Part II. Roman 21. Twelfth Night, or, What You Will

Twelfth night is the twelfth day after Christmas-January 6. This is the traditional anniversary of the day on which the infant Jesus was viewed by the Magi and therefore the first manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles. The day is also called Epiphany, from a Greek word meaning "manifestation."

There is no biblical justification for this particular date or for any fixed number of days after the birth of Jesus for the appearance of the Magi. Nevertheless, it did afford the people in medieval times the chance of a twelve-day celebration following Christmas (hence the popular carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas").

Twelfth Night was in some ways the climax of the festive period. In connection with this, a lawyers' guild seems to have commissioned Shakespeare in 1600 to write them an amusing play for Twelfth Night 1601. He did so and the play was called Twelfth Night after the occasion and not because of anything in the play itself.

It was the third of Shakespeare's joyous comedies, all written at the turning of the century, and he apparently viewed them as trifles designed for amusement only. His titles show it: Much Ado About Nothing and As You Like It. Even this third play, usually called Twelfth Night, has a subtitle which perhaps more effectively describes Shakespeare's feeling- What You Will.

This was the last warm comedy Shakespeare was to write for many years. The shadows closed in and for a decade he wrote somber tragedies and bitter non-tragedies (scarcely comedies). Why this should have been so, we can only speculate. One tempting thought is that it was the execution of Essex (see page I-120), which took place just after Twelfth Night was completed, that darkened the light for Shakespeare.

... the food of love.. .

The setting of the play is Illyria.

In actual geography, Illyria is the coastal district of what we now call Yugoslavia and makes up the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea, just across from Italy. It never made up a prominent part of the civilized ancient world, though in the fourth century it contributed a series of great Roman emperors: Claudius II, Aurelian, Diocletian, and Constantine I.

In the seventh century invading Slavs occupied Illyria and in the fourteenth century it fell into the grip of the Ottoman Turks. In Shakespeare's time what had once been Illyria and then became Serbia was still part of the Ottoman Empire. Parts of its coast, however, were controlled by Venice, and were Italian in culture.

Still, we need not be overconcerned with actual geography. Shakespeare's Illyria, like his seacoast of Bohemia in The Winter's Tale and his Forest of Arden in As You Like It, really exists nowhere but in the play.

It is the Duke of Illyria who speaks first. He is, apparently, lovesick, and says:

// music be the food of love, play on,

Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,

The appetite may sicken, and so die.

- Act I, scene i, lines 1-3

The Duke's name is Orsino, which is derived from the Latin word for "bear" and is therefore most inappropriate for the overcultivated, over-refined Duke of this play. However, at the time the play was being written, Queen Elizabeth I of England was expecting an Italian visitor, Don Virginio Orsino, Duke of Bracciano (a town twenty miles northwest of Rome). Perhaps Shakespeare was offering the name as a delicate compliment to the Italian guest.

... fell and cruel hounds

The Duke is apparently hopelessly in love with Olivia, a rich noblewoman of Illyria, and cannot be diverted from his sentimental melancholy. When it is suggested that he hunt the hart (that is, stag) he breaks into a self-pitying play upon the word, saying that when he saw Olivia:

That instant was I turned into a hart,

And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds,

E'er since pursue me.

- Act I, scene i, lines 22-24

This is a reference to the tale of Actaeon (see page I-406), who was turned into a stag by the angry Diana and was then killed by his own hounds.

... like Anon. ..

Meanwhile, on the Illyrian seacoast, Viola, a young lady, appears. With her are a ship's captain and his sailors. They have just survived a wreck in which the girl's twin brother has apparently been lost.

Viola is heartsick over her brother's death, but the Captain says he saw her brother tie himself

To a strong mast that lived upon the sea;

Where, like Arion on the dolphin's back,

I saw him hold acquaintance with the waves

So long as I could see.

- Act I, scene ii, lines 14-17

Arion is a character out of Greek legend. He was a master musician at the court of Periander, tyrant of Corinth, about 600 b.c. He traveled to Sicily to compete in a musical contest, winning the prize and many rich gifts.

On the ship back to Corinth, the sailors decided to kill Arion and appropriate those gifts. He asked permission only to play and sing one last time and, having done so, jumped into the sea and the ship sailed on.

