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Twelfth Night Commentary - Act II.

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Act II. Scene I. - The Sea-coast.

Antonio to Sebastian: "I do adore thee so, / That danger shall seem sport, and I will go."

Sebastian, the twin brother Viola feared had died at sea has also survived their shipwreck. Like Viola he mourns the loss of his sibling, believing his sister Viola to be dead.

Antonio, the man who saved Sebastian's life is touched by Sebastian's loss and resolves to follow Sebastian to the Duke of Orsino's court even though he has many enemies there.

Sebastian nobly tries to talk Antonio out of this, but Antonio is eventually accepted by Sebastian to travel with him to the Duke's court.

Antonio and Sebastian, Cesario's (Viola's) brother are talking. Antonio, a Sea Captain not related to the captain Viola earlier spoke with, wishes to travel with Sebastian, but Sebastian, Viola's twin brother is reluctant, saying that "My stars shine darkly over me; the malignancy of my fate might perhaps, distemper yours;" (my bad luck might taint your own), (Line 2).

Sebastian, touched that Antonio does not seek information from him, tells Antonio who he is. He announces himself as Sebastian. He explains to Antonio who is father is, mentioning that both he and his sister were born "in an hour:" (Line 20) and describing how Antonio spared him from drowning, unlike the fate of his poor sister (Lines 10-24).

Sebastian now describes his sister, remarking upon her similarity to him and remembering that "she bore a mind that envy could not but call fair" (she had a mind that envy itself could not deny was fair or good), (Line 31).

Again Sebastian mourns the loss of his sister, and Antonio now reminds Sebastian that his sad story makes for bad entertainment; exclaiming to Sebastian, "Pardon me, sir, your bad entertainment" (Line 34).

Sebastian apologizes and Antonio, touched by this man's sad story, pledges his services to him: "If you will not murder me for my love, let me be your servant" (Line 37).

Sebastian replies that if Antonio cannot undo what he has done (that is, saving his life), then he should not desire to follow him. Though Sebastian's "bosom is full of kindness;" (Line 39), Sebastian plans to travel alone for Count Orsino's court.

Antonio however, is not so easily dismissed. While Antonio explains to Sebastian that "I have many enemies in Orsino's court," Antonio still wants to follow Sebastian (Line 48).

Explaining that he would go to Count Orsino's court whether Sebastian would like it or not, Antonio now famously says to Sebastian that "I do adore thee [Sebastian] so, / That danger shall seem sport, and I will go" (Line 49).

Act II. Scene II. - A Street.

Cesario (Viola in disguise): "She made good view of me; indeed, so much, / That sure methought her eyes had lost her tongue, / For she did speak in starts distractedly."

Malvolio catches up with Cesario, rudely returning Cesario's (Viola's) ring to him. Cesario is confused, he left no such ring at Lady Olivia's house. Malvolio also conveys Olivia's desire that Cesario return to confirm that Orsino has accepted the fact that she does not love him.

Cesario now realizes that the ring is a ploy by Olivia to express her affections for him. Realizing "he" has charmed Lady Olivia, Cesario remarks that Olivia would do better to chase a dream than a man who is really a woman in disguise. Cesario (Viola) is distressed by this mess and hopes time will undo this tangled web.

Meanwhile, Malvolio has caught up with Cesario (Viola), who is heading home to the Duke to report on Lady Olivia's lack of affection for him.

Malvolio finds Cesario on a street and explains to Cesario that according to his lady (Olivia), Cesario left this ring at her house.

Malvolio now rudely adds, "you might have saved me my pains, to have taken it away yourself" (you could have saved me the trouble by taking your ring back yourself), (Line 5).

Malvolio also adds that it is Olivia's wish that the Duke completely understands that she will have "none of him" (Line 9). She also added that Cesario is never to return on the Duke's behalf, except to tell Olivia that the Duke has accepted this, telling Cesario to now take back his ring.

Cesario proclaims his innocence; he left no such ring; "She took the ring of me; I'll none of it" (Line 13).

