From Twelfth Night Or What You Will. Ed. Kenneth Deighton. London: Macmillan.
1 . Come thy ways, come along with me; see note on i. 5. 24,
and Abb. § 25.
2. Nay, I'll come. Nay used not in refusal but in assent to
something proposed, or in confirmation of something already
stated; probably elliptical for 'nay, do not fear': a scruple, the smallest portion, lit. the smallest weight in the apothecaries'
table of weights.
3. boiled ... melancholy, as criminals were sometimes boiled to
death in lead or oil; cp. W. T . iii. 2. 178, "What studied
torments, tyrant, hast thou for me? What wheels? racks?
fires? what flaying? boiling? In leads or oils?"
5. sheep-biter, "a cant term for a thief" (Dyce); in support of
which Rolfe quotes Taylor the Water-Poet, "And in some places
I have heard and scene That currish sheep-biters have hanged
beene." Schmidt explains "a morose, surly and malicious
fellow." In M. M . v. 1. 359, "Show your knave's face ... show
your sheep-biting face," the word might have either meaning:
come by, meet with, lit. come near, and so attain to.
6, 7. he brought ... favour, he brought me into some disgrace;
cp. A. W . v. 1. 50, "It lies in you, my lord, to bring me in some
grace, for you did bring me out": about ... here, in reference to
some bear-baiting we had here; see above, i. 3. 86.
9. will fool ... blue, fool him to the utmost extent; an adaptation of the phrase to beat a man black and blue, i.e. till he is all
over bruises; cp. M. W . iv. 3. 115; C. E . ii. 2. 194.
10. it is ... lives, it will be the geatest mistake in the world,
one that we shall bitterly regret, i.e. assuredly we will fool him,
etc., cp. M. M . ii. 1. 77; M. N. D . iii. 1. 44.
11. little villain, little rogue; said approvingly of Maria.
12. metal of India, i.e. heart of gold, precious one. Many edd.
adopt the reading of the second folio, 'nettle of India,' and
explain it by reference to the Urtica Marina, a zoophite abounding in the Indian seas, and producing a smarting, stinging
13. box-tree, originally a wild tree, which was introduced into
gardens to form the border to beds of flowers, and also as a tree
which could be clipped into the various fantastic shapes so much
affected in Shakespeare's day.
15. practising ... hour, practising courtly attitudes for the last
half hour by observing himself as reflected in his shadow thrown
by the sun; cp. W. T . i. 2. 117, "making practised smiles As in
16. for the ... mockery, as you love derision, or that which
gives scope for derision.
17. will make ... him, will, as he contemplates it, broods over
it, turn him into a thorough idiot; cp. 1. 27 below, "Contemplation makes a rare turkey-cock of him."
17, 8. Close ... jesting, keep close, do not let yourselves be
seen, I adjure you in the name of jesting; "for the love of
18, 9. here comes ... tickling, here comes the fish that must be
caught by flattery; we still use the phrase 'tickling for trout' for a kind of poaching with the hand; cp. Marston's Antonio
and Mellida, Pt. i., ii. 1. 115-7, "how he tickles yon trout under
the gills! you shall see him take him by and by with groping
20. 'Tis but fortune, it is nothing else than fortune; it is all a
matter of good luck.
21. she did affect me, that she, Olivia, cared for me; for
affect, cp. Cymb . v. 5. 38, "First, she confess'd she never loved
you, only Affected greatness got by you, not you." come thus
near, sc. admitting her love for me.
22. should she fancy, if ever she should fall in love with any
one: complexion, disposition, character, as indicated by external appearance.
23, 4. uses me ... her, treats me with more respect than any
of her other servants; Malvolio uses follows for 'serves,' as a
sop to his own dignity, just as Falstaff, i. H. IV . v. 4. 166, says,
"I'll follow, as they say, for reward"; though the word is frequent in Shakespeare in the sense of serving without any notion
of euphemism: should I, nearly = ought I; for should in direct
questions about the past, where shall is used about the future,
see Abb. § 325.
