From Twelfth Night Or What You Will. Ed. Kenneth Deighton. London: Macmillan.
2. Sir Topas, 'Sir,' a title formerly given to priests and curates,
was a translation of the Lat. dominus the academical title of
bachelors of arts, still in use. Steevens remarks that the name
Topas is taken from Chaucer's Rime of Sir Thopas, in his notes
on which burlesque Skeat points out that the Lat. topazius is our
precious stone, the topaz, and remarks that the title was an excellent one for "such a gem of a knight." Clarke sees a similar
play upon the word here, and thinks "there is a peculiar propriety in the name here given to the minister who comes to 'visit Malvolio the lunatic,' for, among the alleged properties of
precious stones, it was believed that a topaz possessed the virtue
of curing insanity."
3. the whilst, in the meantime; whilst is 'whiles' (the gen. of
'while,' time, used adverbially like 'needs,' 'twice,' etc.) with added excrescent t after s.
4. dissemble myself, disguise myself; for the sake of the pun
on the word as used immediately afterwards.
6. tall enough, some editors adopt Tyrwhitt's conjecture 'fat,'
but 'tall,' as Staunton points out, is probably used here in the
sense of 'robust,' 'stout,' 'personable'; to become ... will, to
suit the part well, to look like a curate.
7, 8. to be said ... man, to be spoken of as, etc.: for said =
called, see Abb. § 200: goes as fairly, is as complimentary, is as
much to one's credit.
9. The competitors, the confederates; cp. L. L. L. ii. 1. 82, "he and his competitors in oath"; R. III. iv. 4. 506.
12. Bonos dies, according to Schmidt, the Clown's blunder for 'bonus dies'; according to Clarke, Spanish; there seems no reason why it should not be Lat. acc. pl., 'happy days to you.'
12, 3. the old ... Prague. Some editors follow Douce in taking
this seriously of one Jerome of Prague, known as the hermit of
Camaldoli in Tuscany, but, like the niece of Gorbuduc (an ancient
British king), the hermit is probably as much one of the Clown's
creations as Pigrogromitus.
14. 'That that is is.' "This is a very humorous banter of the
rules established in the schools [where the old scholastic philosophy
was taught by the schoolmen] that all reasonings are ex praecognitis et praeconcessis [from premisses before known and admitted], which lay the foundation of every science in these maxims, 'whatsoever is, is'; and 'it is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be'; with much trifling of the like kind" (Warburton).
15. master Parson, 'Sir Priest,' as Viola says above, iii. 4. 298;
see note on 1. 2.
17. To him, go and speak with him.
18. peace ... prison, peace be to this prison and all in it; an
imitation of the blessing invoked by priests on entering a house.
19. The knave, the fellow, used affectionately.
24. Out, ... fiend, addressing the evil spirit by whom he pretends to suppose that Malvolio is possessed; out, fie upon you; hyperbolical, that exaggerates, fills Malvolio's mind with preposterous ideas.
30, 1. most modest, most moderate, not half as harsh as I
31, 2. that will use, for this use of will, implying purpose, see
Abb. § 319: that house is dark, see note on iii. 4. 124.
35. bay windows, windows with a bay, recess; the same word
as 'bay' an inlet to the sea; what we now call 'bow windows.'
36. clearstories, a term in Gothic architecture for an upper
story or row of windows in a church, hall, etc. Halliwell, Dict.
of Arch. and Prov. Words, quotes Holmes that clearstory windows
are those which have "no transum or crosspiece in the middle of
them to break the same into two lights." Schmidt, referring to
this explanation, funnily says, "But the poet would hardly speak
of windows lustrous as ebony," as though the Clown's speech
were not merry irony throughout!
41, 2. the Egyptians ... fog, the ninth of the plagues sent by God
upon the Egyptians for refusing to let the Israelites depart out
of their land; see Exodus x. 21, 2, "And the Lord said unto Moses,
stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there
was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days."
45. abused, ill-treated.
45, 6. make the ... question, test it by any logical question
requiring a logical answer; Shakespeare elsewhere uses 'make
trial,' or 'make a trial,' and 'make the trial' here probably
means the neceaaary trial, as 'to die the death,' is used by him for
the death ordained by judicial sentence.
47. the opinion of Pythagoras, referring to the belief in the
transmigration of souls held by the Greek philosopher; cp. A. Y. L. iii. 2. 187, "I was never so berhymed since Pythagoras' time, when I was an Irish rat."
55, 6. ere I ... wits, before I will admit of your sanity.
56. a woodcock, hinting pretty plainly that Malvolio's grandmother was a fool; see note on li. 5. 76: dispossess, sc. of its habitation, the body of the woodcock.
60. I am ... waters, I can play any character, turn my hand to
anything; a metaphor prooably from 'a craft for all seas,' though various other sources have been suggested, e.g, that waters refers to the strong waters (spirits) sold at taverns; that the phrase is an adaptation of the Italian proverb, 'Tu hai mantillo da ogni acqua,' you have a cloak for every water, for every
knavery; that there is a reference to the 'water' of a jewel, in
allusion to the name of Topas which he has taken; or to the qualifications of a well trained spaniel.