Malvolio is equally adamant that according to Olivia, he did leave his ring, adding that Cesario "peevishly threw it to her [Olivia]" and that her will is that this ring be returned. Malvolio now rudely throws the ring to the ground remarking that this should be acceptable if "it be worth stooping for," (Line 17).

Cesario (Viola) now alone, ponders this disturbing train of affairs. He left no ring so "what means this lady?" (what is this lady talking about?), (Line 18).

The penny now drops and Cesario (Viola) realizes that he must have "charm'd her!" (Line 19), after all he (Viola) almost thought Olivia was making eye contact with him:

"She made good view of me; indeed, so much, / That sure methought her eyes had lost her tongue, / For she did speak in starts [intermittently] distractedly" (She did look at me a great deal so much I thought she had lost her tongue; she certainly spoke distractedly), (Lines 20-22).

Realizing the irony that Olivia loves a women, not the man she believes, Cesario (Viola) remarks that the countess would do better to love a dream (Line 27)

Viola now realizes that her disguise as the man named Cesario is indeed "a wickedness, [curse]" (Line 28) and now Cesario (Viola) mourns "his" position. Cesario or without disguise, Viola, loves a man (Orsino, the Duke), who loves Olivia instead, and to make matters worse, Olivia has fallen in love with "him" (Cesario / Viola)!

Cesario hopes that time may solve this nasty problem; "O time! thou must untangle this, not I; / It is too hard a knot for me to untie" (O time! you must untangle this not I; it is too hard a knot for me to untie), (Line 41).

Act II. Scene III. - A Room in Olivia's House.

Late at night, Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and later Feste the Clown are enjoying some late night drinking and singing. This gets Maria's attention who warns all three men to quieten down lest Malvolio notices. The three men ignore Maria. Malvolio arrives, warning the men that he will speak to Lady Olivia about this noise. The three men ignore him as they did Maria and now Malvolio threatens to make Maria look disrespectful in Lady Olivia's eyes if she does not quieten down these three men.

Maria, resenting Malvolio's heavy-handed arrogance hatches a plan to write a letter which will convince Malvolio that Lady Olivia loves him. This news quietens down all three men, who each dislikes Malvolio but now are all enthusiastic accomplices in his downfall. Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Feste will hide near where Malvolio will discover the letter so they can all enjoy what is seen in their eyes as Malvolio's well deserved humiliation...

Sir Toby is up late, very late indeed. Sir Andrew now arrives and the two comment on being awake very late at night.

Sir Toby points out that to stay up past midnight and to then go to sleep is to sleep early, questioning whether life consists of four elements.

When Sir Andrew answers that it rather "consists of eating and drinking" (Line 12), Sir Toby calls Sir Andrew a scholar (Lines 1-14).

The Clown enters, much to Sir Toby's delight, who describes him as having an "excellent breast" and Sir Andrew, also a fan, asks the Clown whether he received the sixpence he sent to him some time earlier.

Offering a sixpence for his troubles, Sir Toby asks the Clown to sing a song. This he does, the song being about those one loves.

Sir Andrew likes the song and in particular Feste's "mellifluous voice," (Line 57), whilst Sir Toby disagrees, complaining of the Clown's "contagious breath" (Line 58).

Sir Toby ponders the possibility of hearing by smell and Sir Andrew and Clown confuse the words "knight" and "knave," (Lines 69-76).

Maria enters, wondering aloud about the source of all this "caterwauling [racket]" these three are making, warning them that Olivia could order Malvolio, her Steward to "turn you out of doors," or kick them out (Line 82).

Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and the Clown now continue to act frivolously and Malvolio, the serious, uptight steward of Olivia's now enters.

Not at all impressed, Malvolio immediately asks whether his masters are mad (Line 95), asking Sir Andrew and Sir Toby if they have any "wit, manners," or honesty or decency to make such a racket at so late an hour (Line 96).

Sir Toby defends himself by saying that they kept good time in their catches (songs).

Angered that he is not be taken seriously, Malvolio tells Sir Toby of Olivia's displeasure, telling him that if "yourself and your misdemeanours," (Line 108) cannot be separated, then Olivia will be very pleased to bid him good-bye.

