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Twelfth Night – Act Two Scene Five

The trap is laid for Malvolio and Toby, Andrew and Fabian hide in a box tree to witness

MARIA

Get ye all three into the box-tree: Malvolio’s
coming down this walk: he has been yonder i’ the
sun practising behavior to his own shadow this half
hour: observe him, for the love of mockery; for I
know this letter will make a contemplative idiot of
him. Close, in the name of jesting! Lie thou there,

Throws down a letter

for here comes the trout that must be caught with tickling.

Malvolio, believing himself alone fantasises about being married to Olivia and chastising Sir Toby Belch for his drunkenness.

MALVOLIO

Saying, ‘Cousin Toby, my fortunes having cast me on
your niece give me this prerogative of speech,’–

SIR TOBY BELCH

What, what?

MALVOLIO

‘You must amend your drunkenness.’

SIR TOBY BELCH

Out, scab!

FABIAN

Nay, patience, or we break the sinews of our plot.

MALVOLIO

‘Besides, you waste the treasure of your time with
a foolish knight,’–

SIR ANDREW

That’s me, I warrant you.

MALVOLIO

‘One Sir Andrew,’–

SIR ANDREW

I knew ’twas I; for many do call me fool.

MALVOLIO

What employment have we here?

Taking up the letter

The trap is sprung

MALVOLIO

By my life, this is my lady’s hand these be her
very C’s, her U’s and her T’s and thus makes she her
great P’s. It is, in contempt of question, her hand.

SIR ANDREW

Her C’s, her U’s and her T’s: why that?

Why indeed?. Arden edition believe that “CUT” is slang for vagina, and making her P’s is urinating.

What follows is a riddle designed by Maria to play on Malvoilio’s vainness .

I’ve taken out the interjections from the hidden trio and just left Malvolio talking to himself

MALVOLIO

[Reads]
I may command where I adore;
But silence, like a Lucrece knife,
With bloodless stroke my heart doth gore:
M, O, A, I, doth sway my life.

‘M, O, A, I, doth sway my life.’ Nay, but first, let
me see, let me see, let me see.

‘I may command where I adore.’ Why, she may command
me: I serve her; she is my lady. Why, this is
evident to any formal capacity; there is no
obstruction in this: and the end,–what should
that alphabetical position portend? If I could make
that resemble something in me,–Softly! M, O, A,
I,–

M,–Malvolio; M,–why, that begins my name.

M,–but then there is no consonancy in the sequel;
that suffers under probation A should follow but O does

And then I comes behind.

M, O, A, I; this simulation is not as the former: and
yet, to crush this a little, it would bow to me, for
every one of these letters are in my name. Soft!
here follows prose.

Reads

‘If this fall into thy hand, revolve. In my stars I
am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness: some
are born great, some achieve greatness, and some
have greatness thrust upon ’em. Thy Fates open
their hands; let thy blood and spirit embrace them;
and, to inure thyself to what thou art like to be,
cast thy humble slough and appear fresh. Be
opposite with a kinsman, surly with servants; let
thy tongue tang arguments of state; put thyself into
the trick of singularity: she thus advises thee
that sighs for thee. Remember who commended thy
yellow stockings, and wished to see thee ever
cross-gartered: I say, remember. Go to, thou art
made, if thou desirest to be so; if not, let me see
thee a steward still, the fellow of servants, and
not worthy to touch Fortune’s fingers. Farewell.
She that would alter services with thee,
THE FORTUNATE-UNHAPPY.’
Daylight and champaign discovers not more: this is
open. I will be proud, I will read politic authors,
I will baffle Sir Toby, I will wash off gross
acquaintance, I will be point-devise the very man.
I do not now fool myself, to let imagination jade
me; for every reason excites to this, that my lady
loves me. She did commend my yellow stockings of
late, she did praise my leg being cross-gartered;
and in this she manifests herself to my love, and
with a kind of injunction drives me to these habits
of her liking. I thank my stars I am happy. I will
be strange, stout, in yellow stockings, and
cross-gartered, even with the swiftness of putting
on. Jove and my stars be praised! Here is yet a
postscript.

Reads

‘Thou canst not choose but know who I am. If thou
entertainest my love, let it appear in thy smiling;
thy smiles become thee well; therefore in my
presence still smile, dear my sweet, I prithee.’
Jove, I thank thee: I will smile; I will do
everything that thou wilt have me.

Malvolio exits and Maria enters and they will see the fruits of this jest

MARIA

If you will then see the fruits of the sport, mark
his first approach before my lady: he will come to
her in yellow stockings, and ’tis a colour she
abhors, and cross-gartered, a fashion she detests;
and he will smile upon her, which will now be so
unsuitable to her disposition, being addicted to a
melancholy as she is, that it cannot but turn him
into a notable contempt. If you will see it, follow
me.

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