William Shakespeare – Twelfth Night (ctd.)

Viola, on hearing that Olivia forswore the company of men, dreams about serving her until she can reveal her social station, but the Captain says it’s impossible because Olivia won’t see any guests, even the Duke. So instead Viola (who somewhat miraculously managed to keep all her money intact through the storm) pays the Captain to procure a man’s dress for her and she is going to look for a job at Orsino’s court as a eunuch. There is some punning between her and the Captain about how Viola is going to be a eunuch and the Captain a mute (meaning keeping her secret) and they set off. It is not entirely clear while Viola thinks she has to go in hiding and Shakespeare seems to have changed his mind and make her in the rest of the play a teenage boy rather than a eunuch. Perhaps it’s the result of an older version being collated with a newer one?

In the next scene we switch from poetry to prose and from lyrical mode to comical. Sir Toby Belch and Olivia’s lady-in-waiting Maria discuss Olivia’s mourning, which Sir Toby does not like at all, partly because he has a suitor for her, Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Maria says Olivia does not approve of Toby’s partying lifestyle, and she herself does not approve of Sir Andrew, whom she considers a fool, a wastrel, and a quarrelsome person whose capacity for getting into fights is checked only by his cowardice. Sir Andrew enters and he is indeed very silly – when Sir Toby says “Accost, Sir Andrew, accost”, meaning he should greet Maria, he thinks it’s her surname and addresses her as “Mistress Mary Accost”.


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