home contact

Twelfth Night

Please see the bottom of the page for full explanatory notes and helpful resources.

[Enter VIOLA, and Clown with a tabour]
VIOLASave thee, friend, and thy music: dost thou live by
thy tabour?
ClownNo, sir, I live by the church.
VIOLAArt thou a churchman?
ClownNo such matter, sir: I do live by the church; for
I do live at my house, and my house doth stand by
the church.
VIOLASo thou mayst say, the king lies by a beggar, if a
beggar dwell near him; or, the church stands by thy
tabour, if thy tabour stand by the church.9
ClownYou have said, sir. To see this age! A sentence is
but a cheveril glove to a good wit: how quickly the
wrong side may be turned outward!
VIOLANay, that's certain; they that dally nicely with
words may quickly make them wanton.
ClownI would, therefore, my sister had had no name, sir.
VIOLAWhy, man?
ClownWhy, sir, her name's a word; and to dally with that
word might make my sister wanton. But indeed words
are very rascals since bonds disgraced them.
VIOLAThy reason, man?
ClownTroth, sir, I can yield you none without words; and
words are grown so false, I am loath to prove
reason with them.20
VIOLAI warrant thou art a merry fellow and carest for nothing.
ClownNot so, sir, I do care for something; but in my
conscience, sir, I do not care for you: if that be
to care for nothing, sir, I would it would make you invisible.
VIOLAArt not thou the Lady Olivia's fool?
ClownNo, indeed, sir; the Lady Olivia has no folly: she
will keep no fool, sir, till she be married; and
fools are as like husbands as pilchards are to
herrings; the husband's the bigger: I am indeed not
her fool, but her corrupter of words.
VIOLAI saw thee late at the Count Orsino's.31
ClownFoolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun,
it shines every where. I would be sorry, sir, but
the fool should be as oft with your master as with
my mistress: I think I saw your wisdom there.
VIOLANay, an thou pass upon me, I'll no more with thee.
Hold, there's expenses for thee.
ClownNow Jove, in his next commodity of hair, send thee a beard!
VIOLABy my troth, I'll tell thee, I am almost sick for
though I would not have it grow on my chin. Is thy42
lady within?
ClownWould not a pair of these have bred, sir?
VIOLAYes, being kept together and put to use.
ClownI would play Lord Pandarus of Phrygia, sir, to bring
a Cressida to this Troilus.
VIOLAI understand you, sir; 'tis well begged.
ClownThe matter, I hope, is not great, sir, begging but
a beggar: Cressida was a beggar. My lady is
within, sir. I will construe to them whence you
come; who you are and what you would are out of my
welkin, I might say 'element,' but the word is over-worn.
VIOLAThis fellow is wise enough to play the fool;53
And to do that well craves a kind of wit:
He must observe their mood on whom he jests,
The quality of persons, and the time,
And, like the haggard, cheque at every feather
That comes before his eye. This is a practise
As full of labour as a wise man's art
For folly that he wisely shows is fit;
But wise men, folly-fall'n, quite taint their wit.60
SIR TOBY BELCHSave you, gentleman.
VIOLAAnd you, sir.
SIR ANDREWDieu vous garde, monsieur.
VIOLAEt vous aussi; votre serviteur.

