57 Twelfth Night: Act 4

William Shakespeare

Twelfth Night (Modern). Internet Shakespeare Editions. University of Victoria. Editors: David Carnegie and Mark Houlahan.

Scene 1

Enter Sebastian and Clown [following].[1]

1920Will you make me believe that I am not sent for you?

Go to, go to, thou art a foolish fellow,
Let me be clear of thee.

Well held out[2] i’faith! No, I do not know you, nor I am not sent to you by my
1925lady, to bid you come speak with her; nor your name is not Master Cesario;
nor this is not my nose neither. Nothing that is so, is so.

I prithee vent[3] thy folly somewhere else,
Thou know’st not me.

1930Vent my folly! [To the audience] He has heard that word of some great man,
and now applies it to a fool. Vent my folly! I am afraid this great lubber the
world will prove a cockney.[4] [To Sebastian] I prithee now, ungird thy
strangeness,[5] and tell me what I shall vent to my lady. Shall I vent to her that
thou art coming?

I prithee, foolish Greek,[6] depart from me. [Giving a coin]
There’s money for thee; If you tarry longer,
[Threatening a blow] I shall give worse payment.[7]

By my troth, thou hast an open hand.[8] [To the audience] These wise men that
1940give fools money get themselves a good report–after fourteen years’
Enter Sir Andrew, Sir Toby, and Fabian.

Sir Andrew
Now, sir, have I met you again? There’s for you!
[He strikes Sebastian.]

Why, there’s for thee, and there, and there!
[He beats Sir Andrew with the handle of his dagger.][10]
[To the audience] Are all the people mad?

1945Sir Toby
[Seizing Sebastian] Hold, sir, or I’ll throw your dagger o’er the house.

[To the audience] This will I tell my lady straight;[11] [To them] I would not be
in some of your coats for twopence.

Sir Toby
Come on, sir, hold!

Sir Andrew
1950Nay, let him alone. I’ll go another way to work[12] with him: I’ll have an action
of battery[13] against him, if there be any law in Illyria. Though I struck him
first, yet it’s no matter for that.

[To Sir Toby] Let go thy hand!

Sir Toby
1955Come, sir, I will not let you go. Come, my young soldier, put up your iron.[14]
You are well fleshed.[15] Come on!

I will be free from thee. [He breaks free and draws his sword.] What
wouldst thou now?
If thou dar’st tempt[16] me further, draw thy sword.

Sir Toby
1960[Drawing] What, what! Nay then, I must have an ounce or two of this
malapert[17] blood from you.
Enter Olivia.[18]

Hold, Toby! On thy life I charge thee, hold!

Sir Toby

Will it be ever thus? Ungracious wretch,
1965Fit for the mountains and the barbarous caves,
Where manners ne’er were preached! Out of my sight!
[To Sebastian] Be not offended, dear Cesario.
[To Sir Toby] Rudesby,[20] be gone! [Exeunt Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Fabian.]
[To Sebastian]
I prithee, gentle friend,
Let thy fair wisdom, not thy passion, sway[21]
1970In this uncivil[22] and unjust extent[23]
Against thy peace. Go with me to my house,
And hear thou there how many fruitless pranks
This ruffian hath botched up,[24] that thou thereby
Mayst smile at this. Thou shalt not choose but go;
1975Do not deny.[25] Beshrew his soul for me,[26]
He started one poor heart[27] of mine in thee.[28]

[To the audience] What relish[29] is in this? How runs the stream?
Or I am mad, or[30] else this is a dream.
Let fancy still my sense in Lethe steep;[31]
1980If it be thus to dream, still let me sleep!

Nay, come, I prithee; would thou’dst be ruled[32] by me!

Madam, I will.

O say so, and so be[33]. Exeunt.

Scene 2

1985Enter Maria [carrying a minister’s gown and a false beard,] and Clown.