The music had, however, attracted a school of dolphins, and on the back of one of these, Arion was brought to Corinth faster than the ship could be rowed. At Corinth, Arion told his story and when the ship arrived, Periander had the sailors executed.

Be you his eunuch...

Viola is heartened by the news, but there is still the problem of what she is to do next. As an unattended maiden, she would be in great danger, so once again Shakespeare uses the device of a girl dressed in a man's clothes. As a man, she decides to seek employment in Duke Orsino's service. The Captain approves and says:

Be you his eunuch, and your mute I'll be;

- Act I, scene ii, line 62

This is a stab at realism. A girl dressed in men's clothing would, in real life, give herself away with her hairless cheeks, her shrill voice, and her mincing ways. All these would fit a eunuch.

Eunuchs were common in the East, and even in the West were valued in Italy for their high singing voices. The use of eunuchs in the papal choir was continued well into the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, Viola as a eunuch would not be fitted for the romantic role she is to have in the play, and the device of eunuch and mute is dropped at once and there is no mention of either at any later point in the play.

... born under Taurus

The next scene is in the house of Olivia, the unresponsive object of Orsino's affection.

In the house we meet Sir Toby Belch, Olivia's uncle, who sponges off her and off anyone else he can find. "Toby" is a diminutive of "Tobias" and "Belch" is descriptive of his tippling habits. With him is Maria, one of Olivia's women, and entering the scene almost immediately is Sir Andrew Aguecheek. (The name indicates his cheek has the habit of trembling, as though with ague or chills, but actually out of fear.) He is there because Sir Toby is encouraging him to court Olivia, meanwhile helping himself to the money the poor fellow has.

Toby makes merciless fun of Sir Andrew, who never penetrates any mockery at his own expense. Thus, when Andrew boasts of his dancing ability, Toby encourages him to caper about, saying:

What shall we do else?

Were we not born under Taurus?

- Act I, scene iii, lines 134-35

This is a reference to the zodiac, so important to the pseudo science of astrology. There are twelve signs (constellations or star configurations) in the zodiac, which girdles the sky, and the sun spends one month in each of them.

Apparently Sir Toby and Sir Andrew were both born in the month (April 20 to May 21) when the sun was in Taurus the Bull and were therefore born "under Taurus." Each sign is supposed to have a vast number of significances and is, as an example, supposed to govern a particular part of the body. When Andrew suggests that Taurus presides over sides and heart, Toby says:

No, sir; it is legs and thighs.

Let me see thee caper.

- Act I, scene iii, lines 137-38

Naturally, if Taurus presides over legs and thighs, those born under Taurus must be great dancers.

... what says Quinapalus...

Also at Olivia's house is a Clown named Feste, which is very much like the Italian word for "holiday" and may be an oblique reference to the fact that the play was written to celebrate a holiday.

He has been absent without leave, and he is warned by Maria that he may be discharged. The Clown must therefore win over Olivia and he muses over methods for doing so, saying to himself:

For what says Quinapalus?

"Better a witty fool than a foolish wit."

- Act I, scene v, lines 34-35

It is useless to try to find Quinapalus in a reference book; the name is invented. The Clown apparently has had an education and it is his particular comic device to speak in pseudo-learned jargon. (This would appeal particularly to the lawyers who had commissioned the play.)

... such a barren rascal

The Clown does indeed amuse Olivia and win her forgiveness, but one member of her staff remains untouched. He is Malvolio (his name means "ill will," the opposite of Benvolio, see page I-477, in Romeo and Juliet), who is Olivia's capable steward and hard-working business manager.

Malvolio is humorless, austere, proud, and easily angered. The Clown's wit does not amuse him; it merely offends. He says:

I marvel your ladyship

takes delight in such a barren rascal.

- Act I, scene v, lines 82-83

Malvolio is Shakespeare's notion of a Puritan, and, indeed, he is referred to as one later in the play.

The Protestant Reformation, which began to affect England in the reign of Henry VIII (see page II-783), settled down at last into a typical English compromise under Elizabeth I. There remained those men of Protestant persuasion, however, who were dissatisfied with the compromise and demanded that the English church be purified of those remnants of Catholicism which it possessed.