SIR ANDREWI hope, sir, you are; and I am yours.
SIR TOBY BELCHWill you encounter the house? my niece is desirous
you should enter, if your trade be to her.
VIOLAI am bound to your niece, sir; I mean, she is the
list of my voyage.70
SIR TOBY BELCHTaste your legs, sir; put them to motion.
VIOLAMy legs do better understand me, sir, than I
understand what you mean by bidding me taste my legs.
SIR TOBY BELCHI mean, to go, sir, to enter.
VIOLAI will answer you with gait and entrance. But we
are prevented.
[Enter OLIVIA and MARIA]
Most excellent accomplished lady, the heavens rain
odours on you!
SIR ANDREWThat youth's a rare courtier: 'Rain odours;' well.80
VIOLAMy matter hath no voice, to your own most pregnant
and vouchsafed ear.
SIR ANDREW'Odours,' 'pregnant' and 'vouchsafed:' I'll get 'em
all three all ready.
OLIVIALet the garden door be shut, and leave me to my hearing.
Give me your hand, sir.
VIOLAMy duty, madam, and most humble service.
OLIVIAWhat is your name?
VIOLACesario is your servant's name, fair princess.90
OLIVIAMy servant, sir! 'Twas never merry world
Since lowly feigning was call'd compliment:
You're servant to the Count Orsino, youth.
VIOLAAnd he is yours, and his must needs be yours:
Your servant's servant is your servant, madam.
OLIVIAFor him, I think not on him: for his thoughts,
Would they were blanks, rather than fill'd with me!
VIOLAMadam, I come to whet your gentle thoughts
On his behalf.
OLIVIAO, by your leave, I pray you,
I bade you never speak again of him:100
But, would you undertake another suit,
I had rather hear you to solicit that
Than music from the spheres.
VIOLADear lady,--
OLIVIAGive me leave, beseech you. I did send,
After the last enchantment you did here,
A ring in chase of you: so did I abuse
Myself, my servant and, I fear me, you:
Under your hard construction must I sit,
To force that on you, in a shameful cunning,
Which you knew none of yours: what might you think?110
Have you not set mine honour at the stake
And baited it with all the unmuzzled thoughts
That tyrannous heart can think? To one of your receiving
Enough is shown: a cypress, not a bosom,
Hideth my heart. So, let me hear you speak.
VIOLAI pity you.
OLIVIAThat's a degree to love.
VIOLANo, not a grize; for 'tis a vulgar proof,
That very oft we pity enemies.
OLIVIAWhy, then, methinks 'tis time to smile again.
O, world, how apt the poor are to be proud!120
If one should be a prey, how much the better
To fall before the lion than the wolf!
[Clock strikes]
The clock upbraids me with the waste of time.
Be not afraid, good youth, I will not have you:
And yet, when wit and youth is come to harvest,
Your were is alike to reap a proper man:
There lies your way, due west.
VIOLAThen westward-ho! Grace and good disposition
Attend your ladyship!
You'll nothing, madam, to my lord by me?130
I prithee, tell me what thou thinkest of me.
VIOLAThat you do think you are not what you are.
OLIVIAIf I think so, I think the same of you.
VIOLAThen think you right: I am not what I am.
OLIVIAI would you were as I would have you be!
VIOLAWould it be better, madam, than I am?
I wish it might, for now I am your fool.
OLIVIAO, what a deal of scorn looks beautiful
In the contempt and anger of his lip!140
A murderous guilt shows not itself more soon
Than love that would seem hid: love's night is noon.
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.150
VIOLABy innocence I swear, and by my youth
I have one heart, one bosom and one truth,
And that no woman has; nor never none
Shall mistress be of it, save I alone.
And so adieu, good madam: never more
Will I my master's tears to you deplore.
OLIVIAYet come again; for thou perhaps mayst move
That heart, which now abhors, to like his love.

Next: Twelfth Night, Act 3, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 3, Scene 1

From Twelfth Night Or What You Will. Ed. Kenneth Deighton. London: Macmillan.

1. Save thee, God save thee, of which the Fr. equivalent is used 1. 64 below.

1, 2. live ..tabor? get your living by playing the tabor, or tambourine, a kind of small drum used at festivities; cp. M. A. ii. 3. 15, "I have known when there was no music with him but the drum and the fife (i.e. when he cared for none but martial music), and now had he rather hear the tabor and the pipe (i.e. music for the dance)."

3. by the church, near the church; for a similar equivoque, cp. Oth. iii. 4. 1-6.

4. a Churchman, an ecclesiastic.

5. No such matter, not at all, nothing of the kind.

10. You have said, sir, you are quite right. To see ... age! to think of the wonderful cleverness of the people of this age!

10-2. A sentence ... outward. A clever fellow will as quickly turn a sentence upside-down as one can turn a kid glove inside-out. cheveril, from Fr. chevreau, kid; cp. R. J. ii. 4. 87, "Here's a wit of cheveril, that stretches from an inch narrow to an ell broad"; H. VIII. ii. 3. 32, "your soft cheveril conscience."

13. dally nicely, play ingeniously.

15, 6. since bonds ... them. A play upon the words in the sense of (1) since they have been disgraced by being put into bonds (into confinement) and (2) since they were used in money bonds. Hudson sees here an allusion to an order issued by the Privy Council in June, 1600, which laid very severe restrictions upon stage performances, but this is a very forced meaning to put upon the words.

19. to prove reason, to establish the reasonableness of what I say.

21, 2. carest for nothing, have no cares of any kind.