27, 8. makes ... him, causes him to strut like a turkey-cock.
28. how he ... plumes! how proudly he stalks with his feathers
spread out like a turkey-cock when excited; cp. Cymb . iii. 3. 5,
"the gates of monarchs Are arched so high that giants may jet
through And keep their turbans on"; Fr. jeter, to cast, throw,
dart out violently.
29. 'Slight, by God's light; a petty form of oath, as ''zounds,'
God's wounds, ''slife,' God's life, etc.
31. Count Malvolio, imagining himself raised to that dignity by his marriage with Olivia.
35. example, precedent.
35, 6. yeoman of the
wardrobe, an old term for officer of the wardrobe; Marston The Fawn, 2. 229, speaks of the "yeoman of the bottles," i.e.
37. Jezebel, Sir Andrew having heard the name 'Jezebel' used
as a term of reproach, and ignorant that Jezebel was a woman,
applies it to Malvolio; for the history of Jezebel, see i. Kings,
38. deeply in, well into the snare.
39. blows him, distends him with pride; cp. Lear , iv. 4. 27,
"No blown ambition doth our aims incite"; i. H. IV . ii. 4. 366.
41. in my state, in my seat of dignity; properly a canopied
chair; cp. i. H. IV . ii. 4. 416; Cor. v. 4. 22.
42. stone-bow, a cross-bow, used for shooting stones.
43. branched, figured, stamped, with designs of leaves and
44. day-bed, sofa, couch, in which one might recline in the
48. And then ... state, and then to assume the haughty manner
suitable to my high position.
49. demure ... regard, slowly and gravely looking them over
one by one: demure, from "O. F. demurs, i.e. de bon murs, of
good manners" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).
49, 50. as I would ... theirs, and I should be glad if they by
their behaviour showed that they knew what their position was
in relation to mine, i.e. how far below me they were.
51. Bolts and shackles! how I long to throw the fellow into
53. my people, my attendants: make ... him, rush off to fetch
54. I frown the while, I in the meantime, while they are
seeking for him, wear an austere look.
55. or play ... jewel. The reading in the text is Collier's suggestion; many edd. omit my, others explain it "some rich jewel
of mine." Brinsley Nicholson believes with great probability
that Malvolio was about to say "with my chain," but remembering his altered condition, checks himself, and substitutes "some
rich jewel." Massinger seems to have imitated this passage when,
in the Bondman, ii. 3. 54-6, the slave Gracculo, who imagines
himself freed and raised to a high position, is made to say, "and
if I did not Sleep on the bench with the drowsiest of them, flay
with my chain. Look on my watch," etc.
56. courtesies, salutes me with a bow; 'courtesy' was used in
Shakespeare's day of the salutation made by either sex, whereas
we now use 'courtesy' in this sense, or its shortened form
'curtsey,' of women only.
58, 9. Though ... cars, though the impulse put upon us to
break silence is as strong as if that silence were dragged out of
us by cars or carts. Johnson compares T. G . iii. 1. 265, "I
have a mistress, but who that is A team of horses shall not pluck
from me," and below, iii. 2. 53, "Oxen and wainropes cannot
hale them together." Various emendations have been proposed,
as "by th'ears," "with carts," "with cables," "with tears,"
"with racks," "with cords," "with cart-ropes," but no change
60, 1. quenching ... control, repressing the friendly smile
which I am wont to show to my friends, and substituting for it
a severe and authoritative look.
62. take you a blow, give you a blow; cp. H. V . iv. 1. 231,
"I will take thee a box on the ear"; M. M . ii. 1. 189, "he took
you a box o' the ear"; T. S . iii. 2. 165, "took him such a cuff";
R. III . i. 4. 159.
64, 5. my fortunes ... speech, my good destiny having made it
my lot to marry your niece gives me the privilege of remonstrating with you in this way: prerogative, was originally the
privilege of voting first in the tribal elections at Rome.