Nay, I prithee put on this gown, and this beard;[34] make him believe thou art
Sir Topaz[35] the curate.[36] Do it quickly.[37] I’ll call Sir Toby the whilst.[38]

1990[To the audience] Well, I’ll put it on, and I will dissemble myself[39] in’t, and I
would I were the first that ever dissembled in such a gown.[40] I am not tall[41]
enough to become the function well, nor lean enough to be thought a good
student;[42] but to be said[43] an honest[44] man and a good housekeeper[45] goes as fairly
1995as to say a careful[46] man and a great scholar.
Enter Sir Toby [and Maria].
1995.1The competitors[47] enter.

Sir Toby
Jove[48] bless thee, Master Parson.

Bonos dies,[49] Sir Toby: for as the old hermit of Prague,[50] that never saw pen and
2000ink,[51] very wittily said to a niece of King Gorboduc,[52] “That that is, is”;[53] so I,
being Master Parson, am Master Parson; for what is “that” but “that,” and
“is” but “is”?

Sir Toby
To him, Sir Topaz!

[In the voice of Sir Topaz] What ho, I say. Peace in this prison.[54]

Sir Toby
[To the audience or Maria] The knave counterfeits well: a good knave.
2005Malvolio within.[55]

[Within] Who calls there?

Sir Topaz the curate, who comes to visit Malvolio the lunatic.

2010[Within] Sir Topaz, Sir Topaz, good Sir Topaz, go to my lady.

Out, hyperbolical fiend![56] How vexest thou this man! Talkest thou nothing but
of ladies?

Sir Toby
[Aside to Clown] Well said, Master Parson!

2015[Within] Sir Topaz, never was man thus wronged. Good Sir Topaz, do not
think I am mad: they have laid me here in hideous darkness.

Fie, thou dishonest[57] Satan! I call thee by the most modest[58] terms– [Including
the audience]
for I am one of those gentle[59] ones that will use the devil
2020himself with courtesy–say’st thou that house is dark?[60]

[Within] As hell, Sir Topaz.

Why, it hath bay windows transparent as barricadoes,[61] and the clerestories[62]
toward the south-north are as lustrous as ebony; and yet complainest thou of

[Within] I am not mad, Sir Topaz; I say to you this house is dark.

Madman, thou errest. I say there is no darkness but ignorance, in which thou
2030art more puzzled[64] than the Egyptians in their fog.[65]

[Within] 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.[66] I am no more mad
than you are. Make the trial of it in any constant question.[67]

What is the opinion of Pythagoras[68] concerning wildfowl?

[Within] That the soul of our grandam might haply[69] inhabit a bird.

What think’st thou of his opinion?

[Within] I think nobly of the soul, and no way approve his opinion.

Fare thee well. Remain thou still in darkness.[70] Thou shalt hold th’opinion of
Pythagoras ere I will allow of thy wits,[71] and fear to kill a woodcock[72] lest thou
2045dispossess the soul of thy grandam. [Moving away] Fare thee well.

[Within] Sir Topaz, Sir Topaz!

Sir Toby
My most exquisite Sir Topaz!

Nay, I am for all waters.[73]

2050Thou mightst have done this without thy beard and gown;[74] he sees thee not.

Sir Toby
[To Clown] To him in thine own voice, and bring me word how thou find’st
him. I would we were well rid of this knavery. If he may be conveniently
2055delivered,[75] 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.[76] Come by and by
to my chamber.[77]
Exit [Sir Toby][with Maria].

Hey Robin,[78] jolly Robin,
Tell me how thy lady does.

[Within] Fool!

My lady is unkind, perdie.[79]

[Within] Fool!

Alas, why is she so?

[Within] Fool, I say!

She loves another–
Who calls, ha?

[Within] 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.

Master Malvolio?

[Within] Ay, good fool.

Alas, sir, how fell you besides[80] your five wits?[81]

[Within] Fool, there was never man so notoriously[82] abused. I am as well in
my wits, fool, as thou art.

2075But as well? Then you are mad indeed, if you be no better in your wits than
a fool.

[Within] They have here propertied[83] me: keep me in darkness, send ministers
to me, asses, and do all they can to face[84] me out of my wits.