These demanders of purification came to be called Puritans, and they grew more prominent throughout Elizabeth's reign, although she remained strong enough to refuse to give in to them even when they gained control of Parliament.

The Puritans were self-consciously virtuous men who were equally conscious of the vices of those who disagreed with them. Stalwartly against serious forms of immorality, vice, and crime, Puritans tended to be just as stalwartly against trivial forms of these same things. By wasting their efforts on inconsequentials, they antagonized many who would have been willing to join the assault on important issues. Furthermore, then- pride in virtue was such that anyone was delighted when a Puritan was caught in sin, and it became easy to equate Puritanism with cant and hypocrisy.

Indeed, Olivia's retort to Malvolio's complaint about the Clown is a reflection of the common attitude toward the Puritan. She says:

O, you are sick of self-love, Malvolio,

and taste with a dis tempered appetite.

- Act I, scene v, lines 90-91

Shakespeare, as a professional dramatist and actor, had a specific grudge against Puritans, since they denounced the theater as a haunt of sin and vice and an encouragement to idleness. It was their intention to close down the theaters if they could, and a professional dramatist and actor like Shakespeare could scarcely be expected to show Puritanism anything but hostility in consequence.

... Sebastian of Messaline. ..

Meanwhile Viola has taken employment with Orsino under the name of Cesario and promptly falls in love with the Duke. As for Orsino, he takes a liking to the "young man" and uses him to carry a message to Olivia.

Viola/Cesario carries the message to Olivia but in such a way as to make the Duke something less than impressive. Olivia is, however, favorably impressed with the "young man" and begins to show an affection which Viola/Cesario naturally finds horrifying.

While that happens, Viola's twin brother, Sebastian, turns out to have survived the wreck after all. He has clung to the mast till picked up by another ship, whose captain, Antonio, takes a strong liking to the young man. Antonio's attitude is, in fact, even more marked than that of the other Antonio (in The Merchant of Venice) toward Bassanio, and is more clearly homosexual.

Once both are on the Illyrian coast, Sebastian abandons a pseudonym he has been using (why, we are not told) and identifies himself, saying:

You must know of me then, Antonio,

my name is Sebastian, which I called Roderigo.

My father was that Sebastian of Messaline

whom I know you have heard of.

- Act II, scene i, lines 16-19

It is useless to search for Messaline. There is no such place. Either Shakespeare negligently made up a name or else, more likely, it is a printer's error that has been preserved ever since (because actually it makes no difference).

If it is a misprint there are two possibilities for what the place may have been. It may have been Messene, a Greek city in the southwestern Peloponnesus, about 360 miles southeast of the Illyrian coast; or Messina in Sicily, an almost equal distance southwest of it, and the scene of the action in Much Ado About Nothing (see page I-545).

Sebastian takes his leave of Antonio, for he is bound for Orsino's court, where (unknown to him) his sister is. The court is dangerous for Antonio, who has gained the Duke's enmity, but his affection for Sebastian is so strong that he follows him anyway.

... the four elements

The scene shifts to Olivia's house again, where late at night Sir Toby and his friends are having a rousing time. Sir Toby engages in mock-scholarly arguments with the foolish Sir Andrew, saying:

Does not our lives

consist of the four elements?

- Act II, scene iii, lines 9-10

The ancient Greek philosophers sought to find out the basic substance ("element") out of which the earth was constructed. Different philosophers had different candidates for the post, and Empedocles of Acragas finally suggested, about 450 B.C., that there was more than one. Four, altogether, were named: earth, water, air, and fire, and out of these all the earth was constructed. A century later Aristotle adopted this view and fixed it in human thought for two thousand years.

The view did not begin to go out of fashion till half a century after Shakespeare's death, and we still today speak of the "raging of the elements" when we talk of wind and water being lashed to fury by a storm over the ocean.

Malvolio comes in at length, to scold them for the noise they are making, and Sir Toby answers him with spirit, in the fashion that all fun-loving, but not really wicked, people might use to counter the self-righteous. He says to Malvolio:

Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous,

there shall be no cakes and ale?

- Act II, scene iii, lines 114-15

It is after he leaves that Maria says of him:

Marry, sir, sometimes he is a kind of Puritan.