68. scab, scabby, scurvy, fellow.
69. we break ... plot, we ruin our stratagem; for sinews, used
figuratively; cp. H. V . i. 2. 233, "The noble sinews of our
power"; i. H. V I . ii. 3. 63, "These are his substance, sinews,
arms and strength."
70. the treasure ... time, your time which should be so precious
72. That's me, see note on ii. 3. 63, 4.
75. What ... here? What business, matter, is this?
76. Now is ... gin, now is the fool close to the trap, on the
point of being taken in the snare; woodcock was a proverbial
term for a simpleton, either because that bird was supposed to
have little brains, or was easily taken in nets; so 'snipe,' a bird
of the same genus, Oth . i. 3. 191, "If I would time expend with
such a snipe."
77, 8. and the spirit ... him! and may the genius of merriment, mischief, prompt him to read the letter aloud!
80, 1. her very ... P's. As the letters mentioned do not occur
in the letter, Ritson suggests that the address on its back might
have run, in accordance with the custom of the time, "To the
Unknown beloved, this, and my good wishes, with Care Present."
81. in contempt of question, beyond all doubt; cp. Lear , ii. 3.
8, "in contempt of man," i.e. in spite of humanity; her hand, her
84. By your ... wax, pardon my breaking you (i.e, the seal of
wax) in order to open the letter; so Cymb . iii. 2. 35, "Good
wax, thy leave." soft, gently, stopping himself when on the
point of breaking the seal.
85. impressure, impression; cp. "expressure" for expression, ii. 3. 143, above: her Lucrece, her seal, representing Lucrece,
the wife of L. Tarquinius Collatinus, whose rape by Sextus Tarquinius led to the dethronement of Tarquinius Superbus, and
the establishment of a republic in Rome.
86. To whom ... be? For whom can this possibly be intended?
87. This wins ... all, this will catch him, ensnare him, completely.
90. Lips ... move, i.e. I must not speak my love.
92. the numbers, the versification in the following stanza.
93. if this ... Malvolio? suppose it should turn out that I
am intended, that this letter is for me.
94. brock, badger, a term of contempt from the rank smell of
96. Lucrece knife, for the genitive Lucrece, see Abb. § 22.
98. doth ... life, has entire power over my existence; cp. A.
Y. L . iii. 2. 4, "Thy huntress' name that my full life doth
99. fustian, commonplace and absurd; fustian was coarse
cotton stuff; so in Oth. i. 1. 13, "with a Bombast circumstance
Horribly stuff'd with epithets of war," 'bombast' being cotton
used to stuff out garments.
103. what dish, what a dish, what a fine dish; for the omission
of the article, see Abb. § 86: him, for him.
104. And with ... it, and how eagerly he pounces upon it;
staniel, a species of hawk called also 'kestrel': 'to check at,'
used of hawks that pursuing the quarry at which they had been
flown, are diverted from it by the sight of some other prey which
they then pounce upon.
107. to any formal capacity, to any well-regulated understanding, to any capacity that has shape and form; cp. C. E. v.
1. 105, "To make of him a formal man again," i.e. to restore
him to his right senses.
107, 8. there is ... this, there is nothing to hinder the meaning
from being seen.
111. make up that, piece that out, complete that, make it
resemble something in you; at ... scent, in a difficulty, as hounds
are when the scent grows cold, i.e. hardly perceptible.
112. Sowter ... this, the clumsy hound will nevertheless give
tongue as showing that he has again caught up the scent:
Sowter, is properly a 'cobbler,' 'botcher,' here a name given to
a hound; for to cry upon, cp. T. S. Ind . i. 23, "Why, Belman
[the name of a hound] is as good as he, my lord. He cried upon
it at the merest loss, And twice to-day picked out the dullest
112, 3. though ... fox, we should rather have expected "though
it (sc. the scent) be not," etc., and Hanmer inserted the negative.
