Shakespeare, 186.
44. And you too, sir. The same good wish to you, sir.
46. What's that? What do you mean by 'accost'?
47. My ... chambermaid. Sir Toby of course means that Sir
Andrew is to 'accost,' salute, address himself to, the chambermaid, but Sir Andrew supposes him to say in answer to his question, What's that? that her name is 'Accost.' He accordingly addresses her as Mistress Accost, and when she replies
that her name is Mary, he takes her to mean that he should
have addressed her by her full name, 'Mistress Mary Accost.'
48. I desire ... acquaintance, I hope to know you better; a
phrase which Shakespeare varies in M. N. D. iii. 1. 185, 193,
by "I shall desire you of more acquaintance.
52. front her, face her, attack her in speech, as board her,
(orig. a nautical term for attacking, forcing one's way on board
a ship); used figuratively again in M. W. ii. 1. 92, M. A. ii. 1.
149, and elsewhere.
54. undertake her, venture to attack her in the way you
57. An thou ... again, if you allow her to go off in this way
without attacking her, I hope you may never again have the
chance of drawing your sword (in a duel) in proof of your
59. An you ... again. Sir Andrew thinks he is following Sir
Toby's hint by adopting his words.
60, 1. have ... hand, have to deal with fools. Maria, varying
the phrase, answers, 'No, I have not a fool by the hand, for I
have not you by the hand,' i.e. I am not holding your hand.
Cp. a similar inference in Cymb, ii. 3. 105.
63. Marry, a corruption of 'Mary,' the mother of Christ; a
petty oath, used to avoid the statute against profane swearing:
and here's ... hand, and, in proof of my assertion, I hold out my
hand to you.
64, 5. Now, sir, ... drink. Now, sir, — for, as they say,
'thought is free,' and therefore you need not be vexed at my
freedom of speech, — I beg you to bring, etc. Thought is free, a
proverbial saying; cp. Temp. iii. 2. 132. Holt White quotes
Lyly's Euphues "None (quoth she) can judge of wit but they
that have it; why then (quoth he) doest thou think me a fool?
Thought is free, my Lord, quoth she." buttery-bar: the buttery in cottages, etc., is "a place for provisions, especially
liquors. ... [The principal thing given out at the buttery-bar was (and is) beer; the buttery-bar is a small ledge on the top of
the half-door (or buttery-hatch) on which to rest tankards. But as butter was (and is) also kept in butteries, the word was
easily corrupted into its present form.] It is, however, a corruption of M. E. botelerie i.e. a botlery, or place for bottles. ...
— F. bouteille, a bottle" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.). Maria means that
Sir Andrew's wit needs refreshing.
67. It's dry, sir. A dry hand was supposed to indicate
debility or coldness of nature.
68. Why, ... so. Why, I should hope it was.
70. A dry jest, a foolish jest; cp. L. L. L, v. 2. 373, "This
jest is dry to me."
72, 3. Ay, sir, ... barren, figuratively, ready for immediate
use, but here, as she implies in the next line, she has these
foolish jests at her fingers' ends because she has hold of a
fool's hand: barren, i.e. of invention.
74. thou lackest ... canary, you need a draught of wine to
put spirit into you; canary, a wine imported from the Canary
Islands (sometimes called canary sack), of a hot, inflammatory
75. so put down, so worsted in a combat of wit. Sir Andrew,
echoing the phrase, uses it of being overcome by wine, i.e., made
77, 8. Methinks ... Christian, i.e. than an ordinary person, as
he says immediately afterwards: methinks, i.e. to me it seems,
'thinks' being from the impersonal verb thyncan, to seem. See
Abb. § 297.
78, 9. but I am ... wit. Cp. T. C. ii. 1. 14, "Thou mongrel
beef-witted lord" and H. V. iii. 7. 161, where the constable of
France is sneering at the want of intelligence in English soldiers
as contrasted with their courage.
80. No question, Without question, doubtless.
83. Pourqui, French for 'for what, why?'
85. in the tongues, in learning foreign languages. Note that
Sir Toby's boast, 1. 24, of his friend's knowledge of foreign
languages is ludicrously exposed on his first appearance.
86. bear-baiting, the worrying of bears with dogs, a favourite
pastime with the English both before and after Shakespeare's
day, and one to which he makes frequent reference; the arts,
the liberal arts, accomplishments.
87. Then ... hair, then you would have had, etc. Crosby,
quoted by Rolfe, points out the pun here upon 'tongues' and
'tongs' (i.e. curling tongs for the hair).
89, 90. curl by nature, Theobald's emendation for 'cool my nature': Sir Toby, in his answer, is contrasting 'nature' and
'art' in a sense different to that in which Sir Andrew uses the
91. becomes me, suits me.