Sir Toby and Clown now patronize Malvolio by asking Maria for "A stoup of wine," (Line 130) and Malvolio now tells Maria that if she cannot stop this rabble, he will be sure to let Olivia see this as a sign that Maria does not hold Olivia in "anything more than contempt," (Maria does not respect Olivia), (Lines 130-134).

Maria now politely asks Sir Toby to quieten down, telling him to leave Malvolio to her (Lines 143-151).

Maria explains that she has very little love for the arrogant "time-pleaser;" (Malvolio), who considers himself so "crammed, as he thinks, with excellences," (so full of wondrous things / is arrogant), (Lines 160-169).

She tells Sir Toby that she will encourage Malvolio to think that Olivia loves him, by faking Olivia's handwriting.

Maria will use "obscure epistles of love;" (obscure or rare words of love) to make this all the more believable whereby by describing Malvolio personally by "the colour of his beard, the shape of his leg, the manner of his gait, the expression of his eye, forehead, and complexion," the arrogant Malvolio "shall find himself most feelingly personated" (most touchingly described), (Lines 170-177).

Maria adds that her handwriting and Olivia's are so close, that they can scarcely tell them apart (Line 178).

Sir Toby is very enthusiastic about getting back at the arrogant Malvolio as is Sir Andrew who remarks that this plan will make Malvolio an "Ass," (Lines 169-188).

Maria tells Sir Toby that he, Sir Andrew and the "fool", Feste will be planted by the letter to observe Malvolio's "construction" or interpretation of it.

Now eager to see Malvolio humiliated, Sir Toby and all anxiously await the next few days…

Act II. Scene IV. - A Room in the Duke's Palace.

Cesario (Viola): "We men may say more, swear more; but indeed / Our shows are more than will, for still we prove / Much in our vows but little in our love."

Orsino notices that Cesario (Viola) is in love. Cesario describes this person in terms that precisely describe Orsino but Orsino does not realize this. Cesario warns the Duke that Lady Olivia may not love him but Orsino refuses to even accept such a possibility. Cesario famously remarks on the unreliability of men in relationships. Cesario starts to reveal "his" own past but quickly becomes vague when Orsino becomes too curious. Orsino sends Cesario once more to Lady Olivia with a large jewel as a token of his love for her...

Duke Orsino is relaxing at his palace. He asks to hear again "that piece of song" (Line 1), that he so enjoyed last night. This cannot be done since it was "Feste, the jester," who sung it and he is now at Olivia's where Sir Toby took quite a liking to him.

The Duke now asks Cesario (Viola), what he thinks of the song. Cesario replies that "It gives a very echo to the seat / Where love is thrown'd" (Line 21)

Now the Orsino notices something in his good friend Cesario, a lover or a secret crush perhaps?

Cesario replies to the Duke's question that yes, "his" eye has been on someone that "he" loves, replying:

"A little, by your favour" (Line 25).

The Duke is curious. "What kind of women is't? [is it]" (Line 26), he asks.

Cesario replies that she (the Duke of course!) is "Of [has] your complexion" (Line 26).

The Duke is not impressed, telling Cesario that "She is not worth thee [you]," then asking "What years, I' faith?" (how old is she?), (Line 27).

Cesario replies "About your years my lord" (Line 28). The Duke now tells Cesario that she is "Too old, by heaven" not realizing that Cesario is actually talking about him.

Orsino now remarks that it is better for a lady in his opinion to marry a man older than herself and he comments on the transitory nature of beauty:

"For women are as roses, whose fair flower / Being once display'd, doth [does] fall that very hour" (Line 38).

Cesario (Viola) replies "And so they are: alas, that they are so; / To die, even when they to perfection grow!" (Line 40).

Curio returns now with Feste and Feste sings his song. After this song, Orsino bids his followers good-bye, leaving him alone once more with Cesario (Lines 41-80).