But Wright's explanation seems satisfactory: "Fabian," he
says, "speaks ironically, Malvolio will make it out in time,
though it is plain enough."
115. work it out, puzzle it out.
115, 6. the cur ... faults, ill-bred hound as he is, he is still
most excellent in picking up the scent when the pack is at fault;
'fault' is a technical term in coursing and hunting when the
hounds lose the scent of the hare or fox; cp. T. S. Ind . i. 20,
"Silver made it good in the coldest fault," i.e. picked up the
scent even when it was least perceptible.
117. there is ... sequel, the latter part does not agree, fit in,
with the former.
118. that ... probation, when put to the proof, tested, that
does not come out as it should, does not come out well.
119. And ... hope, and it will end, I trust, in your groaning.
122. any eye, punning on Malvolio's "I comes behind."
123. at your heels, following closely on your steps: than ...
you, referring to Malvolio's words above, i. 5. 20, "'Tis but
fortune; all is fortune."
124. this simulation ... former, this disguise of meaning is not
so easily seen through as the former.
124, 5. and yet ... me, and yet by squeezing, straining, the
meaning a little, it would bend towards me in indication that I
am meant; for crush, cp. H. V . i. 2. 175, "For that is but a
125, 6. every one ... are, all are; for every one, used as a pl.
pronoun, see Abb. § 12.
128. In my stars, in my fortune, position in life; see note on
1. 3. 117.
131. open their hands, sc. with generous intention.
131, 2. let thy ... them, summon up your courage and high
spirit to take all that is offered you by the Fates.
132, 3. and, to inure ... fresh, and in order to accustom yourself to that high position which is destined to be yours, put off
that lowly character that has hitherto been yours, and appear full of new life and vigour; inure, from in- and ure, work, operation, from "O. F. ovre, oevre, uevre, eure, work, action, operation ... — Lat. opera, work" ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.). For slough, the skin of a snake, used figuratively, cp. H. V . iv. 1. 23, "With
casted slough and fresh legerity."
133, 4. Be opposite ... kinsman, show yourself antagonistic, hostile towards a kinsman, sc. Sir Toby.
134, 5. let thy ... state, let your tongue ring with political discussions, let your talk be of a lofty, statesmanlike character.
The phrase is repeated in iii. 4. 65, with the variation of "tang
with arguments" for tang arguments. The subs. tang is used in
Temp . ii. 2. 52, "For she had a tongue with a tang."
135, 6. put thyself ... singularity, adopt a garb (figuratively)
of singularity, dress yourself in a mood of eccentricity.
137. yellow stockings, a fashionable colour at the time.
138. cross-gartered, Steevens quotes some lines from Barton
Holyday to show that cross-gartering was a fashion affected by
the Puritans, and most commentators accept this as a corroboration of Maria's charge of Puritanism brought against Malvolio.
But Wright in an exhaustive note has shown conclusively that the fashion was by no means distinctive of the Puritans, though probably retained by them when it had gone out among more fashionable people; and it has always seemed
strange to me that Maria's charge should have been taken
Wright has also shown that the fashion consisted
in "wearing the garters both above and below the knee, so as
to be crossed at the back of the leg," and "not like a stage
bandit" with the gartering from the knee downwards to the
ankle, as may be seen in certain prints; though from the
'villanous' way in which, according to Maria, Malvolio had
cross-gartered himself, and from his own admission of the
"obstruction in the blood" caused by so doing, we may perhaps
infer that in the present instance the fashion had been exaggerated, travestied. Go to, an expression sometimes, as here,
of encouragement, sometimes of reproach: thou art made, you
are a made man, your fortune is assured; cp. Oth . 1. 2. 51, "If
it prove lawful prize, he's made for ever."
140. the fellow of servants, the companion of servants, and so
no better than a servant.
140, 1. not worthy ... fingers, i.e. still less to embrace the hands of Fortune, as Olivia in the forged letter is supposed to
bid him do.
