Twelfth Night Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What is an example of a pun in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night?

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A pun is a play on words in which you use two words that sound alike but have different meanings. Many puns can be found all throughout Twelfth Night. Both Sir Toby and Feste especially make use of puns. One pun spoken by Sir Toby can be found in the very first scene in which we meet Sir Toby, Act 1, Scene 3. At the beginning of this scene, Maria scolds him for his behavior, warning him that Olivia is very offended by his nightly drunken revelries. She further advises, "[Y]ou must confine yourself within the modest limits of order" (I.iii.7-8). Toby responds by making a pun out of the word "confine." He interprets "confine" as "can fine," which could be translated as referring to dressing one's self up in finery, as we see in his statement, "Confine? I'll confine myself no finer than I am: these clothes are good enough to drink in" (9-10). In this line, he is essentially saying that he does not need to dress in finery to go out drinking. However, Maria meant to say that he needs to restrict his behavior to acting civilly. Sir Toby, on the other hand, chooses to ignore her by making a pun out of the word confine to refer to finery rather than restrictions.

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