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Twelfth Night, or What You Will

Twelfth Night, or What You Will


by William Shakespeare

Twelfth Night, or What You Will Foolishness and Folly Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Norton edition.

Quote #7

'Besides, you waste the treasure of your
time with a foolish knight—' 
ANDREW, aside 
That's me, I warrant you.
'One Sir Andrew.'
ANDREW, aside 
I knew 'twas I, for many do call me
fool. (2.5.77-82)

We love this moment in the play, especially because Aguecheek is proud of the fact that he guesses correctly that Malvolio is talking about him when M refers to a "foolish knight." Aguecheek knows enough to recognize when he's being slandered but he isn't smart enough to be mad at the insult.

Quote #8

I will help you to 't. But tell me true, are you not
mad indeed, or do you but counterfeit? (4.2.119-120)

When Feste asks Malvolio if he's faking his madness, we're reminded that madness is often synonymous with foolishness and folly in the play. Feste knows that Malvolio is neither insane nor pretending. In fact, Feste has just returned to Malvolio's dark prison in his disguise as "Sir Topas," the priest who conducts a mock exorcism to rid Malvolio of his supposed "demons." Still, Malvolio's ridiculous behavior and silly costume cause others (like Olivia) to think he's a "lunatic." Fun tip: Shakespeare will later return to the idea of madness as demonic possession in King Lear (c. 1603-1606) when Edgar, disguised as "Poor Tom," pretends to be a lunatic possessed by the devil.

Quote #9

That most ingrateful boy there by your side
From the rude sea's enraged and foamy mouth
Did I redeem; a wrack past hope he was.
His life I gave him and did thereto add
My love, without retention or restraint,
All his in dedication. For his sake
Did I expose myself, pure for his love,
Into the danger of this adverse town; (5.1.75-82)

The play's notion of folly is not limited to the silly antics of characters like Aguecheek and Feste. Here, Antonio mistakes "Cesario" for Sebastian and accuses "Cesario" of cruelty and dishonesty. Though we know "Cesario" is innocent, this passage reminds us that Antonio has foolishly pursued Sebastian, who does not return Antonio's love.

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