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Twelfth Night


SIR TOBY BELCHWhat a plague means my niece, to take the death of
her brother thus? I am sure care’s an enemy to life.
MARIABy my troth, Sir Toby, you must come in earlier o’
nights: your cousin, my lady, takes great
exceptions to your ill hours.
SIR TOBY BELCHWhy, let her except, before excepted.
MARIAAy, but you must confine yourself within the modest
limits of order.
SIR TOBY BELCHConfine! I’ll confine myself no finer than I am:
these clothes are good enough to drink in; and so be10
these boots too: an they be not, let them hang
themselves in their own straps.
MARIAThat quaffing and drinking will undo you: I heard
my lady talk of it yesterday; and of a foolish
knight that you brought in one night here to be her wooer.
SIR TOBY BELCHWho, Sir Andrew Aguecheek?
MARIAAy, he.
SIR TOBY BELCHHe’s as tall a man as any’s in Illyria.
MARIAWhat’s that to the purpose?
SIR TOBY BELCHWhy, he has three thousand ducats a year.20
MARIAAy, but he’ll have but a year in all these ducats:
he’s a very fool and a prodigal.
SIR TOBY BELCHFie, that you’ll say so! he plays o’ the
viol-de-gamboys, and speaks three or four languages
word for word without book, and hath all the good
gifts of nature.
MARIAHe hath indeed, almost natural: for besides that
he’s a fool, he’s a great quarreller: and but that
he hath the gift of a coward to allay the gust he
hath in quarrelling, ’tis thought among the prudent
he would quickly have the gift of a grave.30
SIR TOBY BELCHBy this hand, they are scoundrels and subtractors
that say so of him. Who are they?
MARIAThey that add, moreover, he’s drunk nightly in your company.
SIR TOBY BELCHWith drinking healths to my niece: I’ll drink to
her as long as there is a passage in my throat and
drink in Illyria: he’s a coward and a coystrill
that will not drink to my niece till his brains turn
o’ the toe like a parish-top. What, wench!
Castiliano vulgo! for here comes Sir Andrew Agueface.40
SIR ANDREWSir Toby Belch! how now, Sir Toby Belch!
SIR TOBY BELCHSweet Sir Andrew!
SIR ANDREWBless you, fair shrew.
MARIAAnd you too, sir.
SIR TOBY BELCHAccost, Sir Andrew, accost.
SIR ANDREWWhat’s that?
SIR TOBY BELCHMy niece’s chambermaid.
SIR ANDREWGood Mistress Accost, I desire better acquaintance.
MARIAMy name is Mary, sir.50
SIR ANDREWGood Mistress Mary Accost,–
SIR TOBY BELCHYou mistake, knight; ‘accost’ is front her, board
her, woo her, assail her.
SIR ANDREWBy my troth, I would not undertake her in this
company. Is that the meaning of ‘accost’?
MARIAFare you well, gentlemen.
SIR TOBY BELCHAn thou let part so, Sir Andrew, would thou mightst
never draw sword again.
SIR ANDREWAn you part so, mistress, I would I might never
draw sword again. Fair lady, do you think you have
fools in hand?61
MARIASir, I have not you by the hand.
SIR ANDREWMarry, but you shall have; and here’s my hand.
MARIANow, sir, ‘thought is free:’ I pray you, bring
your hand to the buttery-bar and let it drink.
SIR ANDREWWherefore, sweet-heart? what’s your metaphor?
MARIAIt’s dry, sir.
SIR ANDREWWhy, I think so: I am not such an ass but I can
keep my hand dry. But what’s your jest?
MARIAA dry jest, sir.70
SIR ANDREWAre you full of them?
MARIAAy, sir, I have them at my fingers’ ends: marry,
now I let go your hand, I am barren.
SIR TOBY BELCHO knight thou lackest a cup of canary: when did I
see thee so put down?
SIR ANDREWNever in your life, I think; unless you see canary
put me down. Methinks sometimes I have no more wit
than a Christian or an ordinary man has: but I am a
great eater of beef and I believe that does harm to my wit.
SIR TOBY BELCHNo question.80
SIR ANDREWAn I thought that, I’ld forswear it. I’ll ride home
to-morrow, Sir Toby.
SIR TOBY BELCHPourquoi, my dear knight?
SIR ANDREWWhat is ‘Pourquoi’? do or not do? I would I had
bestowed that time in the tongues that I have in
fencing, dancing and bear-baiting: O, had I but
followed the arts!
SIR TOBY BELCHThen hadst thou had an excellent head of hair.
SIR ANDREWWhy, would that have mended my hair?
SIR TOBY BELCHPast question; for thou seest it will not curl by nature.90
SIR ANDREWBut it becomes me well enough, does’t not?
SIR TOBY BELCHExcellent; it hangs like flax on a distaff; and I
hope to see a housewife take thee between her legs
and spin it off.
SIR ANDREWFaith, I’ll home to-morrow, Sir Toby: your niece
will not be seen; or if she be, it’s four to one
she’ll none of me: the count himself here hard by woos her.
SIR TOBY BELCHShe’ll none o’ the count: she’ll not match above
her degree, neither in estate, years, nor wit; I
have heard her swear’t. Tut, there’s life in’t,
SIR ANDREWI’ll stay a month longer. I am a fellow o’ the
strangest mind i’ the world; I delight in masques
and revels sometimes altogether.101
SIR TOBY BELCHArt thou good at these kickshawses, knight?
SIR ANDREWAs any man in Illyria, whatsoever he be, under the
degree of my betters; and yet I will not compare
with an old man.
SIR TOBY BELCHWhat is thy excellence in a galliard, knight?
SIR ANDREWFaith, I can cut a caper.
SIR TOBY BELCHAnd I can cut the mutton to’t.
SIR ANDREWAnd I think I have the back-trick simply as strong
as any man in Illyria.110
SIR TOBY BELCHWherefore are these things hid? wherefore have
these gifts a curtain before ’em? are they like to
take dust, like Mistress Mall’s picture? why dost
thou not go to church in a galliard and come home in
a coranto? My very walk should be a jig; I would not
so much as make water but in a sink-a-pace. What
dost thou mean? Is it a world to hide virtues in?
I did think, by the excellent constitution of thy
leg, it was formed under the star of a galliard.
SIR ANDREWAy, ’tis strong, and it does indifferent well in a
flame-coloured stock. Shall we set about some revels?
SIR TOBY BELCHWhat shall we do else? were we not born under Taurus?
SIR ANDREWTaurus! That’s sides and heart.122
SIR TOBY BELCHNo, sir; it is legs and thighs. Let me see the
caper; ha! higher: ha, ha! excellent!

