Sir Toby and Sir Andrew sit down to have a drink when Feste the clown enters the scene. After some fooling, Feste sings a song, then all three men join in a catch (a song sung as a canon or round). Maria comes along to stifle their rowdiness and warn the men that Olivia is sending Malvolio to quiet them down, but Toby disregards her rebuke and proceeds to sing even more loudly.
Shortly thereafter, Malvolio arrives and orders everyone to either be quiet or leave. No one takes him seriously, including Maria, and Malvolio threatens to tattle on her to Olivia. Once Malvolio is gone, Maria criticizes his simpering self-absorption and hatches a plan to get even with him. She intends to forge a love letter from Olivia to Malvolio, and she recruits Toby, Andrew, and Feste to help with the joke. Maria exits, and Toby and Andrew briefly discuss her merits before heading off to have another drink.
Close Reading Analysis:
- Discussion Points:
(Lines 36-39) Clown: Would you have a love song, or a song of good life?
Toby: A love song, a love song.
Andrew: Ay, ay, I care not for good life.
These lines are interesting to note for their commentary on love: Feste asks whether the men would like to hear a song about love or about “good life,” which could mean morality or happiness. Either way, Feste seems to be suggesting that love is antithetical to those ideas. Is Shakespeare saying that love is immoral? unhappy? How does that notion reflect the larger themes of the play?
Characterization of Malvolio
(Lines 113-120)Toby [To Clown.] Out o' tune, sir! ye lie.
[To Malvolio.]Art any more than a steward?
Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous
there shall be no more cakes and ale?
Clown:Yes, by Saint Anne, and ginger shall be
hot i' the mouth too.
Toby:Thou'rt i' the right. Go, sir, rub your chain
with crumbs. A stoup of wine, Maria!
Hierarchy: Sir Toby…Malvolio has overstepped his boundaries and then starts yelling at the servants. They never call Maria on that; she’s a woman, of lower class, but an equal. She is able to hold her own.
(Lines 146-153) The devil a Puritan that he is, or anything constantly but a time-pleaser; an affectioned ass, that cons state without book and utters it by great swarths; the best persuaded of himself; so crammed, as he thinks, with excellencies that it is his grounds of faith that all that look on him love him; and on that vice in him will my revenge find notable cause to work.
What flaws does Maria see in Malvolio’s character? With these characteristics in mind, how will Malvolio likely respond to the forged love letter from Olivia?
Characterization of Maria, Toby, and Andrew:
(Lines 177-181)Toby: Good night, Penthesilea.
Andrew: Before me, she’s a good wench.
Toby: She’s a beagle true-bred, and one that adores me. What o’ that?
Andrew: I was adored once too.
What do these lines reveal about Toby’s feelings for Maria? About Andrew’s attitude toward love?
Dichotomy of Polar Opposites
In what ways are Malvolio and Maria - both servants to Olivia - diametrically opposed? What qualities does Maria possess? What qualities does she value? Consider why Maria dislikes Malvolio so much that she would play a cruel practical joke on him.
Levels of Love
How would you characterize Maria and Sir Toby's relationship? Is it true love? Flirtation? Friendship? What makes them "work" as a couple? What might not work in their relationship?
Compare Maria to the other female characters in the play. Consider the following questions.
Why do you suppose Maria hangs around with two men - Sir Toby and Sir Andrew - who are clearly drunk and silly most of the time? What could she possibly get out of this association? Also, what does it say about Maria that she is the one to come up with the plan to trick Malvolio, while the men are merely her accessories?
Look at Lines 155-161, in which Maria lists the things she plans to say in her forged love note to Malvolio. Based on these lines, write your own version of Maria’s letter to Malvolio.
1.VIDEO Watch the entire scene from Twelfth Night Act 2 Sc 3 QuickTime Video.
In small groups, ask students to think of modern versions of the songs that Feste, Toby, and Andrew sing. Students should be able to sing the lyrics and explain how they parallel the songs in Shakespeare’s original.
Research the types of music common in Shakespeare’s England. What instruments were used? Are they similar to modern instruments? What songs were popular? Do any of them survive to this day? Find an example of a tune (with or without lyrics) that was popular in Shakespeare’s day and share it with the class.
How has Shakespeare influenced other composers throughout history? Check out classical music, popular music, film scores, etc. and present a selection to the class.