From Twelfth Night Or What You Will. Ed. Kenneth Deighton. London: Macmillan.
3. And what ... Illyria. What business have I in coming to
Illyria? a question of appeal equivalent to, There is no good in
my coming to Illyria (now that my brother is dead). Editors
point out the pun on Illyria and Elysium.
6. It is perchance, it is only by a lucky chance; echoing her
use of the word in the preceding line; cp. Temp, ii. 1. 238, 9,
"Seb. I have no hope That he's undrown'd. Ant. O, out of that
'no hope' What great hope have you!"
8. to comfort ... chance, in order to comfort yourself with what
chance may have in store for you.
9. did split, went to pieces; a nautical term, cp. Temp, i. 1.
65, "We split, we split!"
10. those poor number, those few; number being a noun of
multitude, those number is not more ungrammatical than 'those
sort,' a colloquialism still common.
11. Hung on, clung to; cp. Temp. i. 2. 474, "Hence, hang not
on my garments"; the converse, 'hang off,' i.e. cease to hang
on, is used in M. N. D. iii. 2. 260, "Hang off thou cat, thou
burr, vile thing, let loose": driving, i.e. before the wind.
13. Courage ... practice, being prompted to do so not only by
hope, but by a courage also which does not always belong to
those who hope; for practice, meaning a single action, not, as
usually, a habitual one, cp. Per. iv. 2. 136, "These blushes of
hers must be quenched with some present practice."
14. lived, did not sink, floated buoyantly; another nautical
term, as in such phrases as "the boat could not live in such a
15. Arion, of Methymna in Lesbos, an ancient Greek bard, and
celebrated player on the cithara. On his return to Corinth from
Sicily, whither he had gone to take part in a musical contest,
the sailors on board his vessel coveting the presents he had
brought away with him, determined to murder him. After
pleading in vain for his life, he obtained permission once more to
play on his cithara, and, having done so, threw himself into the
sea. But many song-loving dolphins had assembled round the
vessel, and one of them now took the bard on his back and
conveyed him to Taenarus, whence be returned to Corinth in
16. I saw ... waves, so long as I could see him, he continued to
be on terms of acquaintance with, did not cringe to, the
waves, i.e. bore up against them, did not sink. For hold acquaintance, cp. A. Y. L. ii. 3. 49, 60, "If with myself I hold intelligence, Or have acquaintance with mine own desires."
19-21. Mine own ... him. My own escape suggests to my hopeful mind a like fortunate escape on his part, and this hopefulness
is strengthened by your words: of him, as regards him. For
country, a trisyllable, see Abb. § 477.
22. bred and born, Shakespeare uses 'bred' in two different
senses, (1) begotten, (2) reared, brought up; and it is difficult to
say whether the word here has the former sense, or whether the
expression bred and born is merely an inversion of the commoner
'born and bred,' i.e. born and brought up.
25. in nature ... name, the Orsini being among the noblest of
Italian families both as to birth and personal distinction in
various lines of life. Throughout the rest of the play, Orsino is called "Count," though his speeches are prefixed "Duke."
28, 9. Orsino! ... then. Cowden Clarke remarks, "Here is
one of Shakespeare's subtle touches in dramatic art. By the
mention of Viola's father having spoken of the Duke, we are led
to see the source of her interest in Orsino; and by the word
'bachelor' we are made to see the peculiar nature of that
interest. By this delicate indication of an already existing
inclination on the part of the heroine for the hero of the play,
the circumstance of her at once falling so deeply in love with
him, on coming to know him personally, is most naturally and
32. And then ... murmur, and at that time it was already
rumoured that, etc. The idea in murmur is of their speaking
with bated breath of a matter so much above their personal
33. the less, the lower orders, the inferiors to those great ones;
cp. Macb. V. 4. 12, "Both more and less have given him the
revolt": prattle, the frequentative form of 'prate,' to talk idly.
35. What's she? Who may she be? with a notion of indefiniteness.
37. some twelvemonth since, for 'some' in the sense of 'about,'
which is frequently used with numeral adjectives qualifying
nouns of time, and so, by association, with a singular noun of
time, see Abb. § 21.
