Act 3, Scenes 3–4 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on September 29, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1177

Scene 3

The action returns to Sebastian and Antonio in scene 3. Antonio has joined Sebastian in Illyria. He is unwilling to leave Sebastian “unguided and unfriended” in a strange land. Sebastian expresses his thanks and his desire to see the “reliques,” or monuments, of the town. Antonio, however, hesitates before finally admitting that he has enemies in Illyria due to a naval fight against the Duke’s forces; thus, he is risking arrest by entering the country. Antonio gives Sebastian his purse and money so he can explore the town while Antonio goes to see about their lodging at the Elephant and their food. They plan to meet later.

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Scene 4

As scene 4 opens, Olivia is speaking to herself. She has sent for Cesario, and she is wondering how she can win “him” over. She then asks Maria where Malvolio is. Maria responds that he is coming but that he is “in a very strange manner” and is surely possessed and a man “tainted in’s wits.” Malvolio enters then, smiling widely and dressed in yellow stockings and crossed garters, which he points out to Olivia. She thinks he has gone crazy, but Malvolio is following the instructions of the fake love letter. He is acting with pride, being rude to the servants, and reaching far above his station. Olivia tells Maria to summon Sir Toby to care for Malvolio and exits with her.

Malvolio, now alone, announces to himself that Olivia is still spurring him on to act in accordance with her letter. By his reasoning, she is sending for Sir Toby so that Malvolio can “appear stubborn to him.” He is certain that Olivia will be his, for he is behaving exactly as she wishes. “Nothing that can be can come between me and the full prospect of my hopes,” he proclaims.

Just then, Sir Toby enters with Fabian and Maria. Malvolio is rude and haughty, and the other three behave as though he were crazy. They taunt and patronize him, suggesting that he needs medical attention and prayers, until Malvolio departs in anger. The others delight in their joke, which they plan to take to its next level: they will lock Malvolio in a dark room as a madman.

Sir Andrew appears then and reads his challenge to Cesario, which accuses “him” of lying. Sir Toby offers to deliver the letter, but after Sir Andrew leaves, he tells the others that he will make the challenge “by word of mouth” instead and make Sir Andrew appear as a fierce and valiant knight. He wants to frighten Cesario and then watch what happens next.

The scene then shifts to an exchange between Olivia and Viola. Olivia both laments Viola’s rejection and continues to plead her case. Viola insists that Olivia give her love to the Duke. Sir Toby and Fabian reenter, and Sir Toby presents the challenge in the name of Sir Andrew. Viola is bewildered, for she has no recollection of doing Sir Andrew any wrong. Sir Toby depicts Sir Andrew as a bold and dangerous knight, and Viola refuses to answer the challenge. While Sir Toby goes to get Sir Andrew, Fabian assures Viola of his help in making peace.

Meanwhile, Sir Toby tells Sir Andrew that Cesario is more than ready to fight. Sir Andrew is not ready, yet Sir Toby tells Cesario that he will not back down. 

Viola worries that her true state will be revealed. Antonio suddenly rushes in to defend the person he thinks is Sebastian, but he is followed closely by Illyrian officers, who arrest him. Antonio asks Viola for his purse, but Viola does not understand what he is talking about, and Antonio accuses her of being ungrateful and unfaithful. The scene ends with Viola realizing that her brother might be alive and Sir Andrew comforting himself with the idea that Cesario is a coward.

Analysis

Antonio and Sebastian begin to develop in this section, although they are still present primarily to drive the plot. Antonio continues to appear as a loyal, loving friend. He does not want Sebastian to wander around a strange and potentially hostile country alone, yet his entrance into Illyria involves risk, for he is considered an enemy of the Duke. He decides to take the risk, and he follows Sebastian. The audience is left to wonder why Antonio is so attached to Sebastian. They apparently did not know each other before the shipwreck. Perhaps the bond formed through the rescue, Sebastian now owing his life to Antonio and Antonio realizing the value of human life through his experience with Sebastian. In any case, Antonio proves to be a valuable friend.

Antonio appears again in scene 4, this time to rescue Viola, whom he identifies as Sebastian, from the “fierce” Sir Andrew. Viola is not, of course, in any danger, but Antonio does not know this. This time, however, Antonio’s love and loyalty appears to be repaid with a faithless betrayal. When he is arrested by Illyrian officers, he needs his money, but Viola cannot give it to him, for she knows nothing about it. Antonio, who sees only Sebastian, laments his friend’s treachery. He bemoans that his “sanctity of love” and his “devotion” have proven to be for an idol rather than than a god. Sebastian is beautiful in appearance, but he lacks the true beauty of virtue, and his external beauty is only a “beauteous evil.” Antonio frames his apparent betrayal as a warning not to devote oneself too much to a human being.

Antonio, however, is yet another victim of the layers of deception that are becoming ever more entangled as they approach their resolution. Viola, too, is deceived by Sir Toby and Fabian, who tell her that Sir Andrew is a fierce knight who will not draw back from his challenge. By the end of the scene, Viola has realized that her own deception may be coming to its end, for her beloved brother may be alive.

Despite the seriousness of the consequences of deception in scene 4, Shakespeare strikes an amusing and ironic note with Sir Andrew’s letter of challenge to Viola. It is mostly contradictory nonsense. Sir Andrew is challenging Viola (as Cesario) to fight to the death, yet “I will show thee no reason for’t.” He does not actually know a reason for his challenge other than Fabian’s encouragement and the promise of impressing Olivia. If Cesario kills him, Sir Andrew continues, “Thou kill’st me like a rogue and a villain.” Given the ambiguity of his phrasing, he may be labeling Cesario as a rogue and a villain, or he may inadvertently be applying those names to himself. He also calls Cesario both his friend and his “sworn enemy.” Sir Andrew, however, unintentionally presents an ironic note of truth when he accuses Cesario of lying —even though that is not what he is challenging him for. Sir Andrew does not know it, of course, but Cesario is indeed lying, for Viola’s name is not Cesario, and she is not a man.

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Act 3, Scenes 1–2 Summary and Analysis

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Act 4, Scenes 1–3 Summary and Analysis

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