William Shakespeare – Twelfth Night (ctd.)

Sir Andrew wants to leave the town since he has just seen Olivia showing Cesario more favours within a few minutes than she has ever shown him during his courtship, and all that in plain view of him. But the cunning Fabian explains to him that she just did it to provoke jealousy in him and possibly make him challenge Cesario, but now this opportunity has passed and her opinion of him has sailed north, where he is going to sail like an icicle on a Dutchman’s beard. This is possibly an allusion to William Barents (him of the Barents Sea fame) and one of many topical allusions in this scene. Shakespeare apparently understood the power of a joke that gave the audience the pleasure of recognition. So now, in order to win Olivia back, Andrew should challenge Cesario to a duel by a letter as big as the sheets on the Great Bed of Ware. Sir Andrew goes off to write the letter and left alone, Sir Toby admits to Fabian that he has no intention of ever delivering this letter, since Andrew is a coward. Maria enters, laughing her head off about Malvolio’s preposterous behaviour. Apparently he’s doing everything Maria pretending to be Olivia told him to do – wearing yellow stockings with crossed garters and smiling so much his face looks like the new map of the world. Toby and Fabian follow Maria to enjoy this sight.


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