141, 2. She that ... thee, she who would gladly serve you, as your wife, instead of your serving her as a steward.
142. The Fortunate-Unhappy, she who in the matter of fortune
is well off, but unhappy in loving you without having her love
143. Daylight ... more, this is as plain as daylight in open country; champain, now spelled 'champaign,' from Fr. champaigne, Lat. campania, a plain; cp. Lear , i. 1. 65, "With
shadowy forests and with champains rich'd."
144. politic authors, writers on politics; in order that his
tongue may "tang arguments of state": baffle, foil, disgrace,
treat with contempt; the term originally meant to subject to
public disgrace or infamy, and especially to disgrace a perjured
145. wash ... acquaintance, discard low-born acquaintances,
among servants; answering to "cast thy humble slough":
point-devise ... man, in all respects, to the minutest point, the
very man she has desired me to show myself. According to
Douce, the phrase has been "supplied from the labours of the
needle. Poinct in the French language denotes a stitch; devise,
anything invented, disposed, arranged. Point-devise was therefore a particular sort of patterned lace worked with the needle;
and the term point-lace is still familiar to every female."
146, 7. to let ... me, so as to allow fortune to play me a jade's
trick; 'jade,' subs., was generally used of a tired, broken-down
horse, and so as a term of contempt for both men and women.
147. excites to this, calls out to me, stirs me up, to believe
149. being cross-gartered, when it was cross-gartered.
150, 1. and with ... liking, and as it were compels me by her
injunction to adopt these fashions which she admires.
152. happy, fortunate, in having won her love: I will be
strange, i.e. I will put myself "into the trick of singularity":
stout, the Camb. Edd. record an anonymous conjecture, 'strut,'
which Dyce considers probable; but stout seems to answer to 'surly' in the letter; cp. ii. II. VI. i. 1. 187, "Oft have I seen
the haughty cardinal ... As stout and proud as he were lord of all."
153. even with ... putting on, even as swiftly as I can put
155. Thou canst ... am, you cannot help knowing who I am.
156. entertainest, accept and return.
157, 8. still, ever, constantly: dear my sweet, for the transposition, see Abb. § 13.
161. my part of, my share in.
162. the Sophy, the Sufi, or Shah, of Persia.
163. for this device, in return for, as a reward for, this device.
168. gull-catcher, snarer of simpletons.
169. set thy ... neck, in token of my subjection to you, my
readiness to be your slave for life.
171. Shall ... tray-trip, shall I stake and lose my freedom to
you as money is staked and lost at tray-trip, a game played with
dice, success in which chiefly depended upon the throwing of
treys, i.e. threes.
177. Like ... mid- wife, as powerfully as strong spirits act upon,
etc. aqua-vitae lit. the water of life, Fr. eau-de-vie, brandy.
182, 3. unsuitable ... she is, so distasteful to her present frame
of mind, she being now given over to a state of melancholy.
Wright points out the word addicted "is now generally used in
connection with some bad habit, but this is a modern sense, for
it is said with praise of the house of Stephanas (i. Cor. xvi. 15),
that they had 'addicted themselves to the ministry of the
saints.'" Cp. also Heywood's If you Know not Me, etc., Pt. ii.,
"so well addicted Unto the poor's relief."
183, 4. that it ... contempt, that it is certain to bring down
upon him her extremest contempt. If you will see it, if you wish
to be a witness to it.
185. Tartar, the same form for 'Tartarus,' i.e. hell, occurs in
H. V . ii. 2. 123; C. E . iv. 2. 32: thou most ... wit! you most
ingenious spirit of witty mischief.
187. I'll ... too, i.e. of the party, I too will go with you.
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_2_5.html >
Did You Know? ... In Shakespeare's day the upper classes engaged in tournaments of fencing and hunted for sport. All classes seemed to delight in the vicious form of entertainment known as bear-baiting, but it was without doubt Queen Elizabeth's favourite pastime. Read on...