Twelfth night key quotes – Sir Toby Belch

I am sure care’s an enemy to life -Act 1 scene 3-first line-talking about Olivia’s grief; establishes him as selfish character (or caring? we don’t know him yet, he could be looking out for her); if something disrupts his revelry it is an enemy to life – foreshadowing plot against Malvolio-oxymoron said with certainty; immediately establishes him as a character lacking in common sense-nouns suggest confusion, misunderstanding – reflective of disorderly manner of play
he’s a coward and a coystrill that will not drink to my niece till his brains turn o’ th’ toe like a parish top -Act 1 scene 3-attitude of a habitual drunkard
You mistake, knight: ‘accost’ is front her, board her, woo her, assail her -Act 1 scene 3-to Sir Andrew, about Maria-vulgar puns contrast with Orsino’s poetic musings (bearing in mind that Orsino and Andrew are after Olivia’s heart) – ‘lower’ characters are far less genteel and more overtly sexual than the nobles are, in the games of love-playing on the double meaning of accost (to address someone courteously vs to solicit for sexual purposes)
And thou let part so, Sir Andrew, would thou mightst never draw sword again -Act 1 scene 3-to Sir Andrew, about Maria-referencing his impotence – mockery of his impotence is continued for a short section-double meaning of ‘sword’ (slang for male genitalia vs metaphor of masculinity)-Andrew’s lack of understanding when he repeats this creates bawdy humour
Excellent; it hangs like flax on a distaff: and I hope to see a housewife take thee between her legs, and spin it off -Act 1 scene 3-about Sir Andrew’s hair-flaxen-haired men were deemed to be cowardly but quarrelsome; insulting Andrew-Toby plays on the double meaning of ‘housewife’ as wife or prostitute (hussy) to imply he wants to see Andrew either ‘spin it off’ with his wife (which he doesn’t have – mocking his impotence), or have sex with a prostitute who will give him a venereal disease that makes his hair fall off-underlying bawdy humour is the comic implication that Sir Toby hopes to see Sir Andrew bald
Wherefore are these things hid? Wherefore have these gifts a curtain before ’em? … Is it a world to hide virtues in? -Act 1 scene 3-about Andrew’s ability to dance-mocking Sir Andrew by suggesting he show off his ‘virtues’-mockery for merely himself; it’s just him and Andrew on stage at the moment – similarly with “there’s life in’t, man”, the humour he creates by mocking Andrew is for him and the audience alone
I hate it as an unfilled can -Act 2 scene 3-about the false conclusion that “to be up late is to be up late” by Andrew-his can stays comically unfilled – during the same scene, “Marian, I say! a stoup of wine!”, “A stoup of wine, Maria!”-more evidence that he is always drunk – a can will eventually be unfilled, but by then you would usually be too drunk to notice – NOT TOBY.
A contagious breath -Act 2 scene 3-double meaning of ‘contagious’ as catching voice, or the implication of halitosis and a reference to the plague, making following line by Andrew “very sweet and contagious” contradictory nonsense – nothing can be taken seriously in this play
My lady’s a Catayn, we are politicians -Act 2 scene 3-possibly implying Olivia exaggerates/lies-only other time Shakespeare uses ‘Catayan’ again is in Merry Wives of Windsor, where Page declares “I will not believe such a Catayan” where it means liar-Olivia is not his lady, she’s his niece – drunk drunk drunk, Sir Toby Belch
Art any more than a steward? Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale? -Act 2 scene 3-to Malvolio-omission of subject pronouns is frequent in Shakespeare, but here it accentuates the use of “art” so as to underline Toby is addressing an inferior – theme of role-reversal throughout play-cakes and ale are food and drink associated with church festivals (e.g. 12th night); also proverbial for having a good time
She’s a beagle, true-bred, and one that adores me. What o’ that? -Act 2 scene 3-about Maria-‘beagle’ could be an allusion to her size; actor was likely a small boy-hunting theme; beagles were used by elderly or inexperienced hunters instead of foxhounds – implication that Toby doesn’t ‘hunt’ (trick, plot against) people often, which perhaps makes the plotting against Malvolio so funny; inexperienced hunters get the biggest catch they could’ve thought of (headline)-bravado with short sentence implies he’s used to being adored – but then, why isn’t he married? and why does he drink? etc etc
to anger him, we’ll have the bear again -Act 2 scene 5-about Malvolio-implying that Malvolio will play the bear and they will be the dogs – they’re also creating entertainment for themselves and possibly acknowledging the mistreatment (but unlikely considering contemporary attitudes towards animals)
Shall this fellow live? -Act 2 scene 5-about Malvolio, as he is fantasising about married life with Olivia-after initially threatening him with “a stone-bow, to hit him in the eye!”, Toby imprecates for Malvolio to be in prison (“bolts and shackles!”), but finally threatens death-‘fellow’ suggests very little respect at all – somehow worse than a lack of vocative; at least then it wasn’t directly offensive
And with what wing the stallion checks at it! -Act 2 scene 5-‘look how willingly he’s taken the bait’ – hunting metaphor-motif of zoomorphism; Malvolio compared to a bird of prey gazing over the victim – comedy through dramatic irony
I could marry this wench for this device… And ask for no other dowry with her but such another jest -Act 2 scene 5-split across two lines, but virtually a declaration of intent – they do marry at the end of the play
Wilt thou set thy foot o’ my neck? -Act 2 scene 5-possibility for actor to bow down (and have Andrew copy), as was in Posner’s 2001 RSC production-admission of submission; love amongst ‘lower’ characters