- Act II, scene iii, line 140

... Penthesilea

Maria describes the most prominent component of Malvolio's character to be a monstrous self-pride and suggests that they work up a plan to take advantage of that. She will imitate Olivia's handwriting and drop notes in places where he can find them so that he will be misled into thinking Olivia is in love with him. He will then, Maria is sure, promptly make a most enormous ass of himself.

Toby is absolutely delighted, and when she leaves, he calls after her:

Good night, Penthesilea.

- Act II, scene iii, line 177

Penthesilea in the Greek legends was an Amazon. According to some of the tales, she was the younger sister of Hippolyta, whom Theseus had married (see page I-18). It was Penthesilea who killed Hippolyta in the Amazonian war of revenge against Theseus, and afterward she joined the Trojans in their war against the Greeks and was killed in turn by Achilles.

Clearly, an Amazon is bound to be a large and muscular woman, and Penthesilea particularly so, since she fought with credit against Achilles himself. But Maria, it is clear in several places in the play, is a particularly small girl, which gives Toby's remark its humor.

... green and yellow melancholy

Duke Orsino, who intends to continue to use Viola/Cesario as his messenger to Olivia, talks of love to the "young man." Viola/Cesario sadly tells her love to Orsino, pretending it is her sister she is speaking of, and saying:

She never told her love,

But let concealment, like a worm i'th'bud,

Feed on her damask cheek. She pined in thought,

And, with a green and yellow melancholy,

She sat like Patience on a monument,

Smiling at grief.

- Act II, scene iv, lines 111-16

There is a glancing reference here to the doctrine of the four humors, first advanced by the school of Greek physicians who followed the famous Hippocrates of Cos (of the fifth century b.c.).

They believed that there were four fluids, or "humors," in the body: phlegm, blood (sanguis in Latin), bile (chole in Greek), and black bile (melanchole in Greek).

Bile is the secretion of the liver and there is only one variety, a greenish-yellow fluid. On standing, it grows much darker and becomes almost black; hence the distinction between bile and black bile.

The Greek physicians elaborated the theory that the predominance of one fluid over the other resulted in a particular type of temperament or "humor" (see page II-424). There were people who were phlegmatic, sanguine, choleric, or melancholic.

The expression "green and yellow melancholy" refers to the fact that bile was supposedly predominant in the melancholic, though Shakespeare is thinking of ordinary bile, rather than black bile.

... a bearbaiting. ..

At Olivia's house, the plot to catch Malvolio progresses. A new character enters, Fabian. He is another of Olivia's servants and he too has a grudge against Malvolio. He says:

You know he brought me out o'favor

with my lady about a bearbaiting here.

- Act II, scene v, lines 6-7

In bearbaiting, a bear is tied to a stake, and sometimes muzzled. Dogs are then set on it and the "sport" consists in watching the maddened bear slowly tortured to death, usually killing a few dogs on the way. It was very popular in the time of Elizabeth I, and in 1575 thirteen bears were baited with the Queen an interested spectator. This "amusement" was not finally outlawed in England till 1835.

Apparently Fabian had organized a bearbaiting, and Malvolio had complained of it to Olivia, whose soft heart had been touched and who had been angry with Fabian in consequence.

This is a reflection of the fact that the Puritans, to their great credit, strove to have bearbaiting made illegal. (There were, however, not wanting those who said, cynically, that Puritans were against bearbaiting not because it gave pain to the bear but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.)

... Jezebel

Malvolio now enters the trap. The letter has been planted in the garden, and the plotters hide in a tree watching Malvolio. The steward is so lost in self-conceit that he dreams of marriage with Olivia and begins to assume the airs of a great lord. Sir Toby is almost choked with indignation, and Sir Andrew, imitating Toby, cries out:

Fie on him, Jezebel.

- Act II, scene v, line 41

Jezebel was the idolatrous Queen of Israel, wife of wicked King Ahab. She is a byword for pride. When her son (the successor of Ahab) was killed by the revolutionary general Jehu, she met the murderer in her palace as a queen should. Though facing death, she dressed herself like a queen and taunted Jehu with a past revolution that had failed. Or, as the Bible puts it (2 Kings 9:30-31), "And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it, and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window. And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she said, Had Zimri peace, who slew his master?"