Once more, The Duke of Illyria asks his loyal servant Cesario (Viola) to pledge his feelings to the fair Olivia, telling Cesario to "Tell her, my love, more noble than the world, / Prizes not quantity of dirty lands;" (Line 84).

Cesario now asks his master what "if she cannot love you, sir?" (Line 89).

The Duke replies that he cannot be so answered, Cesario telling him that he must be (Cesario knows this from Olivia).

Cesario now very hypothetically asks the Duke that if say some women "Hath [has] for your love as great a pang of heart / As you have for Olivia:" (Line 92) and Orsino told this woman that he could not love her "must she not be answer'd" like the Duke says he cannot be?

The Duke refuses this possibility completely. How could a women possibly love with as much passion as a man, he remarks, noting that "There is no women's sides / Can bide the beating of so strong a passion / As love doth give my heart; no women's heart / So big, to hold so much;" adding that in his opinion "they lack retention" not realizing at all just how wrong he is; Viola disguised as Cesario loves Orsino just as deeply if not more than Orsino loves Olivia proving a woman can love as greatly as Orsino believes they cannot (Line 96).

Cesario (Viola) now almost slips up, revealing "his" love for the Duke.

When the Duke says "Make no compare / Between that love a women can bear me / And that I owe Olivia" (make no comparisons between the love a woman can give me and that which I have for Olivia), (Line 104), Cesario remarks "Ay, but I know,-" (yes, but I know), almost revealing her own deep love (Line 105).

Orsino questions this remark and Viola covers it up by saying he knows all "Too well what love women to men may owe: / In faith, they are as true of heart as we" and again Viola hints at "his" love when he says that his father had a daughter who loved a man as deeply as the Duke, much as Cesario might love the Duke were she a women, that is (We know otherwise!).

Cesario (Viola): "My father had a daughter lov'd a man, / As it might be, perhaps, were I a woman, / I should [love] your lordship" (Line 109).

The Duke is now very curious, asking Cesario of this women's history. Fearing further questions, Cesario closes this line of conversation by describing it as "A blank, my lord" (Line 112).

Cesario now continues the story describing how this women concealed her deep love, pinning away in thought and melancholy, "Smiling at grief" (Line 117).

"Was not this love indeed?" Cesario asks (Line 117), and now Cesario delivers a powerful insight into the sincerity of men's love from "his" or should we say her own unique viewpoint (as a women disguised as a man), when Cesario famously says…

"We men may say more, swear more; but indeed / Our shows are more than will, for still we prove / Much in our vows, but little in our love" (Line 120).

The Duke now asks if this daughter died.

Cesario replies very confusingly and yet revealingly that "I am all the daughters [as Viola] of my father's house / And all the brothers [as Cesario since Sebastian is believed dead] too; and yet I know not (I am all the brothers and sisters in my family, and yet I do not know), (Line 122).

Again, Cesario is all but telling the Duke that "he" is this sister, but the Duke thinks that Cesario simply does not know.

The Duke now returns to the business at hand. He tells Cesario to take a jewel to Olivia adding that "My love can give no place, bide no denay" (I will not take no for an answer), (Line 124).

Act II. Scene V. - Olivia's Garden.

Maria's counterfeit love letter from Lady Olivia: "some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them."

Maria tells Fabian, Sir Toby and Sir Andrew, all of whom hate Malvolio, that she has penned the letter that will convince Malvolio that Lady Olivia loves him. Malvolio, meanwhile having not yet found this letter, starts entertaining the idea that Olivia could love him and that he could marry her.

Malvolio picks up Maria's counterfeit letter with its instructions that Malvolio be rude to kinsman like Sir Toby. It also suggests that he wear yellow stockings and be cross-gartered to win Olivia's love. Maria explains to Sir Toby and company, that Lady Olivia hates yellow stockings and cross-gartered fashion and so Malvolio will be humiliated before Lady Olivia.

Sir Toby and Fabian are talking. Fabian has little love for the man Sir Toby describes as "the niggardly rascally sheep-biter" (Malvolio), (Line 5), since Malvolio had brought Fabian out of favour with Olivia over the issue of "bear-baiting" (a barbaric but popular Elizabethan pastime involving drawing large but not lethal volumes of blood from bears), (Line 10).