Next: Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 4


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 3

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

1. What a plague. In such expressions as “What a plague,” “What a devil,” i. H. IV. ii. 2. 39, “a” is equivalent to ‘in the name of,’ ‘by,’ etc. See Abb. § 24.

1, 2. to take … thus, to feel it so seriously, show such grief about it. care’s … life, cp. the proverbial saying in M. A. v. I. 133, “care killed a cat.”

3. By my troth, by my faith, assuredly: o’ nights, of nights, at night; see Abb. § 182.

4. cousin, used of those not in the first degree of relationship, e.g. nephew, niece, uncle, brother-in-law, grandchild: takes … hours, is much displeased with your staying out so late at night: exceptions, objections; Shakespeare uses to ‘take exception’ at, to, against; nowadays ‘to’ is the only preposition used; ill hours, evil because late.

6. Why … excepted. A ludicrous use of a formal law phrase, exceptis, excipiendis, those things being excepted, excluded, which are to be excepted, excluded; before excepted, i.e. what was before excepted;except here = object to.

7. confine yourself, restrict yourself; cp. Oth. ii. 3. 2, 3, “Let’s teach ourselves that honourable stop Not to outsport discretion”; Macb. v. 2. 15.

9. I’ll confine … am: I’ll dress myself no finer than I am; an intentional misunderstanding of the word. Cp. ii. H. IV. i. 2. 159-62, “Ch. Just. Your means are very slender, and your waste is great. Fal. I would it were otherwise; I would my means were greater, and my waist slenderer.”

11, 2. an they … straps, if they are not, let them be punished with a halter made of their own straps; i.e. the pieces of leather attached to the boots by which they were drawn on: for an, see Abb. § 101.

