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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 Lies and Deceit Quotes

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

Quote #1

There is a fair behavior in thee, captain,
And though that nature with a beauteous wall
Doth oft close in pollution, yet of thee
I will believe thou hast a mind that suits
With this thy fair and outward character. (1.2.50-54)

As Viola determines to disguise her identity by cross-dressing as a boy servant ("Cesario"), she considers the sea captain's trustworthiness. This passage is interesting for the way Viola describes the way some people can seem "fair" in their outward behavior and demeanor while concealing, like a "beauteous wall," an inner nature that may be "pollut[ed]." Viola's speech sets the tone for a play intent on thinking about whether or not what's outside matches what's on the inside.

Quote #2

Methinks I feel this youth's perfections
With an invisible and subtle stealth
To creep in at mine eyes. Well, let it be.— (1.5.302-304)

Olivia's use of the term "stealth" (the action of theft, plunder, or underhanded deception) is interesting because it suggests that falling in love makes one a kind of victim. In this way, Olivia suggests that "Cesario" has robbed her of something (her heart, her well being, etc.). The audience is also aware that Viola's deceptive disguise plays an important role in Olivia's physical attraction to "Cesario's" "tongue, face, limbs," etc., which gives new meaning to the concept of "Cesario's" "stealth," or underhandedness.

Quote #3

But I perceive in you so excellent  
a touch of modesty, that you will not extort
from me what I am willing to keep in. Therefore it
charges me in manners the rather to express myself.
You must know of me, then, Antonio, my name
is Sebastian, which I called Roderigo. (2.1.11-16)

Here, we learn that Sebastian has kept his name and personal background hidden from his new friend, Antonio. It's not exactly clear why Sebastian would lie to the man who saved his life by calling himself "Roderigo." Sebastian's language in this passage suggests that he thinks of his identity as a very personal and intimate secret that is to be guarded and protected from those who would "extort" it from him. But why? Is it a defense mechanism that allows Sebastian to keep his fears about his lost twin a secret? Something else? What do you think?

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