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Twelfth Night

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SIR ANDREW No, faith, I'll not stay a jot longer. 
SIR TOBY BELCH Thy reason, dear venom, give thy reason. 
FABIAN You must needs yield your reason, Sir Andrew. 
SIR ANDREW Marry, I saw your niece do more favours to the
 count's serving-man than ever she bestowed upon me; 
 I saw't i' the orchard. 
SIR TOBY BELCH Did she see thee the while, old boy? tell me that. 
SIR ANDREW As plain as I see you now. 
FABIAN This was a great argument of love in her toward you. 10
SIR ANDREW 'Slight, will you make an ass o' me? 
FABIAN I will prove it legitimate, sir, upon the oaths of 
 judgment and reason. 
SIR TOBY BELCH And they have been grand-jury-men since before Noah 
 was a sailor.
FABIAN She did show favour to the youth in your sight only 
 to exasperate you, to awake your dormouse valour, to 
 put fire in your heart and brimstone in your liver.

 You should then have accosted her; and with some 
 excellent jests, fire-new from the mint, you should
 have banged the youth into dumbness. This was 
 looked for at your hand, and this was balked: the 
 double gilt of this opportunity you let time wash 
 off, and you are now sailed into the north of my 
 lady's opinion; where you will hang like an icicle
 on a Dutchman's beard, unless you do redeem it by 
 some laudable attempt either of valour or policy. 26
SIR ANDREW An't be any way, it must be with valour; for policy 
 I hate: I had as lief be a Brownist as a 
SIR TOBY BELCH Why, then, build me thy fortunes upon the basis of 
 valour. Challenge me the count's youth to fight 
 with him; hurt him in eleven places: my niece shall 
 take note of it; and assure thyself, there is no 
 love-broker in the world can more prevail in man's
 commendation with woman than report of valour. 34
FABIAN There is no way but this, Sir Andrew. 
SIR ANDREW Will either of you bear me a challenge to him? 
SIR TOBY BELCH Go, write it in a martial hand; be curst and brief; 
 it is no matter how witty, so it be eloquent and fun
 of invention: taunt him with the licence of ink: 
 if thou thou'st him some thrice, it shall not be 
 amiss; and as many lies as will lie in thy sheet of 
 paper, although the sheet were big enough for the 
 bed of Ware in England, set 'em down: go, about it.
 Let there be gall enough in thy ink, though thou 
 write with a goose-pen, no matter: about it. 44 
SIR ANDREW Where shall I find you? 
SIR TOBY BELCH We'll call thee at the cubiculo: go. 
FABIAN This is a dear manakin to you, Sir Toby.
SIR TOBY BELCH I have been dear to him, lad, some two thousand 
 strong, or so. 
FABIAN We shall have a rare letter from him: but you'll 
 not deliver't? 51
SIR TOBY BELCH Never trust me, then; and by all means stir on the
 youth to an answer. I think oxen and wainropes 
 cannot hale them together. For Andrew, if he were 
 opened, and you find so much blood in his liver as 
 will clog the foot of a flea, I'll eat the rest of 
 the anatomy.
FABIAN And his opposite, the youth, bears in his visage no 
 great presage of cruelty. 
 [Enter MARIA] 
SIR TOBY BELCH Look, where the youngest wren of nine comes. 59
MARIA If you desire the spleen, and will laugh yourself 
 into stitches, follow me. Yond gull Malvolio is
 turned heathen, a very renegado; for there is no 
 Christian, that means to be saved by believing 
 rightly, can ever believe such impossible passages 
 of grossness. He's in yellow stockings. 
SIR TOBY BELCH And cross-gartered?
MARIA Most villanously; like a pedant that keeps a school 
 i' the church. I have dogged him, like his 
 murderer. He does obey every point of the letter 
 that I dropped to betray him: he does smile his 
 face into more lines than is in the new map with the
 augmentation of the Indies: you have not seen such 
 a thing as 'tis. I can hardly forbear hurling things 
 at him. I know my lady will strike him: if she do, 
 he'll smile and take't for a great favour. 73 
SIR TOBY BELCH Come, bring us, bring us where he is.

Next: Twelfth Night, Act 3, Scene 3


Explanatory Notes for Act 3, Scene 2

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

1. a Jot, a tittle; here, the shortest possible time. "Englished from Lat. iota." (Skeat, Ety. Dict).