18. He’s as tall … Illyria. “That is, as able a man. ‘A tall man of his hands meant a good fighter; a tall man of his tongue, a licentious speaker; and a tall man of his trencher, a hearty feeder,’ Gifford” (Staunton).

19. What ‘s … purpose? That matters nothing; that does not make your behaviour and his any the less disgraceful.

21. Ay, but … ducats; i.e. he will have run through his whole property, principal as well as annual interest, in a single year; ‘ducat,’ “O. Fr. ducat, ‘the coyne termed a ducket, worth vis. viii d; Cot. — Ital. ducato … Low Lat. ducatus, a duchy. So called because, when first coined in the duchy of Apulia (about A.D. 1140), they bore the legend ‘Sit tibi, Christe, datus, quem tu regis, iste ducatus‘” [i.e. let that ducat be given, O Christ, to you, who are lord of it] (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).

22. a very fool, a thorough, complete fool.

23. Fie, that … say so. We should say, ‘Fie, that you should say so.’

24. the viol-de-gamboys. Sir Toby’s corruption of ‘viol-de-gambo’ a fashionable instrument of the time, now called the violoncello [cello] or base viol; cp. Marston’s Malcontent, Induction, 20-4, “Sly. O cousin, come you shall sit between my legs. Sinklo. No, indeed, cousin; the audience then will take me for a viol-de-gambo, and think that you play upon me”; gambo being the Italian for ‘leg.’ word for word, with the greatest accuracy.

26. almost natural, with a pun on the word ‘natural’ in its ordinary sense, and in that of a fool, idiot; Dyce follows Upton in reading “he hath indeed all, most natural.”

28. the gift of a coward, that with which a coward is gifted, i.e. cowardice: to allay the gust, to qualify the delight; for allay, cp. Cor. ii. 1. 53, “a cup of hot wine with not a drop of allaying Tiber in ‘t”: ‘gusto’ is the word in modern usage.

31. By this hand, I swear by this hand; a common form of asseveration: substractors, slanderers, those who take from a person the reputation which belongs to him: Warburton would correct the misspelling, which, however, is probably intentional.

35. drinking healths, drinking toasts to the health of, etc.

37. coystrill, “is a paltry groom, one only fit to carry arms, but not to use them. So in Holinshed’s Description of England … ‘Costerels, or bearers of the armes of barons or knights'” (Tollet).

38. turn o’ the toe, spin round, become giddy: parish-top. “A large top was formerly kept in every village, to be whipped in frosty weather, that the peasants may be kept warm by exercise, and out of mischief, while they could not work”… (Steevens.)

39. Castiliano vulgo. What the meaning of this phrase is, if it had any meaning, has never been satisfactorily explained. Warburton proposed ‘volto’ for vulgo, with the sense ‘put on a grave, solemn, expression of face, such as the Spaniards wear,’ which is perhaps borne out by Sir Toby’s changing ‘Aguecheek’ into ‘Agueface,’ though Sir Andrew was not a person before whom any reserve or reticence was necessary.

41. how now … Belch? How is it with you now? how are you?

43. fair shrew, my fair maiden with the sharp, witty, tongue. For shrew, from which came the verb shrewen, to curse, and its past participle, shrewd, malicious, bitter, acute, see Craik, Eng. of Shakespeare, 186.

44. And you too, sir. The same good wish to you, sir.

46. What’s that? What do you mean by ‘accost’?

47. My … chambermaid. Sir Toby of course means that Sir Andrew is to ‘accost,’ salute, address himself to, the chambermaid, but Sir Andrew supposes him to say in answer to his question, What’s that? that her name is ‘Accost.’ He accordingly addresses her as Mistress Accost, and when she replies that her name is Mary, he takes her to mean that he should have addressed her by her full name, ‘Mistress Mary Accost.’

48. I desire … acquaintance, I hope to know you better; a phrase which Shakespeare varies in M. N. D. iii. 1. 185, 193, by “I shall desire you of more acquaintance.

52. front her, face her, attack her in speech, as board her, (orig. a nautical term for attacking, forcing one’s way on board a ship); used figuratively again in M. W. ii. 1. 92, M. A. ii. 1. 149, and elsewhere.

54. undertake her, venture to attack her in the way you mean.

