Philip Weller caricature
Philip and Weller hugging

Welcome to my web site, now under development for more than twenty years.   
-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.

Twelfth Night: Act 4, Scene 2

           Enter MARIA and Clown.
Chaucer knight

  1   Nay, I prithee, put on this gown and this beard;
  2   make him believe thou art Sir Topas the curate:
2. him: i.e., Malvolio. Sir Topas the curate: a clergyman who serves in a single parish.

  3   do it quickly; I'll call Sir Toby the whilst.
3. the whilst: in the meantime.


  4   Well, I'll put it on, and I will dissemble myself
4. dissemble myself: disguise myself.

  5   in't; and I would I were the first that ever
  6   dissembled in such a gown. I am not tall enough to
6. dissembled: played the hypocrite. tall: large, fleshy. become the function: suit the role. Stereotypically, priests were fat and scholars were lean. to be said: to have a reputation (as). 9. goes as fairly: sounds as well.

  7   become the function well, nor lean enough to be
  8   thought a good student; but to be said an honest man
  9   and a good housekeeper goes as fairly as to say a
 10   careful man and a great scholar. The competitors enter.
10. competitors: partners, confederates (in the scheme to play another trick on Malvolio).

           Enter [SIR] TOBY [BELCH and MARIA].

 11   Jove bless thee, master Parson.

 12   Bonos dies, Sir Toby: for, as the old hermit of
12. Bonos dies: mock Latin for "Good day"—a real parson would know Latin. old hermit of Prague: a religious sage, invented by the Clown. wittily: cleverly, wisely.

 13   Prague, that never saw pen and ink, very wittily
 14   said to a niece of King Gorboduc, 'That that is is;'
14. King Gorboduc: a legendary ancient King of England. "That that is is," etc.: The Clown is mocking the scholarly habit of using a lot of words to make a simple point. In this case the simple point is, "If you say I am 'Master Parson', why so I am."

 15   so I, being Master Parson, am Master Parson; for,
 16   what is 'that' but 'that,' and 'is' but 'is'?

 17   To him, Sir Topas.

 18   What, ho, I say! peace in this prison!
A confined man 18. What, ho, I say!: "Sir Topas" is calling out to Malvolio, who is locked in a dark room. prison:

 19   The knave counterfeits well; a good knave.
19. knave: i.e., the Clown. counterfeits: plays the role.

 20   (Within.) Who calls there?
20. Within: i.e., offstage, out of sight.

 21   Sir Topas the curate, who comes to visit
 22   Malvolio the lunatic.

 23   Sir Topas, Sir Topas, good Sir Topas, go to
 24   my lady.

 25   Out, hyperbolical fiend! how vexest thou this
25. hyperbolical fiend: rowdy devil (who has taken possession of Malvolio).

 26   man! Talkest thou nothing but of ladies?

 27   Well said, Master Parson.

 28   Sir Topas, never was man thus wronged: good Sir
 29   Topas, do not think I am mad: they have laid me
 30   here in hideous darkness.

 31   Fie, thou dishonest Satan! I call thee by the most
 32   modest terms; for I am one of those gentle ones
32. modest: moderate.

 33   that will use the devil himself with courtesy:
 34   sayest thou that house is dark?
34. house: i.e., room.

 35   As hell, Sir Topas.

 36   Why it hath bay windows transparent as barricadoes,
36. barricadoes: barricades. clerestories: windows in an upper wall. south north: There is no such direction.

 37   and the clearstories toward the south north are as
 38   lustrous as ebony; and yet complainest thou of
38. ebony: black wood—ebony is naturally dull and not suitable for use as window glass. obstruction: shutting out of light.

 39   obstruction?

 40   I am not mad, Sir Topas: I say to you, this house is
 41   dark.

 42   Madman, thou errest: I say, there is no darkness
 43   but ignorance; in which thou art more puzzled than
43. puzzled: confused, lost.

 44   the Egyptians in their fog.
darkness over the land of Egypt 44. the Egyptians in their fog: from Exodus 10:20-23.

 45   I say, this house is as dark as ignorance, though
 46   ignorance were as dark as hell; and I say, there
 47   was never man thus abused. I am no more mad
 48   than you are: make the trial of it in any constant
 49   question.
48-49. make the trial of it in any constant question: test my sanity in any rational discourse .

 50   What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning
50. Pythagoras: Greek philosopher (fl. 530 BCE.) who taught that a soul can transmigrate from one creature to another.

 51   wild fowl?

 52   That the soul of our grandam might haply inhabit
52. haply: happily, perhaps, by chance.

 53   a bird.

 54   What thinkest thou of his opinion?

 55   I think nobly of the soul, and no way approve his
55. I think nobly of the soul: Malvolio adheres to traditional Christian belief. approve: agree with, confirm.

 56   opinion.

 57   Fare thee well. Remain thou still in darkness. Thou
 58   shalt hold the opinion of Pythagoras ere I will allow
58. ere: before. 58-59. allow of thy wits: acknowledge that you are sane. 59. fear to: i.e., you must be afraid to. woodcock: a really stupid bird. 60. dispossess: evict (from the dead woodcock). Fare thee well: i.e., good-bye—the Clown steps out of the earshot of Malvolio.