24. I do not ... you, I do not like you; playing on the phrase care for.

24, 5. If that he ... invisible, if my not caring for you be equivalent to caring for nothing, I should be glad if it (my not caring for you) would induce you to take yourself off, make yourself as invisible as 'nothing' is.

29. pilchards, a small sea fish, resembling the sprat; spelled also 'pilcher,' as by Beaumont and Fletcher and by Middleton.

32. the orb, this orb of the earth.

33-5. I would be ... there, I should be sorry if the fool were not as often with your master as with my mistress, for I think I saw your wisdom (i.e. you who lay claim to so much wisdom) with him (and wisdom should be counteracted, corrected, by folly). For a somewhat subtle explanation of would here, see Abb. § 331; for but, § 124. your wisdom, cp. A. C. i. 2. 20, "Vex not his prescience," i.e. this prescient one, said sarcastically of the sooth-sayer.

36. an thou ... me, if you are going to cut jokes at my expense; the metaphor is from fencing, in which science a 'pass' is a thrust; cp. Temp. iv. 1. 244, "an excellent pass of pate," i.e. a clever thrust of wit.

37. there's expenses for thee, here, there is money for you to spend; accept this douceur from me.

38, 9. in his ... hair, when next he supplies men with hair, sends out a consignment of hair; as though Jove were a tradesman and men his customers; cp. i. H. IV. i. 2. 93, "I would to God I knew where a commodity of good names were to be bought."

40. I am ... one, sick from desire of one; but meaning, as she adds, not one to grow on her chin, but him who wears a beard, i.e. her master, Orsino.

43. Would not ... sir? Would not a pair of these coins have produced more? Cp. M. V. i. 3. 97, "Ant. Or is your gold and silver ewes and rams? Shy. I cannot tell; I make it breed as fast."

44. put to use, put out to interest; cp. M. A. ii. l. 288, "Indeed, my lord, he lent it me awhile; and I gave him use for it, a double heart for his single one"; V. A. 768, "gold that's put to use more gold begets."

45. I would ... Phrygia, I would act as a go-between; as Pandarus of Troy is represented in the mediaeval romances as acting between Troilus and Cressida.

47. 'tis well begged, you have made your petition very cleverly.

48, 9. The matter ... beggar, it is nothing very great that I have begged, for in begging for a Cressida to unite with this Troilus, I have but begged a beggar, for Cressida was but a beggar; in the abovementioned romances she is represented in her later days as having fallen into extreme poverty.

50. construe to them, explain to them.

51, 2. are out ... over-worn, are out of my sphere, I might say out of my 'element,' but the word has been worn to tatters by constant use; welkin, the regions of the clouds, "- A. S. wolcnu, clouds, pl. of wolcen, a cloud ... Of uncertain origin." ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.). Of course while satirizing the fantastic use of 'element,' the Clown, in 'welkin,' uses a still more fantastic word.

54. craves, needs, lit. begs.

55. He must, i.e. he who plays the fool: their mood on whom, the mood, temper, of those at whom he aims his jests.

57. Not, like ... eye. The Folio reads "And, like," etc., for which the majority of mod. edd. have adopted Johnson's conjecture, 'Not, like,' etc., Not, like an untramed hawk, swoop at every bird that comes in its way: haggard, "a wild, untrained hawk ('Faulcon hagard. A Hagard; a Falcon that preyed for herself long before she was taken, Cotgrave's Fr. and Eng. Dict.')" (Dyce, Gloss.). For check at, see note on ii. 5. 104.

58, 9. This is ... art, to know when and where to give vent to his jests, the proper seasons, and the right persons at whom to aim his witticisms, requires as much study as a wise man's art.

60. For folly ... fit, for the folly of such a fool, i.e. of one who knows when and where, etc., is fitting folly.

61. But wise ... wit. But wise men, when they betake themselves to folly, to fooling, cause their reputation for wisdom to be quite tainted, to lose its good savour.

64. Dieu ... monsieur, God keep, protect, you.

65. Et vous ... serviteur, and you also; your humble servant.

67. Will you ... house, probably in ridicule of the fantastic jargon of the euphuists, further imitated in "she is in the list of my voyage," "taste your legs," "pregnant and vouchsafed ear."

68. if your ... her, if your business be with her; but with a reference to trading with a foreign country; cp. Haml, iii. 2. 346, "Have you any further trade with us?"