Of course, Sir Andrew's use of the name is inappropriate from the standpoint of sex; for a man, however proud, can scarcely be a Jezebel; and his simplicity is designed to raise a laugh in the audience.

... the impressure her Lucrece ...

Malvolio eventually spies the letter, picks it up, and examines it. The handwriting on the outside seems Olivia's and the seal which closes the fold has Olivia's imprint. Malvolio describes it as:

... the impressure her Lucrece,

with which she uses to seed.

- Act II, scene v, lines 94-95

A person of quality would use a particular stamp (perhaps engraved on a ring) to impress the drop of wax sealing a letter, as further indication of ownership and guard against forgery. Olivia uses a representation of the Roman matron Lucretia, concerning whom (see page I-205) Shakespeare had written The Rape of Lucrece some six or seven years before. Of course, Maria had made use of her mistress' seal.

... from the Sophy

Malvolio interprets the letter exactly as pleases his self-love. It advises him to do just the sort of thing Maria knows Olivia loathes. He is told to smile constantly, to be haughtier and surlier than ever, to talk politics, cultivate eccentricity, wear yellow stockings, and be cross-gartered. He swears to do it all, and when he leaves, Fabian, in the tree, half dead with suppressed laughter, says:

I will not give my part of this sport

for a pension of thousands to be paid from the Sophy.

- Act II, scene v, lines 181-82

The "Sophy" is the title given in England to the Persian Shah (see page I-521). In 1599, not long before Twelfth Night was written, Sir Anthony Shirley came back from Persia, laden with gifts from the Shah for his role in helping reorganize the Persian army. This remark of Fabian's, therefore, is a topical reference.

As for Toby, he is so delighted with the working out of the plan that he offers to follow Maria

To the gates of Tartar, thou

most excellent devil of wit.

- Act II, scene v, lines 207-8

By Tartar is meant Tartarus, the level below Hades where evil souls were tortured for their sins (see page I-13).

Cressida was a beggar

Viola/Cesario has come to Olivia's for another interview on behalf of the Duke. She exchanges wit with the Clown and then gives him a coin. The Clown promptly asks, in literary style, for another:

/ would play Lord Pandarus of Phrygia, sir,

to bring a Cres sida to this Troilus.

- Act III, scene i, lines 52-53

This refers to the famous tale Shakespeare was soon to put to use in his own Troilus and Cressida. Viola/Cesario gets the allusion and commends the begging, whereupon the Clown instantly points out that:

Cressida was a beggar.

- Act III, scene i, line 56

A late sequel to the medieval tale explained how Cressida was punished for betraying Troilus. She was stricken with leprosy and became a diseased beggar. Shakespeare did not use this part of the tale in his own treatment (see page I-124), but this line is evidence enough that he knew of it.

... music from the spheres

In the second interview, Olivia is bolder than in the first. She says, when Viola/Cesario speaks of the Duke:

I bade you never speak again of him;

But, would you undertake another suit,

I had rather hear you to solicit that

Than music from the spheres.

- Act III, scene i, lines 109-12

This is another Shakespearean reference to the Pythagorean doctrine of the music of the spheres (see page I-199). Despite Olivia's invitation to speak for himself, Viola/Cesario has no option but to flee.

... a Dutchman's beard...

Olivia's love for Viola/Cesario does not go unnoticed, however. The foolish Sir Andrew is not so foolish as to fail to see it, and, petulantly, he decides his own suit is useless and prepares to leave.

Toby and Fabian, unwilling to let go their profitable gull, try to argue him out of this first sensible decision he has made. They assure him that Olivia is only trying to make him jealous and that Sir Andrew is losing out only because he isn't a daring enough lover. Sir Toby says:

... you are now sailed into the North

of my lady's opinion, where you will hang

like an icicle on a Dutchman's beard

unless you do redeem it by some

laudable attempt either of valor or policy.

