Twelfth Night Quotes in Context
by William Shakespeare

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"If Music Be The Food Of Love, Play On"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The ruler of Illyria, Duke Orsino, is in love with Olivia, a young, beautiful, and very wealthy countess who is in mourning for a dead brother. The duke's affection is not requited by the countess, who will not admit his emissary or hear his protestations of love and pleads mourning for her brother as the reason she may not. At the beginning of the play, Duke Orsino is listening to melancholy music as he waits for his messenger to Olivia, Valentine, to return with news from her. (Over 150 years later, in 1775, another English dramatist, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, paraphrased, in The Rivals, this famous quotation thus: "Is not music the food of love?") (In modern times, the phrase "a dying fall" is used by T. S. Eliot in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, l. 52.)

DUKEIf music be the food of love, play on,Give me excess of it; that, surfeiting,The appetite may sicken, and so die.That strain again–it had a dying fall.O, it came o'er my ear, like the sweet soundThat breathes upon a bank of violets,Stealing, and giving odour.. . .

"Journeys End In Lovers' Meeting"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Sir Toby Belch, uncle to Olivia, and Sir Andrew Aguecheek are at Olivia's house when Feste, her servant and jester, enters. Sir Toby and Andrew have been talking nonsense, and with Feste's entrance all three continue in the same vein. The older men ask Feste for a song, and he asks if they would like a love song or one of "good life." Toby chooses a love song, and Andrew assents because he does not care for good life. Feste then sings one of Shakespeare's loveliest songs, both stanzas of which follow:

FESTEO mistress mine, where are you roaming?O stay and hear, your true love's coming,That can sing both high and low.Trip no further pretty sweeting;Journeys end in lover's meeting,Every wise man's son doth know.. . .What is love? 'Tis not hereafter;Present mirth hath present laughter,What's to come is still unsure.In delay there lies no plenty,Then come kiss me sweet and twenty.Youth's a stuff will not endure.

"Laugh Yourselves Into Stitches"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Malvolio, a pompous, self-loving, and sour steward in Countess Olivia's household, harbors ridiculous aspirations for his mistress' affections. He is disliked by Sir Toby Belch, Olivia's bibulous uncle, and Maria, Olivia's waiting woman. Seeking revenge on Malvolio for his officious interference with their drinking late one night, they obtain their goal by preparing a love note in Olivia's hand and style and dropping it in Malvolio's path. He believes it to be from Olivia and obeys its instructions to appear before her cross-gartered, in yellow stockings, smiling, and kissing his hand–affectations which she abhors. As he approaches, Maria fetches Sir Toby and Fabian, a servant who also dislikes Malvolio, with these words:

MARIAIf you desire the spleen, and will laugh yourselves into stitches, follow me. Yond gull Malvolio is turned heathen, a very renegado; for there is no Christian that means to be saved by believing rightly, can ever believe such impossible passages of grossness. He's in yellow stockings.SIR TOBYAnd cross-gartered?MARIAMost villainously. . . .

"Love Sought Is Good, But Given Unsought Is Better"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Viola, on a sea voyage with her twin brother, Sebastian, is shipwrecked on the seacoast of Illyria. Convinced that her brother has been drowned, she determines to serve temporarily the ruler of Illyria, Duke Orsino, in the guise of a eunuch and under the name of Cesario. The duke employs her thus to press his suit for the hand of the Countess Olivia, who does not love him and who has put him off by pleading mourning for a dead brother. Viola-Cesario, with an entourage, calls at Olivia's home, gains admittance, and attempts to persuade Olivia of the duke's devotion. Olivia rejects the duke but realizes that she has fallen in love with the messenger, believing Viola to be a man. Now, on Viola-Cesario's second visit, Olivia confesses her love, and in an attempt to persuade an angry and perplexed Viola she argues:

OLIVIA. . .Cesario, by the roses of the spring,By maidhood, honour, truth, and every thing,I love thee...

(The entire section is 1,687 words.)