69, 70. I am ... voyage, the port for which I am bound is your niece's house, that is the limit, goal, of my voyage; list is lit. a stripe or border of cloth, which latter word is used by Marlowe, Ovid's Elegies, Bk. i., xi. 2, in the same sense, "whose cunning hath no border"; cp. Oth. v. 2. 268, "here is my butt And very sea-mark of my utmost sail."

71. Taste your legs, make experiment of; 'taste' was formerly used of handling, using, as well as of touching with the palate, but Sir Toby is only carrying on his affected language.

72. do better understand me, with a play upon the word in the sense of 'support.'

75. I will ... entrance, I will answer you, meet your wishes, by going and entering; imitating Sir Toby's affectation of language: gait, though really derived from the verb to 'get,' was popularly connected with the verb to 'go.'

75, 6. we are prevented, my intention of going is anticipated, i.e. by the entrance of Olivia; cp. Haml. ii. 2. 305, "So shall my anticipation prevent your discovery"; J. C. v. 1. 105.

81, 2. My matter ... ear, my business, that with which I am charged, can be spoken only in your own most receptive and vouchsafing ear; can be told only to you if, as you have hitherto shown yourself, you are graciously pleased to hear it: pregnant, ready to listen, quick at taking in: for vouchsafed, = vouchsafing, cp, Cymb. v. 4. 102, "to make my gift, The more delayed, delighted."

83, 4. I'll get ... ready, I will get all these phrases by heart and have them ready for use when an opportunity offers.

85. to my hearing, to hear alone the message that has been sent me.

88. My duty ... service, i.e. I pay you my, etc., said as she gives her hand.

91. My servant, sir? used by Olivia in the sense in which the word was employed as a term of gallantry by suitors speaking of themselves to the ladies whose love they sought, and also by ladies in addressing those suitors.

91, 2. 'Twas never ... compliment; the world has never gone well since the pretence of humility was used in the place of courtesy; for compliment, cp. W. T. i. 2. 371, "even now I met him With customary compliment": for the omission of the article, see Abb. § 84.

96. For him, as for him, as regards him.

96, 7. for his ... me! as for his thoughts I would they were as a sheet of paper on which nothing has been written, rather than that they should be written over with me, filled from top to bottom of the page with me.

98. to whet, to sharpen, and so excite, stimulate; cp. Haml. iii. 4. lll, "to whet my almost blunted purposes."

99. by your leave, if you will pardon my saying so.

101. would you ... suit, if you were willing to urge another petition.

102. I had ... that, I would more gladly listen to your prayers in that matter; for hear you to, see Abb. Â § 349.

103. Than ... spheres, an allusion to the Pythagorean belief that the stars in their revolution produced a heavenly music; cp. M. V. V. 1. 58-62, "Look now the floor of heaven Is thick inlaid with patines of bright sold: There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st But in his motion like an angel sings, still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins"; A. C. v. 2. 84, "his voice was propertied As all the tuned spheres."

104. beseech you, i.e. I beseech you; as very frequently in Shakespeare.

105. After ... here, after the last occasion on which you exercised your magical influence over me; for did in its original sense of 'caused,' 'made,' see Abb. § 303.

108. in chase, in pursuit of you, after you: so I did abuse, and in doins so I misused, did a wrong to; me, dat. reflexively, for 'myself.'

108-10. Under ... yours, you must, I fear, have put a harsh construction upon my act in forcing upon your acceptance, by an unworthy trick, that which you knew did not belong to you; to force, for this gerundive use of the infinitive, see Abb. § 356.

110. what ... think? what could you think? might, the past tense indicative of may; see Abb. § 312.

111-3. Have you ... think? Have you not (i.e. I am sure you must have) tied my honour to the stake (as a bear is tied when baited by dogs) and hunted it to death with the most unchecked thoughts that a cruel heart could entertain; for the same metaphor, cp. Macb. v. 7. 1, "They have tied me to a stake; I cannot fly, But bear-like I must fight the course": of your receiving, of your ready apprehension, understanding.

114. a cypress ... heart, i.e. my thoughts are plainly visible to you; cypress, crape, a thin, transparent, fabric; see note on ii.4.53.

116. That's ... love, that is some way towards loving me.

117. No, not a grize, no, not even a single step; Lat. gressus, a step; cp. Oth. i. 3. 200, "a sentence, Which, as a grize, may help these lovers Into your favour": 'tis a ... proof, it is a thing commonly proved, a matter of every-day experience.