57. An thou … again, if you allow her to go off in this way without attacking her, I hope you may never again have the chance of drawing your sword (in a duel) in proof of your courage.

59. An you … again. Sir Andrew thinks he is following Sir Toby’s hint by adopting his words.

60, 1. have … hand, have to deal with fools. Maria, varying the phrase, answers, ‘No, I have not a fool by the hand, for I have not you by the hand,’ i.e. I am not holding your hand. Cp. a similar inference in Cymb, ii. 3. 105.

63. Marry, a corruption of ‘Mary,’ the mother of Christ; a petty oath, used to avoid the statute against profane swearing: and here’s … hand, and, in proof of my assertion, I hold out my hand to you.

64, 5. Now, sir, … drink. Now, sir, — for, as they say, ‘thought is free,’ and therefore you need not be vexed at my freedom of speech, — I beg you to bring, etc. Thought is free, a proverbial saying; cp. Temp. iii. 2. 132. Holt White quotes Lyly’s Euphues “None (quoth she) can judge of wit but they that have it; why then (quoth he) doest thou think me a fool? Thought is free, my Lord, quoth she.” buttery-bar: the buttery in cottages, etc., is “a place for provisions, especially liquors. … [The principal thing given out at the buttery-bar was (and is) beer; the buttery-bar is a small ledge on the top of the half-door (or buttery-hatch) on which to rest tankards. But as butter was (and is) also kept in butteries, the word was easily corrupted into its present form.] It is, however, a corruption of M. E. botelerie i.e. a botlery, or place for bottles. … — F. bouteille, a bottle” (Skeat, Ety. Dict.). Maria means that Sir Andrew’s wit needs refreshing.

67. It’s dry, sir. A dry hand was supposed to indicate debility or coldness of nature.

68. Why, … so. Why, I should hope it was.

70. A dry jest, a foolish jest; cp. L. L. L, v. 2. 373, “This jest is dry to me.”

72, 3. Ay, sir, … barren, figuratively, ready for immediate use, but here, as she implies in the next line, she has these foolish jests at her fingers’ ends because she has hold of a fool’s hand: barren, i.e. of invention.

74. thou lackest … canary, you need a draught of wine to put spirit into you; canary, a wine imported from the Canary Islands (sometimes called canary sack), of a hot, inflammatory character.

75. so put down, so worsted in a combat of wit. Sir Andrew, echoing the phrase, uses it of being overcome by wine, i.e., made drunk.

77, 8. Methinks … Christian, i.e. than an ordinary person, as he says immediately afterwards: methinks, i.e. to me it seems, ‘thinks’ being from the impersonal verb thyncan, to seem. See Abb. § 297.

78, 9. but I am … wit. Cp. T. C. ii. 1. 14, “Thou mongrel beef-witted lord” and H. V. iii. 7. 161, where the constable of France is sneering at the want of intelligence in English soldiers as contrasted with their courage.

80. No question, Without question, doubtless.

83. Pourqui, French for ‘for what, why?’

85. in the tongues, in learning foreign languages. Note that Sir Toby’s boast, 1. 24, of his friend’s knowledge of foreign languages is ludicrously exposed on his first appearance.

86. bear-baiting, the worrying of bears with dogs, a favourite pastime with the English both before and after Shakespeare’s day, and one to which he makes frequent reference; the arts, the liberal arts, accomplishments.

87. Then … hair, then you would have had, etc. Crosby, quoted by Rolfe, points out the pun here upon ‘tongues’ and ‘tongs’ (i.e. curling tongs for the hair).

89, 90. curl by nature, Theobald’s emendation for ‘cool my nature’: Sir Toby, in his answer, is contrasting ‘nature’ and ‘art’ in a sense different to that in which Sir Andrew uses the arts.

91. becomes me, suits me.

92. it hangs … distaff, i.e. quite straight, excellent being used ironically.

93. I’ll home, I will return home.

94. will not be seen, refuses to be seen, will not admit me to her presence.

94, 5. it’s four … one, the odds are four to one (i.e. very great) against her having anything to do with me in the way of marriage: hard by, close at hand; a near neighbour, and therefore having many opportunities for making love to her.