Maria, "the little villain" as Sir Toby calls her (Line 16) who has plotted Malvolio's humiliation now arrives. She explains to all three men (Fabian, Sirs Toby and Andrew) that the letter she has penned in Olivia's handwriting will "make a contemplative idiot of him [Malvolio]" (Line 20). She will leave the letter where Malvolio is sure to find it and she tells the men to observe him (Lines 17-22).

Malvolio now enters and remarks already how "Maria once told me she [Olivia] did affect [like] me; and I have heard herself come thus near, that should she fancy, it should be one of my complexion" (Maria one told me Olivia likes me and Olivia has said she would fancy a man with my complexion), adding that Olivia "uses me with a more exalted respect than anyone else that follows her" (Olivia respects me more than anyone else), (Line 32).

Sir Toby and Sir Andrew now both hurl insults at Malvolio, with both Sir Toby and Fabian having to silence the rest of the group for fear of alerting Malvolio who so far does not know Sir Toby and Sir Andrew are hiding nearby (Lines 33-64).

Malvolio meanwhile is daydreaming on the possibility of marriage to Olivia and what he would do afterwards to all those that he dislikes.

He remembers that Olivia marrying a steward like himself is not altogether unheard of since "the lady of the Strachy married the yeoman of the wardrobe" he reminds himself (Line 44).

Malvolio also daydreams on how once he has position, he will no longer take abuse from Sir Toby. This enrages Sir Toby who is listening in, forcing Fabian to tell Sir Toby "O, peace, peace, peace! now, now" since a loud outburst from Sir Toby could ruin Maria's plan (Line 64).

Malvolio explains now how he would tell Sir Toby that "'You must amend your drunkenness'" (you must stop your drinking), (Line 82).

Now Malvolio finds the letter and picking it up, reads its contents (Lines 97-100). It contains the famous phrase "some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them" (Line 159).

It tells Malvolio to "Be opposite with a kinsman" (Line 160) and to be "surly with servants;" (be rude with servants), (Line 164). Malvolio takes this to mean that Olivia wishes him to be rude to kinsman such as Sir Toby and also with her servants, in other words to be assertive and to posture, in order to win Olivia's love.

The letter also reminds Malvolio to "Remember who commended [praised] thy [your] yellow stockings, and wished to see thee [you] ever [always] cross-gartered:" (Line 171) which Malvolio takes as fashion request from Olivia. He is certain it is in Olivia's hand and he learns of her love, believing it to be for him.

Certain phrases convince Malvolio of this. First the phrase "No man must know" (Line 113). The words "M, O, A, I, doth sway my life" also convince the Malvolio (Line 119). Malvolio believes these letters may be a code for him, after all his first name does begin with M (Lines 135-143).

Malvolio having now read the letter in it's entirety (Lines 157-175) starts making plans.

First he will be proud, he "will baffle Sir Toby" adding "I will wash off gross acquaintance," and be extremely rude to him (Line 175).

Ironically, Malvolio now says "I do not now fool myself, to let imagination jade me…." so certain is he that Olivia loves him (Line 177).

To further his chances with Olivia, Malvolio decides that "I will be strange, stout, in yellow stockings, and cross-gartered, even with the swiftness of putting on" (Line 188).

Malvolio now reads the postscript which tells Malvolio to show his love by smiling: "smile, dear my sweet, I prithee" (smile my dear sweet), (Line 192)

Sir Toby having listened to all this, is ecstatic saying that "I could marry this wench [Maria] for this device [the letter], (Line 201).

Maria returns and explains her plan further…

Malvolio will now approach Olivia in yellow stockings, "a colour she abhors [hates]; and cross-gartered, a fashion she detests [despises];" and Malvolio will approach smiling, which Olivia will also hate on a account of her present "melancholy" or sadness (depression), (Lines 217-227).

The result? Lady Olivia will totally hate him.

Sir Toby and Sir Andrew close the scene complementing Maria's superb cunning.

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