Why thou hast put him in such a dream, that when the image of it leaves him he must run mad -Act 2 scene 5-about Malvolio-foreshadowing how others depict him – M doesn’t explicitly admit being mad throughout play, just that he was cruelly tricked-link to “or am I mad, or else this is a dream” Seb 4,1, who doesn’t run mad when he ‘wakes from the dream’, instead having quite a nice life, really; parallel between the two men who find themselves in positions they didn’t ask for – favourable/unfavourable
Like aqua-vitae with a midwife -Act 2 scene 5-responding to Maria’s “does it work on him?”-simile could suggest Toby is falling in love with Maria – he’s already dreaming of having children with her; connotations of midwifery = children
Challenge me the count’s youth to fight with him, hurt him in eleven places -Act 3 scene 2-to Andrew, about Cesario (for taking Olivia’s heart)-verbs suggest an actual fight would take place – but the ensuing fight creates humour because Andy isn’t a fighter and Cesario is a girl-11 is an oddly specific and somewhat hyperbolic number – perpetuates Toby’s command as being for his amusement
Go, write it in a martial hand, be curst and brief…let there be gall enough in thy ink, though thou write with a goose pen -Act 3 scene 2-to Andrew, about writing a letter to challenge Cesario-satirising courtly love, and the letters that go between lovers; Romeo and Juliet, for example-‘martial’ i.e. in an aggressive military style – giving Sir Andrew false hope and thus emphasising that neither man is a knight/can fight-‘curst and brief’ carries the implication that there is not much written due to Andrew’s lack of intelligence; a lack of thought-geese are supposedly foolish birds; cruel humour to Sir Andrew, who doesn’t seem to pick up on it
For Andrew, if he were opened and you find so much blood in his liver as will clog the foot of a flea, I’ll eat the rest of th’anatomy -Act 3 scene 2-considerable violence depicted-liver represents bravery-reveals Toby’s understanding that the fight is pointless; he just wants some cheap laughs-‘opened’ and ‘eat’ – semantic field of cannibalism
Come, we’ll have him in a dark room and bound. My niece is already in the belief that he’s mad; we may carry it thus, for our pleasure and his penance, till our very pastime, tired out of breath, prompt us to have mercy on him: at which time, we will bring the device to the bar, and crown thee for a finder of madmen -Act 3 scene 4-customary treatment for madness at the time – they knew what they were getting into when Maria suggested the ‘epistle of love’; cruelty seeps in-‘for our pleasure’ link to 12th night festivals-‘his penance’ – they still believe he deserves this; the only event the audience have witnessed where Malvolio is not nice to them was that one time before “go shake your ears” – even M’s broken monologue carries suggestion that they aren’t nice to him, not the other way round-selfish nature of perpetrators perpetuated; they’ll carry it on until the very last minute, for their enjoyment-‘crown thee for a finder of madmen’ – ’tis merely a game for these plotters (Andrew not on stage yet; he is exempt from the reward)-sinister undertone; Malvolio is the victim purely because he is “something of a Puritan”
Now will I not deliver his letter: for the behaviour of the young gentleman gives him out to be of good capacity and breeding -Act 3 scene 4-presumably Toby won’t deliver the letter because of its dubious literary quality-unwittingly Toby refers to Cesario’s femininity through describing his gentle nature-also accidentally depicting his social status
Souls and bodies hath he divorced three -Act 3 scene 4-about Andrew, to Cesario-giving exaggerated and completely false impression of Sir Andrew to a poor bewildered Cesario
therefore on, or strip your sword half naked; for meddle you must, that’s certain, or foreswear to wear iron about you -Act 3 scene 4-to Cesario, about fighting Andrew-bawdy humour – sword metaphor for male genitalia i.e. prove you are a man (which she obviously can’t do)-admitting to cowardice wouldn’t be an option either
Why, man, he’s a very devil; I have not seen such a firago -Act 3 scene 4-malapropism for virago (war-like woman) brings dramatic irony through a cross-dressing, non-fighter Viola-dramatic irony cause Andrew isn’t the very devil
[Aside] Marry, I’ll ride your horse as well as I ride you -Act 3 scene 4-about Sir Andrew-admission of manipulation-Sir Toby is not a likeable character; he’s going to extortionate lengths to get his supposed friend to possibly wound him
Do cuff him soundly, but never draw thy sword -Act 3 scene 4-to Sir Andrew-reference to his impotence at 1,3
I would we were well rid of this knavery. If he may be conveniently delivered, I would he were, for I am now so far in offence with my niece, that I cannot pursue with any safety this sport to the upshot. -Act 4 scene 2-to Maria, after Sir Topas’ bit-attack of conscience or purely selfish actions – trying to protect himself from his niece and her consequences-the fact that he is willing to end the prank because he fears Olivia’s actions against him perpetuates the theme of role-reversal through the subversion of gender roles by attributing great authority to Olivia-‘pursue’ ‘sport’ perpetuates the hunting motif
Come by and by to my chamber -Act 4 scene 2-possibly bawdy implications-some directors have Toby directly address Maria when this is said i.e. sex and marriage; theme of disorder in play – subversion of marriage as something sacred and blessed, instead as an off-hand comment
Will you help? An ass-head, and a coxcomb, and a knave; a thin-faced knave, a gull! -Act 5-final line-having milked Sir Andrew dry, he now reveals all his contempt for him-horrid cruelty, creates pathos for Sir Andrew instead of comedy at him