92. it hangs ... distaff, i.e. quite straight, excellent being
93. I'll home, I will return home.
94. will not be seen, refuses to be seen, will not admit me to
94, 5. it's four ... one, the odds are four to one (i.e. very great) against her having anything to do with me in the way of
marriage: hard by, close at hand; a near neighbour, and therefore having many opportunities for making love to her.
Tut, ... in't, pooh, nonsense, there is no reason for your
giving up your attempt to win her; the project is one with
plenty of vitality in it, one not about "to sicken and so die,"
Wright compares Lear, iv. 6. 206, A. C. iii. 13. 192.
99. I'll stay ... longer. "The abrupt way in which Sir Andrew
alters his determination has a most comic effect; appearing to be
totally without ground for change; but Shakespeare has allowed
us to get a glimpse of the flabby gentleman's motive through his
confused speech, by making him allude to 'masques and revels';
which he evidently intended to resort to as a means of displaying
his devotion to Olivia" (C. Clarke).
102. kickshawses, 'kickshaws,' is a corruption of the French
quelque chose, something, hence a trifle, small delicacy; the
word is pluralized by Sir Andrew in the same way as in
Cymb. V. 4. 14, the gaoler speaks of 'gallowses' for 'gallows,'
though "gallowses" is used by Webster, The White Devil (p. 16,
ed. Dyce), as though it were the regular plural.
103, 4. under ... betters, provided he is not my superior in rank.
104, 5. and yet ... man, and further I will not set myself in
comparison with an old man; the former comparison, with his
betters, he declines on account of his reverence for them, the
latter comparison with old men, because he feels his superiority
to them. Warburton sees here a satire on the vanity of old men;
Steevens thinks the expression is equivalent to Falstaff's boast,
"I am old in nothing but understanding," ii. H. IV. i. 2. 215.
106. a galliard, "a quick and lively dance, 'with lofty tumes
and caprioles in the ayre,' Sir John Davies, Orchestra, etc., st.
68" (Dyce): cp. Heywood, An Humorous Day's Mirth, 1599, "I
fetcht me two or three fine capers aloft, and took my leave of
them as men do of their mistresses at the ending of a galliard."
The word was in very common use.
107. cut a caper, what Heywood calls 'fetching' a caper,
jumping high into the air; but here punned upon in Sir Toby's
answer, 'caper-sauce' being used with boiled mutton.
109. the back-trick, the caper backwards in retiring, as
exemplified in the quotation from Heywood above: simply as
strong, absolutely in as high a degree of perfection; strong,
adverbially, as in J. C. iv. 3. 67, "I am armed so strong in
111, 2. Wherefore ... 'em? why do you conceal these gifts, not let them be publicly known? Curtains before pictures of value
were common in former days. In i. 5. 251, below, Olivia,
removing the veil she wore, says, "but we will draw the curtain
and show you the picture"; cp. M. A. ii. 1. 126-9.
112, 3. are they ... picture? are they likely to spoil by exposure, as a picture, if uncovered, gets spoilt by taking up, catching, the dust: Mistress Mall, or Moll Cutpurse, a disreputable
woman of the time whose exploits are dramatized in Dekker's
Roaring Girl. Her real name was Mary Frith. The reference
here may be to her, as most commentators suppose. Dyce, however, queries: — "After all, can it be that 'Mistress Mall's picture' means merely a lady's picture? ...
114. coranto, or caranto, a lively and rapid dance. Marston,
The Fawn, ii. 1. 400, speaks of running a caranto, leaping a
levalto, or lavolta.
114, 5. My very ... jig, even my walk, i.e. my most sober
movement, shall be a jig, which was a quick, merry, dance.
115, 6. Is it ... in? Is this a kind of world in which one should
hide one's virtues? a question of appeal, = the world we live in is not one which appreciates such modesty.
117. it was ... galllard. A reference to the belief then so
common that a man's disposition was affected by the star which
was in the ascendant at the time of his birth; see Lear, i. 2. 128
et seqq., where Edmund ridicules the notion.
118, 9. it does ... stock, it shows fairly well, etc.; indifferent,
adverbially, is frequent in Shakespeare; here of course Sir
Andrew uses the word with mock modesty. Stockings were
formerly called 'stocks'; for the history of the word see Skeat,
Ety. Dict.: set about, set about getting up some, etc.
122. Taurus! ... heart. In the medical astrology of former
days the various parts and organs of the body were supposed to
be affected by the constellations, Taurus having influence upon
the neck and throat, not the sides and heart, or the legs and
thighs, as Sir Andrew and Sir Toby respectively think.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night Or What You Will. Ed. Kenneth Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1889. Shakespeare Online. 20 Dec. 2010. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/twn_1_3.html >
Did You Know? ... In Elizabethan England, during the times when plays were not completely outlawed, going to the theatre was the favourite activity of the masses. When disease ravaged London, actors would travel across the English countryside, entertaining farmers. There were also many days devoted to feasting, such as Mad Day, Midsummer Day, and Ascension Day (just to name a few), when people would drink and make merry. Read on...