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Twelfth Night

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 [Enter MARIA and Clown] 
MARIA Nay, I prithee, put on this gown and this beard; 
 make him believe thou art Sir Topas the curate: do 
 it quickly; I'll call Sir Toby the whilst. 
Clown Well, I'll put it on, and I will dissemble myself
 in't; and I would I were the first that ever 
 dissembled in such a gown. I am not tall enough to 
 become the function well, nor lean enough to be 
 thought a good student; but to be said an honest man 
 and a good housekeeper goes as fairly as to say a
 careful man and a great scholar. The competitors enter. 10
SIR TOBY BELCH Jove bless thee, master Parson. 
Clown Bonos dies, Sir Toby: for, as the old hermit of 
 Prague, that never saw pen and ink, very wittily

 said to a niece of King Gorboduc, 'That that is is;'
 so I, being Master Parson, am Master Parson; for, 
 what is 'that' but 'that,' and 'is' but 'is'? 
SIR TOBY BELCH To him, Sir Topas. 
Clown What, ho, I say! peace in this prison! 
SIR TOBY BELCH The knave counterfeits well; a good knave.
MALVOLIO [Within] Who calls there? 20
Clown Sir Topas the curate, who comes to visit Malvolio 
 the lunatic. 
MALVOLIO Sir Topas, Sir Topas, good Sir Topas, go to my lady. 
Clown Out, hyperbolical fiend! how vexest thou this man! 
 talkest thou nothing but of ladies?
SIR TOBY BELCH Well said, Master Parson. 
MALVOLIO Sir Topas, never was man thus wronged: good Sir 
 Topas, do not think I am mad: they have laid me 
 here in hideous darkness. 29
Clown Fie, thou dishonest Satan! I call thee by the most
 modest terms; for I am one of those gentle ones 
 that will use the devil himself with courtesy: 
 sayest thou that house is dark? 
MALVOLIO As hell, Sir Topas. 
Clown Why it hath bay windows transparent as barricadoes,
 and the clearstories toward the south north are as 
 lustrous as ebony; and yet complainest thou of 
MALVOLIO I am not mad, Sir Topas: I say to you, this house is dark. 39
Clown Madman, thou errest: I say, there is no darkness
 but ignorance; in which thou art more puzzled than 
 the Egyptians in their fog. 
MALVOLIO I say, this house is as dark as ignorance, though 
 ignorance were as dark as hell; and I say, there 
 was never man thus abused. I am no more mad than you
 are: make the trial of it in any constant question. 
Clown What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning wild fowl? 
MALVOLIO That the soul of our grandam might haply inhabit a bird. 50
Clown What thinkest thou of his opinion? 
MALVOLIO I think nobly of the soul, and no way approve his opinion.
Clown Fare thee well. Remain thou still in darkness: 
 thou shalt hold the opinion of Pythagoras ere I will 
 allow of thy wits, and fear to kill a woodcock, lest 
 thou dispossess the soul of thy grandam. Fare thee well. 
MALVOLIO Sir Topas, Sir Topas!
SIR TOBY BELCH My most exquisite Sir Topas! 
Clown Nay, I am for all waters. 60
MARIA Thou mightst have done this without thy beard and 
 gown: he sees thee not. 
SIR TOBY BELCH To him in thine own voice, and bring me word how
 thou findest him: I would we were well rid of this 
 knavery. If he may be conveniently delivered, I 
 would he were, for I am now so far in offence with 
 my niece that I cannot pursue with any safety this 
 sport to the upshot. Come by and by to my chamber.
Clown [Singing] 
 'Hey, Robin, jolly Robin, 
 Tell me how thy lady does.' 70
Clown 'My lady is unkind, perdy.' 
Clown 'Alas, why is she so?' 
MALVOLIO Fool, I say! 
Clown 'She loves another'-- Who calls, ha? 
MALVOLIO Good fool, as ever thou wilt deserve well at my 
 hand, help me to a candle, and pen, ink and paper:
 as I am a gentleman, I will live to be thankful to 
 thee for't. 
Clown Master Malvolio? 80
MALVOLIO Ay, good fool. 
Clown Alas, sir, how fell you besides your five wits?
MALVOLIO Fool, there was never a man so notoriously abused: I 
 am as well in my wits, fool, as thou art. 
Clown But as well? then you are mad indeed, if you be no 
 better in your wits than a fool. 
MALVOLIO They have here propertied me; keep me in darkness,
 send ministers to me, asses, and do all they can to 
 face me out of my wits. 89
Clown Advise you what you say; the minister is here. 
 Malvolio, Malvolio, thy wits the heavens restore! 
 endeavour thyself to sleep, and leave thy vain
 bibble babble. 
MALVOLIO Sir Topas! 
Clown Maintain no words with him, good fellow. Who, I, 
 sir? not I, sir. God be wi' you, good Sir Topas. 
 Merry, amen. I will, sir, I will.
MALVOLIO Fool, fool, fool, I say! 
Clown Alas, sir, be patient. What say you sir? I am 
 shent for speaking to you. 99
MALVOLIO Good fool, help me to some light and some paper: I 
 tell thee, I am as well in my wits as any man in Illyria.
Clown Well-a-day that you were, sir 
MALVOLIO By this hand, I am. Good fool, some ink, paper and 
 light; and convey what I will set down to my lady: 
 it shall advantage thee more than ever the bearing 
 of letter did.
Clown I will help you to't. But tell me true, are you 
 not mad indeed? or do you but counterfeit? 
MALVOLIO Believe me, I am not; I tell thee true. 
Clown Nay, I'll ne'er believe a madman till I see his 
 brains. I will fetch you light and paper and ink. 111
MALVOLIO Fool, I'll requite it in the highest degree: I 
 prithee, be gone. 
Clown [Singing] 
 I am gone, sir, 
 And anon, sir, 
 I'll be with you again,
 In a trice, 
 Like to the old Vice, 
 Your need to sustain; 
 Who, with dagger of lath, 120
 In his rage and his wrath,
 Cries, ah, ha! to the devil: 
 Like a mad lad, 
 Pare thy nails, dad; 
 Adieu, good man devil. 

Next: Twelfth Night, Act 4, Scene 3


Explanatory Notes for Act 4, Scene 2

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 might use.

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, masks, etc.

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. < >

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