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Twelfth Night


[Enter VALENTINE and VIOLA in man’s attire]
VALENTINEIf the duke continue these favours towards you,
Cesario, you are like to be much advanced: he hath
known you but three days, and already you are no stranger.
VIOLAYou either fear his humour or my negligence, that
you call in question the continuance of his love:
is he inconstant, sir, in his favours?
VALENTINENo, believe me.
VIOLAI thank you. Here comes the count.
[Enter DUKE ORSINO, CURIO, and Attendants]
DUKE ORSINOWho saw Cesario, ho?
VIOLAOn your attendance, my lord; here.10
DUKE ORSINOStand you a while aloof, Cesario,
Thou know’st no less but all; I have unclasp’d
To thee the book even of my secret soul:
Therefore, good youth, address thy gait unto her;
Be not denied access, stand at her doors,
And tell them, there thy fixed foot shall grow
Till thou have audience.
VIOLASure, my noble lord,
If she be so abandon’d to her sorrow
As it is spoke, she never will admit me.
DUKE ORSINOBe clamorous and leap all civil bounds20
Rather than make unprofited return.
VIOLASay I do speak with her, my lord, what then?
DUKE ORSINOO, then unfold the passion of my love,
Surprise her with discourse of my dear faith:
It shall become thee well to act my woes;
She will attend it better in thy youth
Than in a nuncio’s of more grave aspect.
VIOLAI think not so, my lord.
DUKE ORSINODear lad, believe it;
For they shall yet belie thy happy years,
That say thou art a man: Diana’s lip30
Is not more smooth and rubious; thy small pipe
Is as the maiden’s organ, shrill and sound,
And all is semblative a woman’s part.
I know thy constellation is right apt
For this affair. Some four or five attend him;
All, if you will; for I myself am best
When least in company. Prosper well in this,
And thou shalt live as freely as thy lord,
To call his fortunes thine.
VIOLAI’ll do my best
To woo your lady:
yet, a barful strife!40
Whoe’er I woo, myself would be his wife.

Next: Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 5


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 4

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

2. you are like … advanced, there is every prospect of his raising you to a high office about him.

4. his humour, his caprice: call in question, seem to doubt.

8. the count. See note on i. 2. 25.

10. On your … here. I am here waiting to serve you; your is objective, in attendance on you.

11. aloof, from “A prep, + Loof, luff, weather-gage, windward direction; perhaps immediately from Du. loef, in te loef, to windward” … (Murray’s Eng. Dict).

12. no less but all, no less than all, the whole truth of the matter; for but instead of ‘than,’ see Abb. § 127.

12, 3. I have … soul, I have revealed to you the inmost secrets of my soul, those which I have concealed from every one else; cp. i. H. IV. i. 3. 188, “I will unclasp a secret book”; T. C. iv. 6. 60, “unclasp the tables of their thoughts.”

14. address … her, direct your steps to her house; ‘dress’ ultimately from the Lat. directus, straight.

15. Be not … access, refuse to take any denial from her, insist upon being allowed to see her.

16. thy fixed … grow, there you will plant your foot immovably: have, subjunctive.

18. so … sorrow, so utterly given up to, so completely preoccupied by, her sorrow.

19. As it is spoke, as people say; for spoke, the curtailed form of the past participle, see Abb. § 343.

20. leap … hounds, overleap all the limits of courtesy.

21. Rather … return, rather than return without having gained something from her, some answer, information.

22. Say, suppose.

24. Surprise … faith; take her by surprise, and so get the better of her, by pouring out the story of my passionate and faithful love for her; for surprise, in this sense, cp. Temp. iii. 1. 93, “So glad of this as they I cannot be Who am surprised withal”; W. T. iii. 1. 10, “And the ear-deafening voice o’ the oracle … so surprised my sense”; dear, in the sense of ‘heart- felt,’ is common in Shakespeare.

26. She will … youth, she will listen to it better from one so young as you are; for attend, trans., see Abb. § 200.

27. a nuncio, an ambassador, especially a papal ambassador; Lat. nuntius, a messenger.

29. yet, even up to this time: happy years, the careless, happy, years of youth.

31. rubious, red as a ruby; one of Shakespeare’s coinages: small pipe, i.e. windpipe; cp. K. J. v. 7. 23, “This pale faint swan Who chants a doleful hymn to his own death. And from the organ-pipe of frailty sings His soul and body to their lasting rest,” where ‘the organ-pipe of frailty’ means the windpipe of one who is well near worn out.

32. shrill and sound, shrill like a boy’s treble and yet uncracked. In boys the voice cracks at the age of puberty, but the Duke, though not admitting that Caesario had reached manhood, seems surprised that in a lad (as he supposes her to be) of such an age the voice should still retain its treble note and not yet have cracked.

33. And all … part, and everything about you resembles a woman’s part in a play; those parts being played by boys; cp. A. C. v. 2. 220, T. G. iv. 4. 165. semblative, like; not found elsewhere in Shakespeare.

34. thy constellation … apt. See note on i. 3. 117.

35. Some … him, let some four or five go with him as an escort.

36, 7. am best … company, who am happiest, most at my ease, when I am most alone.

37-9. Prosper … thine, if you succeed in this matter, you shall be as free to use my wealth as I am; for the transposition of freely, see Abb. § 419a.

40. a barful strife, this is a contest in which, if I succeed, I place a barrier to my own happiness: cp. Blanch’s speech, K. J. iii. 1. 328-35.

41. Whoe’er … wife, though compelled to make love for him to Olivia, it is he whom I desire to wed; on who for ‘whom,’ see Abb. § 274.


How to cite the explanatory notes:

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

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