Twelfth Night Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Discuss the following quote: "Mistress Mary, if you prized my lady’s favor at anything more than contempt, you would not give means for this uncivil rule. She shall know of it, by this hand."

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Malvolio is warning Maria not to take part in the servants’ antics because Olivia would not approve.

In this quote, Malvolio is speaking to Mary.  Malvolio is a rather stuck up servant whom the others like to make fun of.  Maria is Olivia’s personal servant, and she does not like Malvolio much.

This scene is taking place in Olivia’s house, where the servants and Sir Toby (Olivia’s obnoxious uncle) are gathered having some fun.  They are drinking because Toby does not want to go to bed yet.  Malvolio is concerned about the goings-on, and Maria’s part in them, because she should be above all of it.

When Malvolio chides Maria for “uncivil rule” he is essentially saying that she is contributing to the bad behavior by bringing the wine that Sir Toby asked for and taking part in the merriment. 

My masters, are you mad? or what are you? Have ye

no wit, manners, nor honesty, but to gabble like

tinkers at this time of night? Do ye make an

alehouse of my lady's house

Is there no respect of place, persons, nor

time in you? (Act 2, Scene 3)

Basically, he is asking them if they have no shame, carrying on like that.  It is disrespectful to Olivia.  He believes they are behaving like a bunch of drunken fools, crude and ridiculous.

After Malvolia says this, he leaves.  It is clear that he is not getting anywhere with them.  Malvolio is always the butt of everyone’s jokes and no one takes him seriously.  They are unlikely to listen to him over Sir Toby.

The purpose of this scene is more than comic relief.  It brings another perspective on love, a main theme of the play, and reminds us that love can take place among the lower classes as well as the higher ones.  Everyone loves!  Sir Toby has the power to get pretty much whatever he wants, and he takes it.  He is not interested in Olivia’s propriety.

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