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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 Language and Communication Quotes

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

Quote #4

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,
Halloo your name to the reverberate hills
And make the babbling gossip of the air
Cry out 'Olivia!' O, You should not rest
Between the elements of air and earth
But you should pity me. (1.5.271-279)

Here, "Cesario" breaks away from reciting Orsino's poem/letter and explains how "he" ("Cesario") would go about winning Olivia's heart in an impassioned and spontaneous speech. This poetic passage is famous for being cited by critics as evidence that Olivia falls in love with "Cesario" because "he" is able to compose poetry off the cuff, which Olivia thinks is more sincere than carefully planned verse. Of course, every reader knows that "Cesario's" speech is actually a very carefully penned passage (by Shakespeare).

Quote #5

Lady, you are the cruel'st she alive
If you will lead these graces to the grave
And leave the world no copy. (1.5.240-242)

When "Cesario" accuses Olivia of being "cruel" if she refuses to marry and have a child that looks like his/her mother (a "copy" of Olivia), "Cesario" suggests that Olivia is a kind of book that can be copied or reprinted. As we've seen, this idea that people are like texts is all over Twelfth Night. Such printing/reproduction metaphors are pretty common in other 16th-century literature. (Makes sense – the printing press was pretty new and the greatest thing since sliced bread.) In fact, Shakespeare uses the same idea in his book of Sonnets. In sonnets 1-17, Shakespeare argues that the world will be a better place if his young male friend would marry and have a child. It's fun to compare "Cesario's" lines to the excerpt below:

She [your mother] carv'd thee for her seal, and meant thereby,
Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die.
(From Sonnet # 17)

Quote #6

O, sir, I will not be so hard-hearted! I will give
out divers schedules of my beauty. It shall be
inventoried, and every particle and utensil labeled
to my will: as, item, two lips indifferent red; item,
two grey eyes, with lids to them; item, one neck, one
chin, and so forth. Were you sent hither to praise
me? (1.5.243-249)

After "Cesario" urges Olivia to marry Orsino and have a child (see previous discussion above), Olivia continues to make fun of the traditional conventions of love poetry, which tended to catalogue a woman's beauty by comparing each of her body parts to yummy things in nature – lips like berries, breasts like melons, eyes like stars, etc. Olivia totally mocks and disses the tradition when she describes herself as having "indifferent red lips," "two grey eyes with lids," etc. Shakespeare seems to be having a bit of fun here. He's bagging on other poets, sure, but he's also making fun of himself since he also participates in the tradition. For fun, you can go to Shmoop's discussion of Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 ("My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun") but come right back.

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