Tut, … in’t, pooh, nonsense, there is no reason for your giving up your attempt to win her; the project is one with plenty of vitality in it, one not about “to sicken and so die,” Wright compares Lear, iv. 6. 206, A. C. iii. 13. 192.

99. I’ll stay … longer. “The abrupt way in which Sir Andrew alters his determination has a most comic effect; appearing to be totally without ground for change; but Shakespeare has allowed us to get a glimpse of the flabby gentleman’s motive through his confused speech, by making him allude to ‘masques and revels’; which he evidently intended to resort to as a means of displaying his devotion to Olivia” (C. Clarke).

102. kickshawses, ‘kickshaws,’ is a corruption of the French quelque chose, something, hence a trifle, small delicacy; the word is pluralized by Sir Andrew in the same way as in Cymb. V. 4. 14, the gaoler speaks of ‘gallowses’ for ‘gallows,’ though “gallowses” is used by Webster, The White Devil (p. 16, ed. Dyce), as though it were the regular plural.

103, 4. under … betters, provided he is not my superior in rank.

104, 5. and yet … man, and further I will not set myself in comparison with an old man; the former comparison, with his betters, he declines on account of his reverence for them, the latter comparison with old men, because he feels his superiority to them. Warburton sees here a satire on the vanity of old men; Steevens thinks the expression is equivalent to Falstaff’s boast, “I am old in nothing but understanding,” ii. H. IV. i. 2. 215.

106. a galliard, “a quick and lively dance, ‘with lofty tumes and caprioles in the ayre,’ Sir John Davies, Orchestra, etc., st. 68″ (Dyce): cp. Heywood, An Humorous Day’s Mirth, 1599, “I fetcht me two or three fine capers aloft, and took my leave of them as men do of their mistresses at the ending of a galliard.” The word was in very common use.

107. cut a caper, what Heywood calls ‘fetching’ a caper, jumping high into the air; but here punned upon in Sir Toby’s answer, ‘caper-sauce’ being used with boiled mutton.

109. the back-trick, the caper backwards in retiring, as exemplified in the quotation from Heywood above: simply as strong, absolutely in as high a degree of perfection; strong, adverbially, as in J. C. iv. 3. 67, “I am armed so strong in honesty.”

111, 2. Wherefore … ’em? why do you conceal these gifts, not let them be publicly known? Curtains before pictures of value were common in former days. In i. 5. 251, below, Olivia, removing the veil she wore, says, “but we will draw the curtain and show you the picture”; cp. M. A. ii. 1. 126-9.

112, 3. are they … picture? are they likely to spoil by exposure, as a picture, if uncovered, gets spoilt by taking up, catching, the dust: Mistress Mall, or Moll Cutpurse, a disreputable woman of the time whose exploits are dramatized in Dekker’s Roaring Girl. Her real name was Mary Frith. The reference here may be to her, as most commentators suppose. Dyce, however, queries: — “After all, can it be that ‘Mistress Mall’s picture’ means merely a lady’s picture? …

114. coranto, or caranto, a lively and rapid dance. Marston, The Fawn, ii. 1. 400, speaks of running a caranto, leaping a levalto, or lavolta.

114, 5. My very … jig, even my walk, i.e. my most sober movement, shall be a jig, which was a quick, merry, dance.

115, 6. Is it … in? Is this a kind of world in which one should hide one’s virtues? a question of appeal, = the world we live in is not one which appreciates such modesty.

117. it was … galllard. A reference to the belief then so common that a man’s disposition was affected by the star which was in the ascendant at the time of his birth; see Lear, i. 2. 128 et seqq., where Edmund ridicules the notion.

118, 9. it does … stock, it shows fairly well, etc.; indifferent, adverbially, is frequent in Shakespeare; here of course Sir Andrew uses the word with mock modesty. Stockings were formerly called ‘stocks’; for the history of the word see Skeat, Ety. Dict.: set about, set about getting up some, etc.

122. Taurus! … heart. In the medical astrology of former days the various parts and organs of the body were supposed to be affected by the constellations, Taurus having influence upon the neck and throat, not the sides and heart, or the legs and thighs, as Sir Andrew and Sir Toby respectively think.


How to cite the explanatory notes:

Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night Or What You Will. Ed. Kenneth Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1889.