Twelfth Night key quotes – Maria

Ay, sir; I have them at my fingers’ ends: marry, now I let go of your hand, I am barren -Act 1 scene 3-to Sir Andrew-end of a section with sexual banter and bawdy humour-double entendree with ‘barren’; reference to Andrew’s impotence, of jokes-Maria is always ready to make a joke; ‘what you will’ attitude of play
Peace, you rogue, no more o’ that -Act 1 scene 5-to Feste, who has just insulted Sir Toby-could be referencing her affections for Toby; protective of his name-could also be protecting her lady’s name
Go shake your ears -Act 2 scene 3-after Malvolio has left, to him-proverbial-reflects theme of role reversal; mistress of a lady is insulting her lady’s steward (i.e. someone of higher social ranking)
For Monseiur Malvolio, let me alone with him -Act 2 scene 3-vocative is mocking Malvolio’s self-importance-introduces the ‘yellow stocking plot’; plotting is an archetypal Shakespearean plot device – not usually executed by a servant! reflects theme of role reversal
it is his grounds of faith that all that look on him love him; and on that vice in him will my revenge find notable cause to work -Act 2 scene 3-about Malvolio-presents M as pretentious and gives audience more reason to dislike him – further establishing schadenfreud against him-the plan to prey on Malvolio’s insecurities is quite darkly comic (audience reactions)
I will drop in his way some obscure epistles of love … I can write very like my lady your niece -Act 2 scene 3-about Malvolio-theme of disguise-forgery was punishable by law – introducing theme of transgression-the letter prank parallels and mocks the carefully scripted love letters than Orsino sends to Olivia via Cesario (“it is excellently well penned”, “’tis poetical” 1,5)
‘Ass’ I doubt not -Act 2 scene 3-in response to Andrew’s “And your horse now would make him an ass”-punning on homonym of ‘as’ and ‘ass’ – as i do not doubt / an ass, certainly-subtly insulting Andrew ‘(you) ass, i doubt not’-her character is sort of mean, even to those she is around a lot
He has been yonder i’the sun practising behaviour to his own shadow this half hour -Act 2 scene 5-to Toby, Andrew, Fabian; about Malvolio-further indication of Malvolio’s “self-love” (1,5)-subtle mockery of upper classes and their workforce; if there is nothing for a steward to do, he shall talk to himself and daydream – does anyone work in this world at all?-theme of role reversal; day dreaming is not a Puritan way to pass time – even the ‘comic villain’ fits the theme of role reversal-possibly even disguise -M doesn’t know anyone is watching him; disguising himself to not care at all but when alone, dreams of climbing the social ladder
here comes the trout that must be caught with tickling -Act 2 scene 5-Maria changes the animal metaphor from bears (“To anger him we’ll have the bear again”) to fish-trout tickling works because the trout goes into a trance and can then be thrown onto dry land – they will trance Malvolio with dreams of the future and then suffocate him of any hope of it coming true-‘must’ modal verb suggests the only way to fool Malvolio is to entrance him with unrealistic ideas of his future, revealing Malvolio’s character to be easily gullible (?)
if you desire the spleen, and will laugh yourselves into stitches, follow me -Act 3 scene 2-to Toby and Fabian, about Malvolio’s state-motivation for tricking him; cruel and unjust-suggestion that they would stop after they’ve had their laugh at him – this doesn’t happen (because of his reaction? “i am not of your element”?)
Most villainously: like a pedant that keeps the school i’th’ church -Act 3 scene 2-answering Toby “and cross-gartered?”-the allusion confirms Malvolio’s fashion is very outdated – he wouldn’t know this as a Puritan; cruel joke-ironic that she would describe his style as villainous – their prank is somewhat evil
I know my lady will strike him: if she do, he’ll smile and take’t for a great favour -Act 3 scene 2-about Malvolio-highly unlikely that Olivia would strike Malvolio, but this allows Maria to pun on ‘favour’, which means three things: act of kindness, token of love, or sexual concession-her confidence in knowing Olivia will hit him suggests their relationship isn’t very deep at all and she serves merely her role – this contrasts with the relationship between Orsino and Cesario
He is sure possessed, madam -Act 3 scene 4-to Olivia, about Malvolio-very serious accusation in contemporary times; demonic possession wasn’t taken lightly – reflects topsy turvy nature of play and festival; link to “how hollow the fiend speaks within him”-Maria would know the repercussions for someone possessed; she is being cruel to both Malvolio (cost him his life, possibly) and Olivia (her brother has just died and she is now the matriarch of her household – doubt she wants to be dealing with demonic possession)-unless she is aware that Olivia won’t take serious action against Malvolio, because he “suits well for a servant of [Olivia’s] needs” i.e. she can’t afford to let him go
the man is tainted in ‘s wits -Act 3 scene 4-to Olivia, about Malvolio-schadenfreud humour-Shakespeare wrote a lot about mental illnesses – Macbeth “full o’ scorpions is my mind”; the ‘to be or not to be’ speech in Hamlet sees Hamlet contemplate his life; King Lear’s descent into madness – but it was mostly in tragedies; in 12N Shakespeare uses mental illness as a comedic device and asks the audience not to sympathise
Lo, how hollow the fiend speaks within him -Act 3 scene 4-dramatic irony-‘fiend’ is synonymous with ‘devil’ – he has been demonised by Maria and Toby; they are the fiends here-continuation of mockery, even after they have had their main chuckle – verging on cruelty for the kindest of elizabethan audience
get him to say his prayers, good Sir Toby, get him to pray -Act 3 scene 4-mockery of religion-vocative ‘good’ ironic – Toby as a volatile and cruel character, nothing he has done has been ‘good’
you may have very fit occasion for’t; he is now in some commerce with my lady, and will by and by depart -Act 3 scene 4-implication here that Maria’s role in the gang is not just the brains, but the undercover spy, as it were-subverting the role of a lady’s maid by conferring with those that disrupt her lady’s well-being (“Will it ever be thus”? 4,1) and acting in a way that is sure to upset her lady (“What is the matter with thee?” 3,4)
I prithee, put on this gown and this beard: make him believe thou art Sir Topas the curate; do it quickly -Act 4 scene 2-to Feste, about Malvolio-foregrounded use of disguise is a key comedic technique, extending schadenfreud – using the licensed fool to perpetuate this (letting him show off his acting skills)-theme of disguise – link to Viola’s use of clothing (“he went still in this fashion, colour, ornament, for him I imitate” 3,4)-Maria is a direct tormentor of Malvolio, always devising new ways to inflict suffering on him-‘topaz’ is a rock with a tendency to fracture easily – implication that Feste’s disguise isn’t a very good one, indeed his supposed priest’s opinion of Pythagoras was false-topaz is also a rock that cured lunacy, according to English superstition – would Malvolio make this connection?