39. for ... love, out of fond love for whom: Dyce follows
Walker in reading 'loss' for love; but here, as in i. 1. 31, "A
brother's dear love," the genitive is used objectively.
41-4. O that ... estate is! Would that I served that lady, and
might not be discovered to the world as being what I am, until
I had been able to make ripe, bring to maturity, my design.
Cowden Clarke interprets, "Oh, that I might not be presented
to the world, till I had myself prepared the occasion for declaring
what my condition really is"; and sees in the words "the idea
of the shrinking diffidence with which a young and well-born lady dreads encountering publicity until she can do so under
suitable protection." Schmidt takes mellow as an intransitive
verb, Abbott (§ 290) as a transitive verb, apparently connecting
it with the following line. It appears to me to be an adjective.
Cp. L. L. L. iv. 2. 72, "delivered upon the mellowing of occasion";
and for deliver, Cor. v. 3. 39, "The sorrow that delivers us thus
changed Makes you think so." The construction And might ...
estate is, is analogous to that of the redundant pronoun in i. 2.
53, "Conceal me what I am," and i. 6. 231, "I see you what you
are," and equivalent to, Would that no one would deliver me
to the world what I am.
44. to compass, lit. to go round something and so get to the
desired point, hence to obtain, and, as here, to bring about,
effect; cp. Temp. iii. 2. 66, "How now shall this be compassed?"
46. not the duke's, not even the duke's.
47. a fair behaviour, a well-seeming manner.
48, 9. And though ... pollution, and though nature often gives
a fair exterior to a foul inside; cp. M. V. v. 1. 63-5, "Such
harmony is in immortal souls; But while this muddy vesture of
decay Doth grossly close it in, we cannot bear it," where the
converse idea is stated. The allusion in the text is to whited
sepulchres. For that, as a conjunctional affix, see Abb. § 287.
52. I prithee ... bounteously, I pray you to conceal who and
what I am, and I not only pray you to do so, but will reward
you handsomely if you do: for conceal ... am, see note on 1. 44,
55. The form ... intent, the character of my design.
56. present, introduce.
57. It may ... pains, if I become his page, I shall probably
be able to reward you well for introducing me to his notice.
58. And speak ... music, and hold converse with him, touch
his feelings with, etc.; cp. Haml, iii. 2. 374, "it will discourse
most eloquent music."
59. allow, prove; as frequently in Shakespeare: Wright notes
that the two senses of 'allow,' to assign, and to approve, are due
to the different sources from which the word is derived; the
former being from the Low Lat. allocare, the latter from allaudare: very worth, being worthy of; we still say 'well worth,'
but not 'very worth.'
60. commit, entrust to, leave to.
61. Only ... wit, all that I ask of you is that you should make
your silence about my condition, etc., fit in with my design;
my wit, that which my ingenuity shall devise.
62. your mute, the mention of 'eunuch' brings into the
captain's mind the thought of the 'mutes,' dumb attendants
in the Turkish harems, and he promises to perform her behest as
faithfully as the mutes performed those of the sultan; cp. Cymb.
iii 5. 158, "that you will be a voluntary mute to my design."
63. let mine ... see, I will be content that my eyes should be
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night Or What You Will. Ed. Kenneth Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1889. Shakespeare Online. 20 Dec. 2010. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/twn_1_2.html >
Did You Know? ... Most likely, Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night in 1601, but there is no record of any print version of the play before the First Folio of 1623. In 1602, a lawyer named John Manningham commented in his Diary that, while at a feast, he saw a play called Twelfth Night or What You Will, "much like the Comedy of Errors, or Menechmi, in Plautus, but most like and near to
that in the Italian called Inganni." Internal evidence also points to 1601 being the date of composition. Dating the plays is a fascinating process. Learn about it here...
Did You Know? ... William Kempe was one of the most beloved clowns in the Elizabethan theatre. Records tell us that Kempe was an actor with Leicester's Men on a tour of the Netherlands and Denmark in 1585-86. By 1593 Kempe was a member of Strange's Men, and theatre-goers and fellow actors were beginning to recognize his comedic talent. Read on...