Twelfth Night Act III, Scene 2 Summary and Analysis
by William Shakespeare

Twelfth Night book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download Twelfth Night Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Act III, Scene 2 Summary and Analysis

Sir Andrew is disappointed that Olivia has not shown an interest in him. He has seen her giving more attention to Cesario than to him. Fabian claims that Olivia was deliberately trying to exasperate Andrew so as to spur him to more aggressive action. Andrew should have seized the moment to prove his masculinity: “You should have banged the youth into dumbness.” Having failed to act has put Andrew way out of Olivia’s thoughts, unless he can act quickly to arouse her admiration with his valor. Andrew agrees.

Sir Toby’s idea for Andrew to achieve Olivia’s love is to challenge Cesario to a fight. A fight will kindle her admiration. Sir Toby tells Andrew to write out a provocative challenge—“Let there be gall enough in thy ink”—to Cesario. Despite this incitement, Sir Toby says he will not actually deliver the letter to the youth.

Sir Toby espies Maria with a term of affection. Maria informs them how hilarious Malvolio’s deception has turned out. He has obeyed every point of the letter. She manifests her sadistic pleasure in the way he is so taken over by the letter.

Sir Toby plays his role as “lord of misrule” in this scene as well as in others. No sooner has Sir Andrew conveyed his frustration at winning Olivia’s hand than does Toby devise a hostile plan to get her attention. It might be more proper to designate someone to court Olivia, as Cesario has done for Orsino, But, he instead tells Sir Andrew to write an inflammatory letter to Cesario, a letter Sir Toby does not intend to pass on. Sir Toby keeps the action lively, stirring up a fracas that has love as its dubious impetus.

Sir Toby’s plan reveals, moreover, underlying masculine values. First of all, he proposes a fight, which is often considered a manly activity. Secondly, he and...

(The entire section is 480 words.)