2. dear venom, my dear angry fellow.

4. do more favours, show more kindnesses, more signs of love.

7. the while, at the time she was showing him more favours; see Abb. § 137.

9. argument, proof, indication; cp. M. A. ii. 3. 243, "it is no addition to her wit, nor no great argument of her folly."

11. 'Slight, see note on ii. 5. 29.

12, 3. I will ... legitimate, I will show that my argument is logical, is a legitimate inference from the premisses: upon ... reason, as established by the asseverations of, etc.

14. grand-jurymen, the office of the grand-jury is to decide whether the evidence in charges brought up at an assize is prima facie such as should justify their coming before a judge and the petty-jury.

17. your dormouse valour, your valour which is so often asleep, inactive; dormouse, "lit. 'dozing-mouse.' The prefix is from a prov. E. dor, to sleep, appearing in dorrer, a sleeper, lazy person (Halliwell), and probably closely related to E. doze" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).

18. liver, as being the supposed seat of passion, especially the passion of love; cp. M. A. iv. 1. 233, "if ever love had interest in his liver."

19. accosted, attacked, addressed; see note on i. 3. 45.

19, 20. fire-new ... mint, freshly-coined, brand-new; cp. R. III. i. 3. 256, "your fire-new stamp of honour"; L. L. L. i. 1. 179, "a man of fire-new words."

20. banged, beaten; figuratively.

21, 2. This was ... hand, this was expected of you by her: and this was balked, and she was disappointed of this; lit., this was barred, hindered; 'balk,' a beam, bar.

22, the double ... opportunity, this doubly-favourable opportunity; articles of plate were often gilt, washed with gold, sometimes singly, sometmies doubly.

23, 4. into the ... opinion, into the coldest quarter, i.e. her feelings towards you are now icily cold; cp. R. III. iv. 4. 484, "Stan. No, my good lord, my friends are in the north. K. Rich. Cold friends to Richard."

25, 6. unless you ... policy, unless by some praiseworthy act of courage, or stroke of policy, you redeem the bad opinion you have given her of yourself.

27. An't ... way, if it is to be done in any way.

28. a Brownist, the Brownists were so called from Robert Browne, a noted separatist, or dissenter, from the Church of England in Elizabeth's reign: a politician, Wright points out that Shakespeare generally uses this word in an unfavourable sense, as denoting a political intriguer or conspirator, and quotes i. H. IV. 1.3. 246, Haml. v. 1. 86, etc. Cp. also The Duchess of Malfi iii. 2, "A politician is the devil's quilted anvil; He fashions all sins on him, and the blows Are never heard."

29. build me, let me see you establish your fortunes, etc.; for me in the dative case, see Abb. § 220.

30. Challenge me, let me see you challenge: to fight, with the purpose of fighting with him.

31. shall take note, will be obliged to notice; for shall, used with the first, second, and third person, see Abb. § 315.

32. no love-broker, nothing which serves to bring man and woman together in the matter of love so efficiently; a 'broker' is a middle-man in transactions of trade; cp. T. C. iii. 2. 211, "brokers-between."

33. in man's commendation, in commending a man to a woman's good opinion.

37. a martial hand, a handwriting that shall look like that of a soldier, a large, bold, handwriting, such as would be in keeping with the "martial stalk" (Haml. i. 1. 6), of a soldier: curst, surly in your style.

38, 9. it is no ... invention, it will not matter how full of witty jests you make it, provided its language is forcible and original. In no matter ... witty, Sir Toby is of course laughing at Sir Andrew's want of wit, there being no fear of his being too witty.

39. taunt ... ink, taunt him with all the freedom that ink will give you scope to do.

39, 40. if thou ... amiss, if you address him as 'thou' some two or three times, it will be as well: thou "towards strangers who were not inferiors was an insult," Abb. § 233. Theobald believed there was an allusion here to the insulting language used by Attorney-General Coke towards Sir W. Raleigh in his trial, "All that he did was by thy instigation, thou viper, for I thou thee, thou traitor!" but the play is known to have been acted in 1601-2, while the trial did not take place till November, 1603.

40, 1. and as ... paper, and do you give him the lie as often as you have room to do so in your sheet of paper.

