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Twelfth Night, or What You Will

Twelfth Night, or What You Will

Food

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Food shows up everywhere in Twelfth Night, so we've broken it down into a couple of categories below. (Be sure to check out the relationship between "Food" and "Fluids" above.)

Cakes and Ale

When Malvolio criticizes Sir Toby Belch and company for their partying ways and lack of propriety Toby asks "Dost thou think, because thou art / virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?" (2.3.17). In other words, Toby and his pals aren't about to change their ways just because Malvolio disapproves. "Cakes and ale" were popular treats associated with Carnival-like festivities such as Twelfth Night. In the play, they become a symbol of the festival atmosphere and bodily excess.

Love and Gluttony

You've probably already guessed that Toby's "cakes and ale" are related to other food imagery in the play. In the opening scene, for example, Duke Orsino calls for more music, which he refers to as "food" that fuels his excessive appetite for "love." Orsino's gluttonous addiction to "love," then, is linked to Toby's partying, which involves lots and lots of eating and drinking. Both the Duke and Toby are bingers and, while the play is all for fun and love, it seems to warn against over-indulgence.

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