- Act III, scene ii, lines 26-30

To sail into the north of a lady's opinion is a clear metaphor representing her growing coldness. It is also a topical reference. Between 1594 and 1597 there was the most spectacular attempt man had yet seen to explore the Arctic regions. The Dutch explorer Willem Barents had sailed northeastward, discovering Spitsbergen in 1596 and exploring the coasts of the large Siberian islands of Novaya Zemlya. He spent the whiter of 1596-97 in the Arctic, the first non-Eskimo to do so. He died in 1597 on his return voyage and in his honor that stretch of water lying between Spitsbergen and Novaya Zemlya is known as the Barents Sea. There is no doubt but that the "Dutchman" in Sir Toby's speech is a reference to Barents.

.. .be a Brownist. ..

Given the choice between valor and policy, Sir Andrew (equally pathetic in both) chooses valor as the manlier. He says:

/ had as lief be a Brownist

as a politician.

- Act III, scene ii, lines 32-33

This is another sneer at Puritanism. The Brownists were followers of Robert Browne, who was such an extreme Puritan he felt he had to leave the Church of England altogether. He founded an independent church hi 1580 and in 1582 went off into exile to the Netherlands.

The Brownists were to form an interesting part of American history. Some of them, who had made a new home for themselves in Dutch exile, felt they could not maintain their English identity there and determined to establish a colony in the New World. In 1620, four years after Shakespeare's death, they sailed westward and landed in Plymouth, becoming America's revered Pilgrim Fathers.

... the bed of Ware.. .

Pleased with Sir Andrew's decision to be valiant, Sir Toby mischievously urges him on to write a challenge to Viola/Cesario. He tells him to write

... as many lies as will lie in thy sheet of paper,

although the sheet were big enough for the bed

of Ware in England...

- Act III, scene ii, lines 47-49

Ware was a market town about twenty miles north of London which in Shakespeare's time was famous for a huge bed, eleven feet square, reportedly capable of allowing twelve people to sleep on it at once. It was in several different inns in the vicinity at one time or another and in 1931 finally came into the possession of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

... the augmentation of the Indies

This new practical joke has scarcely been placed under way when the old one regarding Malvolio reaches a climax. Maria comes in to say that Malvolio has fulfilled all the requests of the letter; yellow stockings, cross-garterings, and all, down to the perpetual smiling: 588 ITALIAN

He does smile his face

into more lines than is in the new map

with the augmentation of the Indies.

- Act III, scene ii, lines 78-80

Mariners were particularly interested in marking a rhumb line on a map that would indicate the shortest distance from one point to another. On the globe, such a line would be a curve spiraling northward or southward.

In 1568 the Flemish geographer Gerhard Kremer (better known by the Latinized version of his last name, Mercator) put out a map of the world plotted in such a way that the rhumb lines were straight. Maps for navigation based on Mercator's scheme could be easily marked with rhumb lines, and many of them were therefore put in, crossing and crisscrossing.

What's more, the sixteenth-century explorations had led to an increasingly detailed knowledge of the Americas ("The Indies"), and about the time that Twelfth Night was being written, a new map, with numerous rhumb lines, was published, showing the New World in far greater and more accurate detail than had ever been shown before. This added detail was the "augmentation of the Indies."

... Jove, not I ...

Maria tells Olivia that Malvolio seems to be raving, and when he appears on the scene, grotesquely clothed and quoting meaningfully from the letter, Olivia, flabbergasted, can only think he really is mad.

Malvolio is so far gone in self-delusion, however, that he interprets everything in the light of Olivia's supposed love for him, and in the midst of his triumphing, he remembers to be pious, saying:

Well, Jove, not I, is the doer of this,

and he is to be thanked.

- Act III, scene iv, lines 87-88

This is undoubtedly intended to mock Puritan sanctimoniousness, and, just as undoubtedly, the real Malvolio would have said "God" or "the Lord" or "the Almighty." Growing Puritan strength, however, in later years clamped down on references to God on the stage, and this form of ridiculous censorship led to the foolish substitution of "Jove."

... Legion himself ...

Sir Toby conies fussing in, full of mock concern over Malvolio's madness, and saying:

If all the devils of hell be drawn in little,

and Legion himself possessed him,

yet I'll speak to him.

- Act III, scene iv, lines 89-92

This is a reference to one of the examples of demonic possession in the New Testament. When Jesus asks the name of the "unclean spirit" possessing a man, that spirit answers "My name is Legion: for we are many" (Mark 5:9).