2080Advise you[85] what you say, the minister is here. [Speaking as Sir Topaz]
Malvolio, Malvolio, thy wits the heavens restore. Endeavour thyself[86] to
sleep, and leave thy vain bibble babble.[87]

[Within] Sir Topaz!

2085[As Sir Topaz] Maintain no words with him, good fellow. [Speaking as
Who I, sir? Not I, sir! God buy you,[88] good Sir Topaz. [As Sir Topaz]
Marry, amen. [As himself] I will, sir,[89] I will.

[Within] Fool! Fool! Fool, I say![90]

Alas, sir, be patient. What say you, sir? I am shent[91] for speaking to you.

[Within] 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.

Well-a-day[92] that you were, sir.

2095[Within] By this hand,[93] 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.

I will help you to’t. But tell me true, are you not mad indeed,[94] or do you but

[Within] Believe me, I am not, I tell thee true.

Nay, I’ll ne’er believe a madman till I see his brains! I will fetch you light,
and paper, and ink.

[Within] Fool, I’ll requite it in the highest degree. I prithee, be gone!

I am gone, sir, and anon,[95] sir,
I’ll be with you again,
In a trice,[96] like to the old Vice,[97]
Your need to sustain;
Who with dagger of lath,[98] in his rage and his wrath,
2110Cries “Ah, ha!”[99] to the devil,
Like a mad lad, “Pare thy nails,[100] dad![101]
Adieu, goodman devil.”[102]

Scene 3

Enter Sebastian.[103]

[To the audience] This is the air, that is the glorious sun,
[Indicating the pearl] This pearl[104] she gave me, I do feel’t, and see’t,
And though ’tis wonder that enwraps me thus,
Yet ’tis not madness. Where’s Antonio then?
I could not find him at the Elephant,
2120Yet there he was,[105] and there I found this credit,[106]
That he did range the town to seek me out.
His counsel now might do me golden service,
For though my soul disputes well (with my sense)[107]
That[108] this may be some error, but no madness,
2125Yet doth this accident[109] and flood of fortune[110]
So far exceed all instance,[111] all discourse,[112]
That I am ready to distrust mine eyes,[113]
And wrangle with my reason that persuades me
To any other trust but that I am mad,
2130Or else the lady’s mad.[114] Yet if ’twere so,
She could not sway[115] her house, command her followers,
Take and give back affairs and their dispatch,[116]
With such a smooth, discreet, and stable bearing
As I perceive she does. There’s something in’t
2135That is deceivable.[117]
Enter Olivia, and Priest.[118]
But here the lady comes.

Blame not this haste of mine. If you mean well,
Now go with me, and with this holy man,
Into the chantry by;[119] there before him,
2140And underneath that consecrated roof,
Plight me the full assurance of your faith,[120]
That my most jealous[121] and too doubtful soul
May live at peace.[122] He shall conceal it,
Whiles[123] you are willing it shall come to note[124]
2145What time[125] we will our celebration[126] keep
According to my birth.[127] What do you say?

I’ll follow this good man, and go with you,
And having sworn truth, ever will be true.

Then lead the way, good father, and heavens so shine
2150That they may fairly note[128] this act of mine.

