Twelfth Night Act IV, Scene 1 Summary and Analysis
by William Shakespeare

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Act IV, Scene 1 Summary and Analysis

The Clown and Sebastian are talking in front of Olivia’s house. Sebastian, unlike his sister, has not taken so well to Feste. They seem at odds with each other. Sebastian dismisses the Clown, maintaining that he has no business with him. The Clown, characteristically clever, responds by denying the reality of everything: “Nothing that is so is so.” Indeed, Sebastian is not Cesario. Sebastian orders Feste to take his folly elsewhere. The Clown, clever though he be, is not omniscient, so he thinks that Sebastian is just pretending ignorance. He requests a message for Olivia. Sebastian dismisses him with an insult, but not without giving him a tip. The Clown is thankful.

Sir Andrew, Sir Toby, and Fabian enter. Sir Andrew immediately strikes Sebastian, mistaking him for Cesario. Though puzzled, Sebastian strikes multiple blows in return. Sir Toby joins the fray to help Sir Andrew by seizing Sebastian. After witnessing the fray, the Clown goes off to inform Olivia.

They continue the fight, with Sir Andrew threatening legal action and Sebastian ordering them to let go. Sebastian forcefully disentangles himself from their holds and warns them that on further provocation, he’ll draw his sword. Apparently, Sir Toby cannot resist; he draws on Sebastian.

Olivia enters and surveys the scene to her distaste. The fracas is yet another instance of Sir Toby’s uncivilized tastes. She orders them to stop and get out. That her beloved (or the one she thinks is Cesario) is involved in the fight adds to her sense of offense. Olivia hopes that Sebastian will look rationally on the incident. She invites him to her house so she can tell him about Sir Toby’s other “fruitless pranks.”

Olivia’s invitation baffles Sebastian. He wishes for further oblivion to add to the confusion he is experiencing. Yet, when Olivia repeats her invitation, he accepts.

Critics disagree on how to interpret Feste’s role. Despite Sebastian’s attitude to Feste, the Clown and his role retain their dignity within the play. If anything, Sebastian depreciates the value of the Clown’s content, that is, what it is he talks about. Cesario’s praise for his wit, however, is well-taken. And his wit is clever in this scene. Although the Clown’s songs have relevance to the theme and plot, the relevance of his dialogue is less clear. He is good with words and logic, and his displays of skill have proven quite entertaining, but whether he penetrates character and motive remains debatable. After all, in reality, Sebastian is not dissembling. Feste does not know he’s with Sebastian instead of Cesario. L.G. Salingar puts it this way, “Feste is not the ringleader in

(The entire section is 702 words.)