... like cockatrices

Toby baits Malvolio with his supposed madness and when the latter rushes off in a fury, Toby arranges to have him placed in a dark room because of his supposed madness, so that the practical joke may continue.

Meanwhile the affair of Sir Andrew and Viola/Cesario is developing further. Sir Andrew has written a cautiously phrased and clearly cowardly letter. Sir Toby accepts it gravely, but does not deliver it. He intends to deliver a challenge verbally, enormously exaggerating Sir Andrew's fire-eating propensities. He will then report with equal exaggeration to Sir Andrew, concerning what a raging fury Viola/Cesario is in. He says:

This will so fright them both that they

will kill one another by the look, like cockatrices.

- Act III, scene iv, lines 203-4

The cockatrice is the fabulous serpent which can kill by his mere glance (see page I-150).

... in Lethe steep

There now begins a series of mistakings very like those in The Comedy of Errors, complicated by difference in sex.

Antonio, the captain who has befriended Sebastian, has given him a purse of money to use, then follows him to keep an eye on him and guard him...

Meanwhile, Viola/Cesario, coming for another interview with Olivia, is waylaid by Sir Toby, who delivers Sir Andrew's challenge. The frightened Viola/Cesario finds he must fight the frightened Sir Andrew, but before anything can happen, Antonio comes charging in.

Assuming that Viola/Cesario is Sebastian, he is about to begin a fight in good earnest, when the Duke's officers come in to arrest him on the old charge of piracy. Antonio must ask Viola/Cesario to return his bag of money, for a fine may save his life. Naturally, Viola/Cesario knows nothing about the money, and Antonio is greatly upset over this seeming perfidy as he is dragged away.

And Sebastian too has his share of the confusion. Olivia encounters him, thinks he is Viola/Cesario, and begins to speak of love. Sebastian finds this entirely to his liking and says:

... I am mad, or else this is a dream.

Let fancy still [always] my sense in Lethe steep;

If it be thus to dream, still [always] let me sleep!

- Act IV, scene i, lines 61-63

Lethe was the name of one of the rivers of Hades, according to Greek mythology. All spirits were forced to drink of it, for it had the property of inducing forgetfulness so that past life on earth vanished from memory and only the spirit world remained. Sebastian is wishing, then, to forget his past existence and to live only in the present one, in which beautiful loving women appear from nowhere.

... King Gorboduc...

But the Malvolio affair is not yet done. Malvolio is now locked in a dark room and Sir Toby plans a further torment. He will have the Clown personify a curate, "Sir Topas," who will pretend to examine Malvolio.

The Clown demonstrates his skill at the part by talking a little learned-sounding gibberish. He says:

... 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."

- Act IV, scene ii, lines 13-16

Gorboduc was a legendary king of early Britain, and in 1562 he was the subject of a play written by Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville. In this play, Gorboduc divided his kingdom between two sons, Ferrex and Por-rex, and civil war followed. It was the first blank-verse tragedy published in England and began the cycle of drama that culminated so rapidly in the Shakespearean climax.

... the Egyptians in their fog

The Clown now begins the discussion with Malvolio through the closed door and is merciless. He insists the room in which Malvolio has been locked is not dark and that it is only the latter's mad imagination that makes it seem dark. The Clown says:

... there is no darkness

but ignorance, in which thou art more puzzled

than the Egyptians in their fog.

- Act IV, scene ii, lines 43-45

The "fog" spoken of here is the ninth plague brought down on Egypt by Moses prior to the Exodus. It is mentioned in Exodus 1:22-23: "And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days: They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days."

... the opinion of Pythagoras.. .

Malvolio, maintaining his sanity firmly, offers to answer any questions. The Clown asks:

What is the opinion of Pythagoras

concerning wild fowl?

- Act IV, scene ii, lines 51-52

Malvolio answers:

That the soul of our grandam

might happily inhabit a bird.

- Act IV, scene ii, lines 53-54

This is another Shakespearean reference to the Pythagorean theory of transmigration of souls (see page I-535), and is a perfectly correct answer.

... from Candy

By now Duke Orsino has grown tired of sending to Olivia fruitlessly and decides to go himself. When he reaches Olivia's house, he is met by his officers, who bring the sea captain Antonio to judgment.