  1. Sebastian, sightseeing as arranged at 3.3, enters trying to get clear of the Clown, who has evidently been dogging him for some time.
  2. Kept up.
  3. Give vent to, let out. The Clown pretends that Sebastian is using this ordinary word affectedly to mean "utter forth" (a use becoming popular about this time). Compare his mockery of "element" at TLN 1269-1270. Possibly also a farting joke.
  4. i.e. I fear the great clumsy world will turn out to be an affected townsman. Originally "cockney" meant "nestle-cock, mother's pet," was then applied disparagingly to adults spoiled in their upbringing, and by transference to townspeople with no country skills. "Londoners . . . are in reproach called Cockneys, and eaters of buttered toasts" (Fynes Moryson, An Itinerary, 1617).
  5. i.e. stop pretending you don't know me (literally, "unbelt your aloofness"). The Clown is adopting in mockery the affected speech of which he accuses Sebastian.
  6. A "merry Greek" was a familiar term for a roisterer, a cheerful joker. The term is possibly a corruption of "grig" = grasshopper or cricket: "merry as a cricket."
  7. Blows.
  8. Generous (with money, and the threat of blows).
  9. At the rate of calculation of the purchase price as fourteen years' rent, an inflated price since twelve year's rent was the usual market value ("purchase"). A good reputation with fools is worthless anyway.
  10. Compare Rom. TLN 2695-2696, "Then will I lay the serving-creature's dagger on your pate."
  11. Immediately.
  12. I'll use a different route for my purpose (proverbial).
  13. Lawsuit for assault (which Sir Andrew goes on to admit has no basis in law).
  14. Dagger. Compare Rom. TLN 2702-2703, "I will dry-beat you with an iron wit, and put up my iron dagger."
  15. Blooded, initiated into fighting.
  16. (a) test, (b) incite.
  17. Impudent.
  18. She may, possibly like Antonio with Viola in 3.4, throw herself between the combatants (so Nunn film).
  19. Many options are open to the actor of Sir Toby in how to play this single word.
  20. Ruffian. Presumably they are amazed at Olivia's open display of affection for "Cesario." Compare Shr. TLN 1398, "a mad-brain rudesby full of spleen."
  21. Rule, bear sway.
  22. Barbarous.
  23. Assault (a legal term used here in a generalized sense).
  24. Patched together (compare TLN 338-339).
  25. Olivia may have taken "Cesario"s" dazed failure to reply as a further refusal.
  26. My curse upon him.
  27. (a) startled my heart, (b) roused from cover (a hunting term) a hart (deer; compare TLN 26).
  28. She has given her heart to "Cesario," hence Sir Toby's attack was as if on her. Olivia has used the intimate singular form "thee" throughout, which will further bewilder Sebastian.
  29. Taste (hence, "How do I identify what is going on?")
  30. Either . . . or. Compare another accidental lover, in Err. TLN 609, "Sleeping or waking, mad or well advised?"
  31. Let imagination continue to drown my rationality in the river of forgetfulness.
  32. i.e. if only you would do as I wish. Sebastian's agreement in the next line is an astonishing reversal of Olivia's despair.
  33. i.e. "ruled by me".
  34. False beards were standard in the theatre; compare MND TLN 354-356, "your straw-color beard, your orange-tawny beard, your purple-in-grain beard, or your French-crown-color beard."
  35. Although Chaucer and others had comic knights of this name, here he is a priest (for the use of "sir," see note to TLN 1789). Precious stones were thought to be curative, the topaz of lunacy.
  36. Probably (a) parish priest; just possibly (b) assistant curate (a minister appointed on a low salary to act for a non-resident or incapacitated priest).
  37. This, like "Nay, I prithee," implies some reluctance on the part of the Clown; Maria is again the organiser.
  38. In the meantime.
  39. (a) disguise myself, (b) act hypocritically. The Clown's adoption of disguise here is a thematic reminder of Viola's (compare TLN 683), and of the multitude of mistakings in the play.
  40. A minister's gown; but, if Maria has not provided the legally-required white surplice, possibly alluding to the black Geneva gown of the puritan clergy. Compare AWW TLN 414-416, "though honesty be no puritan . . . it will wear the surplice of humility over the black gown of a big [i.e. proud] heart."
  41. Possibly "handsome," but more likely referring to a gown that is comically large for Armin. See also next note. Robert Armin, for whom Shakespeare presumably wrote the role, was apparently small, even "dwarfish" (David Wiles, Shakespeare's Clown [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987], p. 136–163, esp. 148).