42. bed of Ware, "This celebrated bed, made of oak richly carved, is still preserved: it measures seven feet six inches in height, ten feet nine inches in length, and ten feet nine inches in width. At what inn in Ware it was kept during Shakespeare's days is uncertain: but, after being for many years at the Saracen's Head, it was sold there by auction in September, 1864, and knocked down at a hundred guineas" (Dyce, Gloss.).

43. go, about it, go, set about it: gall, vegetable gall was one of the main ingredients of ink in Shakespeare's time; cp. Cymb, i. l. 101. Here = bitterness.

43, 4. though thou ... matter, if there be plenty of bitterness in your letter, it will not matter even though you write with a goose-quill; with an allusion to the supposed stupidity of geese.

46. at the cubiculo, at your apartment; cubiculo, ablative case of Latin cubiculum, a bedroom.

47. This is ... you, this is a precious little fellow for you.

48. dear to him, playing upon the word in the sense of 'costly'; I have cost him some two thousand pounds; strong, to the extent, strength, amount, of two, etc.; commonly used in regard to the numbers of an army. Cp. what Sir Andrew says above, ii. 3. 168, 9.

50. We shall ... him, he is sure to produce a wonderful specimen of a letter.

52. Never ... then, never trust me again if I do not, i.e. assuredly I will.

53, 4. I think ... together, I don't believe any force in the world would bring them together in a duel, induce them to fight. Boswell quotes The Loyal Subject of Beaumont and Fletcher, "A coach and four horses cannot draw me from it": wain, waggon; see note on ii. 5. 58.

54. For Andrew, as for Andrew: opened, i.e. his body after death.

54, 5. and you find, and you were to find; find, subjunctive: liver, here as the seat of courage: clog, impede: anatomy, body; used contemptuously.

57. his opposite, his adversary, antagonist.

58. great ... cruelty, great indication of a fierce disposition.

59. youngest wren of nine, a reference to Maria's diminutive size. The wren lays a large number of eggs; and Steevens says, though I do not know upon what authority, that "the last hatched of all birds are usually the smallest and weakest of the whole brood."

60. If you ... spleen, if you wish to have your spleen enlarged by overlaughing yourself; the spleen, though supposed to have to do with passion of various kinds, was especially connected in the belief of former times with the impulse of laughter; cp. M. M. ii. 2. 122, "Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens Would all themselves laugh mortal"; L. L. L. iii. 1. 77, "By virtue, thou enforcest laughter; thy silly thought my spleen.

61. Yond gull, see note on ii. 5. 108.

62. a very renegado, a thorough apostate from the faith in which he was brought up; from Low Lat. renegare, to deny again.

62-4. for there ... grossness, I say heathen and renegade, for he must be so, since not a Christian in the whole world, who expects salvation from holding the true faith, can ever believe such grossly impossible doctrines as Malvolio has embraced in putting faith in the directions of my letter, passages seems to be used in the sense of passages from Scripture laying down principles of conduct, and such ... grossness, to be put for passages of such gross impossibility. For impossible, cp. M. A. ii. 1. 252, "huddling jest upon jest with such impossible conveyance upon me that," etc., where Dyce remarks, "Shakespeare, like other early writers, employs the word impossible with great license; so before in this play [ii. 1. 143], we have impossible slanders"; in M. W. iii. 5 [115], "I will examine impossible places"; T. N. iii. 2. [76], "impossible passages of grossness"; T. C. iii. l. [325], "strive with things impossible."

66. Most villanously, in a most extravagant, outlandish, manner.

66, 7. a school i' the church. "It was not unfrequently the custom for schools to be kept in the parvis or room over the church porch" ..(Wright). Halliwell states that the grammar school at Stratford was at intervals during Shakespeare's time kept in the adjacent Chapel of the Guild. like his murderer, like a man who persistently dogs the steps of one whom he intends to murder.

68. that I ... him, in order to beguile him into the folly he is now displaying.

69. does smile ... lines, by smiling contorts his face into more lines.

70. new map ... Indies, Steevens, who has been generally followed by the commentators, supposed this map to be one engraved for Linschoten's Voyages, but Mr. Coote, in a paper published in the New Shakespeare Society argues that Shakespeare here refers to the map found in some copies of the complete edition of Hakluyt's Voyages (1599-1600), in which the East Indies are given in greater detail than in any previous map.

72. will strike him, will be so angry with him that she will box his ears.

73. take't ... favour, be highly flattered by it as being a mark of familiarity.

74. bring us, conduct us.

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. < >

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