The first officer says:

Orsino, this is that Antonio

That took the Phoenix and her fraught [cargo] from Candy;

And this is he that did the Tiger board

When your young nephew Titus lost his leg.

- Act V, scene i, lines 60-63

There is an unobvious reference here to the island of Crete. Crete has been a Greek-speaking island throughout history and in the early Middle Ages the largest city upon it was named Herakleon. In 826 Crete was captured by Moslems, who built a fortress on the site of the city and called it Khandax.

In 1204 the Venetians took the island and to them Khandax became Candia (and to the English, Candy). Since Candia was the largest city in Crete, it gave the name to the entire island. (Within the last century the island has become Greek again, taken back its own name, and its largest city is back almost to what it was-Iraklion).

In Shakespeare's time Venice and the Ottoman Turks were in a state of chronic warfare over the eastern islands, including Crete, and so there is this vague reference to some sort of battle in which Crete is named.

... th'Egyptian thief.. .

Mix-ups continue. Antonio denies he was a pirate but claims his deeds to have been lawful acts of war. However, he accuses Viola/Cesario of ingratitude and the latter desperately denies knowledge of what the captain is talking about.

To make matters worse, Olivia enters. She has married the delighted Sebastian and now thinks Viola/Cesario is he and claims her lovingly. Orsino, seeing that his servant has won the heart he himself could not, is furious and is almost moved to murder. He says:

Why should I not, had I the heart to do it,

Like to th'Egyptian thief at point of death,

Kill what I love?

- Act V, scene i, lines 117-19

"Th'Egyptian thief" is a character in a romance, Ethiopica, by Helio-dorus, a Greek author of the third century b.c. It is the earliest Greek romance that has survived and follows a pair of lovers, Theagenes and Charicleia, through innumerable adventures. At one point an Egyptian bandit, Thyamis, kidnaps Charicleia, whom he hopelessly loves, and when he is besieged, he tries to kill her in the darkness so that if he cannot have her, no one else can. He misses his mark, Charicleia survives, and the story reaches a happy ending.

It was translated into English in 1569 and was popular enough to ensure that Shakespeare's audience would get the allusion without trouble.

... a bloody coxcomb ...

Olivia claims Viola/Cesario as her husband and the mix-up is growing dangerous for the latter, when in comes a bleeding Sir Andrew. He and Sir Toby have mistaken Sebastian for Viola/Cesario and attacked him. They were well banged as a result. As the sniveling Sir Andrew says:

H'as broke my head across, and has given

Sir Toby a bloody coxcomb too.

- Act V, scene i, lines 175-76

The coxcomb, from the object worn on a fool's head (see page II-17), gradually came to be a familiar appellation for the head.

Toby comes on the scene too, bleeding and deeply humiliated. Then comes Sebastian, and his appearance solves the entire mix-up at once. Even Antonio understands, and we can be sure he will not be seriously punished.

I'll be revenged. ..

The Duke now discovers that Viola/Cesario is a girl and that she loves him. He asks to see her in her woman's clothing and she replies that that clothing is with the Captain who brought her on shore and he is in prison through the action of Malvolio. (This is the first mention of any such thing. The reason for Malvolio's action is not explained, nor for Viola's failure to do anything about it. It is clearly an afterthought.)

Nevertheless, it gives an excuse to bring in Malvolio. The joke at his expense is explained and all agree he has been ill used. He is not mollified, however, but instead goes snarling off, his last words being:

I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you!

- Act V, scene i, line 380

To be sure, Olivia expresses her sympathy again after he leaves and the Duke sends after to have him pacified and brought back, but that last line stands.

If Malvolio represents Puritanism, Shakespeare's insight was not wrong. Puritans were revenged on the theater. They continued to grow stronger until, under their leadership, Parliament rose in revolt against King Charles I in 1642. After years of fighting, the Puritans and their allies won a final victory in 1648 and the King was executed in 1649. Malvolio, in the person of Oliver Cromwell, controlled England and the theaters were closed down.

In 1660, to be sure, with Cromwell dead, the son of Charles I was brought back from exile and was made King Charles II. There followed a time of gaiety and frivolity and the stage was given over to "Restoration comedy"-mere froth and not even an echo of Shakespeare.

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