  42. Divinity scholars (like other students) were regarded as prone to weight loss and melancholy. Robert Armin is thought to have been small, although the line seems to depend on a plump actor for part of its point.
  43. Spoken of as.
  44. Honorable.
  45. Generous host.
  46. Either (a) careworn (from study), or (b) conscientious.
  47. Confederates, partners.
  48. Possibly Sir Toby substitutes a pagan "God" as a comment on the substitute parson.
  49. Good day (bad Latin for bonus dies). The Clown"s bad Latin may be inadvertent, or a satire on the curate, or reflecting the Spanish buenos días. He almost certainly speaks now in the mock-clerical voice of Sir Topaz.
  50. As at TLN 329, an invented mock-authority.
  51. i.e. was illiterate.
  52. A legendary British king, subject of the earliest English tragedy in blank verse (perf. 1562). His unknown niece knitted bedsocks for the hermit of Prague.
  53. Mock-learning from the mock-authority.
  54. n the Elizabethan Book of Common Prayer (1559), "the Priest entering into the sick person's house, shall say 'Peace be in this house'."
  55. Malvolio is heard but not seen. The Folio stage direction at TLN 2005 says "Malvolio within," and there is no direction for him to enter later in the scene, or ever be seen at all. On the Elizabethan stage he could have been behind a stage door or, more likely, behind an arras at the back of the stage. The visual focus would therefore have been on the disguised Clown's apparently improvised comic teasing of Malvolio. Maria's comment to the Clown that "Thou might'st have done this without thy beard and gown, he sees thee not" (TLN 2049–2050) only makes sense if Malvolio is off-stage. Since the nineteenth century, however, it has been increasingly common to allow the audience to see Malvolio, or at least to see hands emerging from a trap door or through bars. The more of Malvolio they see, the more likely they are to feel sorry for him. Carried to an extreme, the character can be seen as tragic, as in Henry Irving's famous 1884 production in which he split the stage in half, as in the 1709 illustration (not based on performance) from Rowe below. (See David Carnegie, "'Maluolio within': Performance Perspectives on the Dark House," Shakespeare Quarterly 52 [2001], pp. 393–414.)
  56. Fie, excessive devil (hyperbole, in rhetoric, is immoderate exaggeration of language). The Clown addresses the evil spirit which he pretends has taken possession of Malvolio (compare TLN 1614).
  57. Dishonorable.
  58. Moderate.
  59. Courteous, well-bred.
  60. i.e. room is dark. Compare AYL TLN 1580-1581, "Love . . . deserves as well a dark house and a whip as madmen do."
  61. Barricades (i.e. solid, like "ebony" in the next line). "His joke is of the 'clear as mud' type" (Penguin), but in a hyperbolically inflated version of learned language.
  62. Upper windows (especially in a church). Pronounced "clear-stories."
  63. Blocking out (of light).
  64. Confused.
  65. One of the biblical plagues of Egypt was "thick" darkness "that may be felt" (Exodus 10: 21-3).
  66. Ill-used, wronged.
  67. Consistent interrogation.
  68. A classical philosopher whose belief in the kinship of all living beings led to the frequently-mocked doctrine that the soul could migrate between humans and animals. Compare AYL TLN 1373-1374, "I was never so berhymed since Pythogoras' time, that I was an Irish rat, which I hardly can remember." For the thematic significance of transmigration of souls
  69. Perhaps.
  70. (a) without light, (b) theological ignorance.
  71. Accept that you are sane.
  72. Proverbial for stupidity; compare TLN 1097.
  73. Versatile. The origin of the phrase is uncertain, perhaps based on the proverb "to have a cloak for all waters" (prepared for any weather). The Clown may also pun on "water" as a measure of the luster of jewels (here, the "Topaz").
  74. The Clown probably removes the disguise now, relying on changes of voice to bamboozle Malvolio for the rest of the scene.
  75. Set free without trouble.
  76. To its conclusion (archery term from the final shot in a match).
  77. Since the dramatic purpose of this speech is to set in motion the release of Malvolio, it is probably all be spoken to the Clown. The sentence about Olivia's attitude could equally be to Maria; but "Come . . . to my chamber," which some productions have played as an invitation to Maria to the hurried marriage (see TLN 2535), or even to immediate sex, is a further request that the Clown "bring . . . word."