63. To him ... voice, go to him again and speak to him in your
own voice, not the counterfeited voice of the curate.
64, 5. I would ... knavery. I should be glad if we could get
well out of, put an end to, this plot of ours.
65, 7. If he may ... upshot; if we could manage to set him free
in some way that would prevent any fuss, I should be glad of it; for I am at present in such bad odour with my niece that I am afraid to follow the plot up to its legitimate conclusion, lest she should turn me out of her house. Wright says that the upshot was the decisive shot, a term of archery, as the 'up-cast,' or final throw, in the game of bowls: for may, see Abb. § 307, and for the irregular sequence of tenses in would, § 379.
68. by and by, in a short time.
69. Hey, Robin, etc., from an old ballad printed in Percy's
Reliques of Ancient English Poetry.
72. perdy, Fr. par Dieu, by God: the Clown goes on singing
and pretends that he does not hear Malvolio's voice.
77. as ever, according as you would ever, if ever you would; for the omission of 'so' after as, see Abb. § 275.
78. as ... gentleman, on my faith, or honour, as a gentleman.
"In 'I will live to be thankful to thee for 't,' the will refers, not
to live, but to live-to-be-thankful, and the sentence means, 'I
purpose in my future life to prove my thankfulness'" (Abb. § 319).
82. besides ... wits, out of your senses; on the side of, and so
not in, one's right mind; besides is properly an adverb, 'beside,'
a preposition. The five wits, on the analogy of the five senses,
were common, wit, imagination, fantasy, estmiation, and memory.
85. But as well? only as well?
87. propertied me, used me as a property, as something without any will of my own; cp. K. J. v. 2. 79, "I am too high born to be propertied, To be a secondary at control"; probably
there is an allusion to the properties of a theatre, the dresses,
88, 9. to face ...wits, to outface me with the impudent
assertion that I was out of my wits; cp. v. 1. 82.
90. Advise ... say, take care what you say; be prudent as to
what you say; see Abb. § 296.
91. Malvolio ... restore! May God restore you to your senses!
Here the Clown imitates the Curate's voice: endeavour ... sleep,
try to bring yourself to go to sleep; a reflexive use of the verb;
see Abb. § 296.
92. thy vain bibble babble, your idle meaningless talk; cp.
Fluellen's "tiddle taddle," i.e. tittle-tattle, H. V. iv. 1. 76, and
Evans' "pribbles and prabbles," M. W. i. 1. 56, v. 5. 168.
Marston, The Dutch Courtezan, v. 3. 88, 9, speaks of "your
prittles and your prattles, your bibbles and your babbles."
94. Maintain ... fellow, the Clown again imitating the Curate's
voice, bids himself not to address Malvolio, and then in his own
voice answers the imaginary Curate, Who, I, sir? not I, sir, i.e.
do you mean me, sir? I am not thinking of speaking to him.
Marry, amen, the answer which the Curate is supposed to give to
the Clown's good wish.
96. I will ... will, said in the Clown's own voice as if in answer
to some directions of the Curate.
99. shent, reproved, by the imaginary Curate.
102. Well-a-day ... were, alas, I only wish you were; well-a-day, an exclamation of sorrow, is a corruption of 'well away,' which again is a corruption of the A.S. walawa i.e. woe! lo! woe!
107, 8. are you ... counterfeit? Johnson would omit not,
Malone would change or into 'and'; but the meaning seems
clear enough, 'are you really not mad? is it that you have merely
been pretending to be so?'
117. In a trice, in an instant, from "Span, tris, noise made by
the breaking of glass ... Wedgwood well compares the Lowland
Scotch in a crack ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).
118. the old Vice, in the old Moralities, or plays exhibiting the
various moral qualities, the Vice or fool was represented as belabouring the devil with his wooden sword and offering to cut his long claws; cp. H. V. iv. 4. 74-7, "Bardolph and Nym had
ten times more valour than this roaring devil i' the old play,
that every one may pare his nails with a wooden dagger."
125. good man devil, most mod. edd. adopt Rowe's correction
of 'Drivel' for devil, making the words apply to Malvolio.
Malone, who retains the old reading, seems to be right in
supposing the last couplet to be a quotation of the words of the
Vice and to be primarily addressed, as are the words ah, ha! to
the devil; and in an old ballad like this there would be nothing
unusual in making 'devil' rhyme with 'devil.' Monck Mason
would read 'good mean-evil,' taking the latter word as a literal
translation of Malvolio. For good man, used in a contemptuously
familiar way, cp. R. J. i. 6. 79; Lear, ii. 4. 48.
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_4_2.html >
Did You Know ...Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing and As You Like It are often referred to as Shakespeare's mature comedies, all likely penned between 1595 and 1601. But then, very suddenly, Shakespeare lost all interest in comedy and immersed himself in tragedy. Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear would soon follow. But why?