 59   of thy wits, and fear to kill a woodcock, lest thou
 60   dispossess the soul of thy grandam. Fare thee well.

 61   Sir Topas, Sir Topas!

 62   My most exquisite Sir Topas!
62. exquisite: perfectly done. (Sir Toby is praising the Clown's playing of Sir Topas.)

 63   Nay, I am for all waters.
63. I am for all waters: literally, "I can sail any sea"; metaphorically, "I can play many different roles".

 64   Thou mightst have done this without thy beard and
 65   gown: he sees thee not.

 66   To him in thine own voice, and bring me word how
 67   thou findest him: I would we were well rid of this
 68   knavery. If he may be conveniently delivered, I
68. delivered: released from prison.

 69   would he were, for I am now so far in offence with
69. so far in offence: in so trouble.

 70   my niece that I cannot pursue with any safety this
 71   sport to the upshot. Come by and by to my chamber.
71. to the upshot: boy archeri.e., any further.

           Exit [SIR TOBY BELCH with MARIA].

      Clown [Singing.]
 72        'Hey, Robin, jolly Robin,
 73        Tell me how thy lady does.'

 74   Fool!

 75   'My lady is unkind, perdy.'
77. perdy: indeed, certainly.

 76   Fool!

 77   'Alas, why is she so?'

 78   Fool, I say!

 79   'She loves another' — Who calls, ha?
79. "Hey, Robin . . . She loves another": The Clown sings lines from an old song, the moral of which is that you can only trust women to be untrustworthy.

 80   Good fool, as ever thou wilt deserve well at
 81   my hand, help me to a candle, and pen, ink
 82   and paper: as I am a gentleman, I will live to
 83   be thankful to thee for't.

 84   Master Malvolio?

 85   Ay, good fool.

 86   Alas, sir, how fell you besides your five wits?
86. how fell you besides your five wits?: how did you fall out of sanity? (The five wits are common sense, fantasy, memory, judgment, and imagination.)

 87   Fool, there was never a man so notoriously abused:
87. notoriously abused: outrageously slandered.

 88   I am as well in my wits, fool, as thou art.

 89   But as well? then you are mad indeed, if
 90   you be no better in your wits than a fool.

 91   They have here propertied me; keep me in
91. propertied me: treated me as mere property.

 92   darkness, send ministers to me, asses, and
92. ministers: agents, surrogates.

 93   do all they can to face me out of my wits.
93. face me out of my wits: drive me insane by pretending that I am insane—the sort of thing that "Sir Topas" has just been doing.

 94   Advise you what you say; the minister is here.
94. Advise you: think about, be careful of. the minister: i.e., "Sir Topas."

 95   Malvolio, Malvolio, thy wits the heavens restore!
 96   endeavour thyself to sleep, and leave thy vain
96. endeavour thyself to sleep: try to go to sleep.

 97   bibble babble.

 98   Sir Topas!

 99   Maintain no words with him, good fellow. — Who,
100    I, sir? not I, sir. God be wi' you, good Sir Topas.
100. God be wi' you: good-bye.

101   — Marry, amen. — I will, sir, I will.

102   Fool, fool, fool, I say!

103   Alas, sir, be patient. What say you sir? I am
104   shent for speaking to you.
104. shent: scolded, rebuked.

105   Good fool, help me to some light and some
106   paper: I tell thee, I am as well in my wits as
107   any man in Illyria.

108   Well-a-day that you were, sir
108. Well-a-day that you were: i.e., Alas, I wish that you really were (sane).

109   By this hand, I am. Good fool, some ink, paper
110   and light; and convey what I will set down to my
110. convey: deliver.

111   lady: it shall advantage thee more than ever the
111. advantage: benefit.

112   bearing of letter did.

113   I will help you to't. But tell me true, are you
114   not mad indeed? or do you but counterfeit?
113-114. But . . . counterfeit?: i.e., Isn't it true that you really are mad? Or are you just pretending to be mad?

115   Believe me, I am not; I tell thee true.

116   Nay, I'll ne'er believe a madman till I see his
117   brains. I will fetch you light and paper and ink.
116-117. see his brains: Maybe that would be when they've been knocked out and the man is dead.

118   Fool, I'll requite it in the highest degree:
118. requite it: return the favor (of bringing me writing materials). 119. be gone: Malvolio wants the fool to hurry up and get those writing materials.

119   I prithee, be gone.

      Clown [Singing]
120        I am gone, sir,
121        And anon, sir,
122          I'll be with you again,
123        In a trice,
123. trice: moment.

124        Like to the old Vice,
124. Vice: A mischievous character in medieval drama.

125          Your need to sustain;
125. Your need to sustain: to sustain you in your time of need .

126        Who, with dagger of lath,
126. dagger of lath: wooden dagger. (The Vice often carried one, beat the devil with it, and threatened to trim the devil's long nails with it.)

127        In his rage and his wrath,
128          Cries, ah, ha! to the devil:
129        Like a mad lad,
130        Pare thy nails, dad;
131          Adieu, good man devil.
131. good man devil: This "devil" is the one which has taken possession of Malvolio. "Goodman" is appropriate when you're talking to a humble farmer, insulting when you're talking to a devil.