  78. The Clown allows Malvolio to identify him by singing, in further mockery, a dialogue song about a lover who has lost to a rival (i.e. Malvolio to Cesario in the affections of Olivia).
  79. By God (from French par Dieu).
  80. Out of. Compare Sonnet 23: "As an unperfect actor on the stage, / Who with his fear is put besides his part."
  81. Mind (sometimes identified as common wit, imagination, fantasy, estimation, and memory).
  82. i.e. scandalously. The word will be repeated by both Malvolio and Olivia in 5.1, so it may be a Malvolioism.
  83. i.e. treated like a chattel (or perhaps like a stage "prop").
  84. Brazenly bully.
  85. Be careful
  86. Exert yourself in attempting (i.e. strain to relax).
  87. Senseless babbling.
  88. God be with you (modern "goodbye").
  89. Perhaps spoken after a pause, as if Sir Topaz had whispered further instructions.
  90. Probably an increasingly frantic stage whisper, since Malvolio will try to avoid being heard by Sir Topaz.
  91. Rebuked.
  92. Alas, I wish that.
  93. A conventional oath (which Malvolio used at TLN 818-819), so there is no need for his hand to be seen, although in modern productions it often is.
  94. Truly mad.
  95. "I am gone" picks up Malvolio's last word; "anon" means "straight away." Internal rhyme continues through the song. No music survives, nor is it known if the words are by Shakespeare, but it seems clearly a song.
  96. Moment.
  97. In morality plays from a generation earlier, the popular Vice character would drive the plot forward with broad farce and slapstick, in league with the devil but impudent. F.W. Sternfeld describes "the Vice twitting the devil" as "a musical jester goading an anti-musical puritan" (Music in Shakespearean Tragedy [London: Routledge, 1963], p. 113).
  98. Wood (a theatrical prop). Rhyme-word with "wrath," so probably here both vowels should be pronounced "ah."
  99. i.e. in defiance.
  100. i.e. have your wings clipped, your power reduced. Compare H5 TLN 2450-2451, where the braggart but cowardly Pistol is "this roaring devil i' th' old play, that every one may pare his nails with a wooden dagger."
  101. The Vice is occasionally the devil's son, but here it may simply be impudence: "old man."
  102. "Goodman" is a respectful form of address, but absurd to the devil. It is unclear whether this final line belongs in quotes as addressed to the devil, or is the Clown's parting shot at Malvolio.
  103. Sebastian's manner may give sufficient indication of his reception by Olivia to provoke audience laughter at both his good fortune and confusion.
  104. Possibly on a ring, brooch or chain; or, if large, unmounted (compare Ham. TLN 3731-3734). Sebastian is checking on real things as he conducts an internal dialogue between sanity and madness.
  105. Needs emphasis for the meaning "had been."
  106. Report (usage unique to Shakespeare).
  107. In accord with the evidence of my senses.
  108. Reasons convincingly . . . that (not "argues with").
  109. Unexpected event.
  110. i.e. river of good luck.
  111. Example, precedent.
  112. Reasoning.
  113. (which are seeing the reality of sun and pearl).
  114. i.e. argue against my reason, which produces good evidence in favor of any conclusion except that I am mad or Olivia is.
  115. Rule, manage.
  116. i.e. "take" in hand business matters ("affairs") and settle them quickly ("give back their dispatch").
  117. Deceptive.
  118. In some productions (e.g. the Nunn film) his appearance shows that he is the real Sir Topaz on whom the Clown modeled himself.
  119. Nearby chapel (endowed for a priest to sing daily mass for the souls of the founders or others). Presumably the Priest is attached to Olivia's household.
  120. i.e. enter with me into a full contract of betrothal (as binding as the marriage service later).
  121. (a) fearful, (b) mistrustful.
  122. A pause is possibly intended here, as the line has only four feet. If so, what follows is urgent reassurance.
  123. Until.
  124. Become known.
  125. i.e. at what time. Many editors insert a semicolon after "note," taking "What time" to mean "at which time," but that obscures the sense that he's speaking of the future time "when" there will be a wedding ("celebration").
  126. i.e. wedding.
  127. Rank.
  128. Look on with favor. The audience is aware that the gods have already improved Olivia's situation more than she knows.


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