Twelfth Night Study Guide

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

In the comedy Twelfth Night, disguise and mistaken identity create a complicated love triangle. The duke Orsino is in love with Lady Olivia. Meanwhile, Viola ends up shipwrecked and separated from her brother Sebastian. She dresses as a boy and becomes the page of Orsino, with whom she falls in love. Olivia falls in love with Viola in her disguise. Although everything works out in the end, with Viola marrying Orsino and Olivia marrying Sebastian, love makes the characters miserable through much of the play.

Twelfth Night, or What You Will is a comedy by William Shakespeare, named after the Twelfth Night holiday. The play was probably written in 1601 or 1602.

Act I

  • If music be the food of love, play on;Give me excess of it; that, surfeiting,

    The appetite may sicken, and so die.—

    That strain again; it had a dying fall:

    O, it came oer my ear, like the sweet sound

    That breathes upon a bank of violets,

    Stealing, and giving odour! Enough! No more.

    'Tis not so sweet now as it was before.

    • Orsino, scene i

  • Conceal me what I am; and be my aidFor such disguise as, haply, shall become

    The form of my intent.

    • Viola, scene ii

  • I am sure care's an enemy to life.
    • Sir Toby, scene iii

  • I have them at my fingers' ends.
    • Maria, scene iii

  • Wherefore are these things hid? Wherefore have these gifts a curtain before 'em?
    • Sir Toby, scene iii

  • Is it a world to hide virtues in?
    • Sir Toby, scene iii

  • Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage…
    • Feste, scene v

  • Olivia: Go to, you're a dry fool; I'll no more of you; besides, you grow dishonest. Feste: Two faults, madonna, that drink and good counsel will amend: for give the dry fool drink, then is the fool not dry; bid the dishonest man mend himself; if he mend, he is no longer dishonest; if he cannot, let the botcher mend him; any thing that's mended is but patched; virtue that transgresses is but patched with sin; and sin that amends is but patched with virtue.
    • Scene v

  • Olivia: What's a drunken man like, fool? Feste: Like a drowned man, a fool, and a madman: one draught above heat makes him a fool; the second mads him; and a third drowns him.
    • Scene v

  • We will draw the curtain, and show you the picture.
    • Olivia, scene v

  • ’T is beauty truly blent, whose red and whiteNature’s own sweet and cunning hand laid on:

    Lady, you are the cruell’st she alive

    If you will lead these graces to the grave,

    And leave the world no copy.

    • Viola, scene v

  • Make me a willow cabin at your gate,And call upon my soul within the house;

    Write loyal cantons of contemned love,

    And sing them loud even in the dead of night;

    Holla your name to the reverberate hills,

    And make the babbling gossip of the air

    Cry out.

    • Viola, scene v

Act II

  • O mistress mine, where are you roaming?O stay and hear: your true-love's coming,

    That can sing both high and low:

    Trip no further, pretty sweeting;

    Journeys end in lovers' meeting,

    Every wise man’s son doth know.

    • Feste, scene iii

  • What is love? 'Tis not hereafter;Present mirth hath present laughter;

    What's to come is still unsure:

    In delay there lies no plenty;

    Then come kiss me, sweet-and-twenty:

    Youth's a stuff will not endure.

    • Feste, scene iii

  • He does it with a better grace, but I do it more natural.
    • Sir Andrew, scene iii

  • Is there no respect of place, persons, nor time in you?
    • Malvolio, scene iii

  • Sir Toby: Art any more than a steward? Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale? Feste: Yes, by Saint Anne; and ginger shall be hot i’ the mouth too.
    • Scene iii

  • My purpose is, indeed, a horse of that colour.
    • Maria, scene iii

  • These most brisk and giddy-paced times.
    • Orsino, scene iv

  • Let still the woman takeAn elder than herself: so wears she to him,

    So sways she level in her husband’s heart:

    For, boy, however we do praise ourselves,

    Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm,

    More longing, wavering, sooner lost and worn,

    Than women’s are.

    • Orsino, scene iv

  • Then let thy love be younger than thyself,Or thy affection cannot hold the bent.
    • Orsino, scene iv

  • The spinsters and the knitters in the sunAnd the free maids that weave their thread with bones

    Do use to chant it: it is silly sooth,

    And dallies with the innocence of love,

    Like the old age.

    • Orsino, scene iv

  • Come away, come away, death,And in sad cypress let me be laid;

    Fly away, fly away, breath;

    I am slain by a fair cruel maid.

    • Feste, scene iv

  • Orsino: And what’s her history? Viola: A blank, my lord. She never told her love,

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

    Feed on her damask cheek: she pin'd in thought,

    And, with a green and yellow melancholy,

    She sat like Patience on a monument,

    Smiling at grief. Was not this love, indeed?

    • Scene iv

  • I am all the daughters of my father’s house,And all the brothers too.
    • Viola, scene iv

  • this is my lady's hand these be her very C's, her U's and her T's and thus makes she her great P's.
    • Malvolio, scene v

  • An you had any eye behind you, you might see more detraction at your heels than fortunes before you.
    • Fabian, scene v

  • Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.
    • Malvolio, scene v
    • Malvolio is reading aloud a letter which he believes to be from Olivia.
    • Parodied in Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Chapter 9, as“Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them.”

Act III

  • Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb, like the sun; it shines everywhere.
    • Feste, scene i

  • O, what a deal of scorn looks beautifulIn the contempt and anger of his lip!
    • Olivia, scene i

  • Love sought is good, but given unsought, is better.
    • Olivia, scene i

  • Let there be gall enough in thy ink; though thou write with a goose-pen, no matter.
    • Sir Toby, scene ii

  • I think we do know the sweet Roman hand.
    • Malvolio, scene iv

  • Why, this is very midsummer madness.
    • Olivia, scene iv

  • Put thyself into the trick of singularity.
    • Malvolio, scene iv
    • Malvolio is quoting what he believes to be a letter from Olivia.

  • What, man! defy the Devil: consider, he's an enemy to mankind.
    • Sir Toby, scene iv

  • ’T is not for gravity to play at cherry-pit with Satan.
    • Sir Toby, scene iv

  • If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.
    • Fabian, scene iv

  • More matter for a May morning.
    • Fabian, scene iv

  • Still, you keep o’ the windy side of the law.
    • Fabian, scene iv

  • An I thought he had been valiant and so cunning in fence, I’ld have seen him damned ere I’ld have challenged him.
    • Sir Andrew, scene v

  • Out of my lean and low abilityI’ll lend you something.
    • Viola, scene v

  • Out of the jaws of death.
    • Antonio, scene v

Act IV

  • 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.
    • Feste, scene ii

  • Feste: What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning wild-fowl? Malvolio: That the soul of our grandam might haply inhabit a bird.

Act V

  • Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.
    • Feste, scene i

  • When that I was and a little tiny boy,With hey, ho, the wind and the rain:

    A foolish thing was but a toy,

    For the rain it raineth every day.

    • Feste, scene i

  • A great while ago the world begun,With hey, ho, the wind and the rain:

    But that's all one, our play is done,

    And we'll strive to please you every day.

    • Feste, scene i

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