Cakes and ale
Art any more than a steward? Dost thou think because thou
art virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale?
Yes, by Saint Anne, and ginger shall be hot i' th' mouth
Th' art i' th' right. Go, sir, rub your chain with crumbs. A
stope of wine, Maria!
Mistress Mary, if you priz'd my lady's favor at any thing
more than contempt, you would not give means for this uncivil
rule. She shall know of it, by this hand.
While the Lady Olivia ostentatiously mourns her brother's death,
her uncle Sir Toby Belch presides over late-night misrule in other
quarters of her house. Olivia's dour, puritanical steward Malvolio
gladly plays the law-enforcement officer, telling Toby and company,
in effect, to cut the racket or pack off. Toby pulls rank on the
steward, sarcastically demanding whether Malvolio thinks his
"virtue" can be forced on everybody else, so that "there shall be
no more cakes and ale." "Cakes and ale" is Toby's phrase for what
Malvolio uncharitably calls "uncivil rule." This is the earliest
recorded instance of the phrase, though "as good as cakes and
pudding" predates Twelfth Night.
Americans understand a "cake" to be a fluffy confection
preferably made with lots of chocolate and thickly layered with
plenty of icing—not the sort of thing one normally serves with ale.
The way Toby means it, however, a "cake" is merely a fancy or
sweetened bread, which he classes with ale on the shopping list for
the good life.