William Shakespeare – Twelfth Night (ctd.)

Sir Toby and Sir Andrew enter with Fabian, another member of Olivia’s staff, who also wants to have his revenge on Malvolio for snitching on him to Olivia about Fabian organizing bear-baiting on the premises. Bear-baiting was a cruel sport in which a bear was baited by dogs in a special arena; Puritans opposed it, although, as Thomas Macaulay famously said, not because “it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.” The non-Puritan English found the view of a tormented animal very funny and entertaining. I know one should not transfer one’s own cultural values to another place and era, but I’m with Malvolio on this one. Maria approaches with the forged letter and lays it in Malvolio’s path. They all hide behind the hedge (the scene takes place in the garden).

Malvolio approaches and from his soliloquy we learn that he really does not need much encouragement because he already fancies Olivia in love with himself (with a little help from Maria). He muses pleasantly about how nice it would be to become Olivia’s husband and Count Malvolio; how one day he would come from “a day-bed where I have left Olivia sleeping” (ehem…) and ask the servants to bring Sir Toby, in order to admonish him about his drunkenness and keeping company with Sir Andrew. Malvolio imagines these scenes in great detail, especially his own behaviour, serious yet humble – he really is the author of his one fan-fic. But what is it? A letter, and Malvolio immediately identifies it as written in Olivia’s hand, making an inadvertently rude joke by saying “I recognize her c’s, her u’s and her t’s”, perhaps because his head is still full of the image of post-coital Olivia on the couch.


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