At the start of the Scene 5 of Act I of Twelfth Night, who is Maria scolding? Why?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Act I, Scene 5, Maria, Olivia's woman, scolds Feste, the clown,  on behalf of their mistress for having been absent when Olivia desired entertainment and called for her fool. Like Feste, Maria is a natural comic; however, her humor is more dangerous, as, for instance, when she considers whether her plans against Malvolio will cause him to go mad and decides: "The house will be quieter."

Here, in lines 1-31 of Scene 5, she outdoes the clown in punning as her scolding yields itself to humor. Their punning on the words "hanged" and hanging is certainly ribald in this time of festivals. In a similar fashion earlier, in Act I, Scene 3, Maria has teased Sir Andrew Aguecheeck for his foolishness by punning rather lewdly upon the words "hand" and "dry":

Sir Andrew:  An you part so, mistress, I would I might never draw sword again. Fair lady, do you thing you have fools in hand? 

Maria:  Sir, I have not you by th'hand. [ to deal with, but also a carnal suggestion]

Sir Andrew:  Marry, but you shall have, and here's my hand.

Maria:  It's dry. [thirsty/shriveled/impotent]

Rather lewd and cruel, Maria acts as a counterpoint to the Duke Orsino, who thinks of love in terms of music, and to whom Shakespeare assigns the most poetic lines for the expression of his philosophical thoughts.

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