119. Why, then, ... again. If that is so, if you are so utterly unrelenting, nothing is to be gained by my continuing sorrowful.

120. how apt, how ready; how much addicted to being proud.

121. If one should be, if one is destined to become.

122. To fall ... wolf! to fall a victim to a lion, who would be generous in his anger, rather than to a wolf, who woidd show none of that generosity.

124. I will ... you, I will not marry you.

125. when wit ... harvest, when you grow to man's estate, and are possessed of the intelligence which will then be yours.

126. is like, is likely: to reap, carrying on the metaphor in harvest.

128. Then westward-ho! then for the west! This and "Eastward-ho," were cries used by the watermen plying on the Thames, and have civen names to two comedies, the former by Dekker, the latter by Ben Jonson, Marston and Chapman.

128, 9. Grace ... ladyship! May the grace of heaven and a peaceful mind wait upon your ladyship!

130. you'll nothing ... me? You will not, I suppose, send any message to my lord by me?

133. That you ... are, that you suppose you are not making a mistake in loving me, whereas you really are doing so.

134. I think ... you, i.e. that you are somebody of higher position than you seem to be; not understanding the purport of Viola's words.

135. I am ... am, "I am not the man I seem to be, and I seem not to be the woman I am" (C. Clarke).

136. as I would ... be, as I should wish you to be, i.e. in love with me.

137. Would it ... am? If I were as you would wish me to be should I be something better than I am?

138. your fool, the object of your mockery.

139. 40. O, what ... lip! how well even such scorn as his becomes him when displayed in the contemptuous and angry pouting of his lip! Steevens compares V. A. 70, "Which bred more beauty in his angry eyes."

142. love's night is noon, the greatest secrecy that love can maintain is as open and clear to lookers-on as the noonday.

143. by the roses, I swear by, etc.

144. maidhood, maidenhood, virginity; cp. Oth. i. 1. 173, "youth and maidhood."

145. maugre, in spite of, notwithstanding, your being so proud and stem; Fr. maugre, mal gre; cp. Lear. v. 3. 131; T. A. iv. 2. 110.

146. wit, wisdom, prudence.

147. Do not ... clause, do not endeavour forcibly to release from the sentence in which they are imprisoned reasons which shall seem adeauate to you: clause, apparently is used with reference to its literal sense from Lat. claudere, to shut up, and the metaphor is kept up in fetter, two lines lower: thy reasons, reasons which you desire to find.

148. For that ... cause, seeing that I woo, you have no cause to puzzle about my reasons for loving you; for for that, see Abb. §§ 151, 288.

149. 50. But rather ... better. But instead of endeavouring to, etc., couple together two chains of reasoning, viz., to seek and win love is good, but to win love without seeking is better still.

152. I have ... truth, my heart, my thoughts, and my faith are single, i.e. given to one person only.

153. And that ... has, and that heart, those thoughts, and that faith belong to no woman (they being all given to Orsino): save I alone, except myself; for save, see Abb. § 118.

155. Will I ... deplore, will I come to you to tell you in sorrowful accents of my master's sufferings.

158. which now abhors, sc. his love.

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. < >

More to Explore

 Twelfth Night: The Complete Play with Explanatory Notes
 Types of Shakespearean Comedy
 Exploring the Nature of Shakespearean Comedy
 Shakespeare's Second Period: Exploring Twelfth Night

 Twelfth Night: Plot Summary
 Introduction to Shakespeare's Malvolio
 Introduction to Shakespeare's Feste
 Spiritual Grace: An Examination of Viola from Twelfth Night
 The Comic Relief of Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek

 Introduction to Shakespeare's Olivia
 Introduction to the Duke in Twelfth Night
 Twelfth Night: Q & A
 How to Pronounce the Names in Twelfth Night
 Shakespeare and Music

 Famous Quotations from Twelfth Night
 Shakespeare's Reputation in Elizabethan England
 Shakespeare's Impact on Other Writers
 Why Study Shakespeare?
 Shakespeare's Boss: The Master of Revels

 The Chronology of Shakespeare's Plays
 Establishing the Order of the Plays
 How Many Plays Did Shakespeare Write?
 Shakespeare Timeline

 Words Shakespeare Invented
 Quotations About William Shakespeare
 Portraits of Shakespeare

 Top 10 Shakespeare Plays
 Shakespeare's Metaphors and Similes
 Shakespeare's Blank Verse
 Edward Alleyn (Actor)