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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 #1

So please my lord, I might not be admitted,
But from her handmaid do return this answer:
The element itself, till seven years' heat,
Shall not behold her face at ample view,
But like a cloistress she will veilèd walk,
And water once a day her chamber round
With eye-offending brine—all this to season
A brother's dead love, which she would keep fresh
And lasting in her sad remembrance. (1.1.26-34)

Valentine's message for Duke Orsino (that Olivia has sworn off the company of men to mourn for seven years) is somewhat comedic. Here, Valentine says that Olivia's salty tears are a kind of "brine" that will preserve her dead brother's memory. This suggests that Olivia's dead brother is, well, like a pickle (a cucumber preserved through the process of brining). Yuck! Olivia's situation is sad, sure, but Shakespeare also pokes fun of Olivia when he compares her to a pickle-maker – the implication being that Olivia should find a better use of her time. Like falling in love with a living person.

Quote #2

An you part so, mistress, I would I might
never draw sword again. Fair lady, do you think you
have fools in hand?
Sir, I have not you by th' hand.
Marry, but you shall have, and here's my
hand. (1.3.62-67)

Sir Andrew Aguecheek's not the brightest bulb, as Maria mocks him without Aguecheek realizing what's happening. (By taking his hand, Maria calls Andrew a "fool.") Aguecheek is also gullible when Sir Toby tricks him into challenging "Cesario" to a duel in order to win Olivia. This places Aguecheek in the same group as all the other silly characters that pursue unrealistic romantic partners.

Quote #3

What is 'pourquoi'? Do or not do? I would I
had bestowed that time in the tongues that I have in
fencing, dancing and bearbaiting. O, had I but
followed the arts! (1.3.91-94)

Sir Andrew Aguecheek is not serious when he claims he wishes he had spent more time studying foreign languages and less time fooling around. Like Aguecheek, the play often mocks the serious pursuit of all things serious. On the other hand, Aguecheek's excessive foolery also seems to make him the play's poster child for how not to live one's life.

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