Twelfth Night

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Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em. — Malvolio

Twelfth Night, or What You Will, is a comedy by William Shakespeare, named after the Twelfth Night holiday. The play was believed to have been written around 1601–1602.

Act I

  • If 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 sound
    That breathes upon a bank of violets,
    Stealing, and giving odour! Enough! No more.
    'Tis not so sweet now as it was before.
    • Orsino, scene i

  • Conceal me what I am; and be my aid
    For such disguise as, haply, shall become
    The form of my intent.
    • Viola, scene ii

  • I am sure care's an enemy to life.
    • Sir Toby scene iii

  • I have them at my fingers' ends.
    • Maria, scene iii

  • Wherefore are these things hid? Wherefore have these gifts a curtain before 'em?
    • Sir Toby, scene iii

  • Is it a world to hide virtues in?
    • Sir Toby, scene iii

  • Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage...
    • Feste, scene v

  • Olivia: Go to, you're a dry fool; I'll no more of you; besides, you grow dishonest.
    Feste: Two faults, madonna, that drink and good counsel will amend: for give the dry fool drink, then is the fool not dry; bid the dishonest man mend himself; if he mend, he is no longer dishonest; if he cannot, let the botcher mend him; any thing that's mended is but patched; virtue that transgresses is but patched with sin; and sin that amends is but patched with virtue.
    • Scene v

  • Olivia: What's a drunken man like, fool?
    Feste: Like a drowned man, a fool, and a madman: one draught above heat makes him a fool; the second mads him; and a third drowns him.
    • Scene v

  • We will draw the curtain, and show you the picture.
    • Olivia, scene v

  • ’T is beauty truly blent, whose red and white
    Nature’s own sweet and cunning hand laid on:
    Lady, you are the cruell’st she alive
    If you will lead these graces to the grave,
    And leave the world no copy.
    • Viola, scene v

  • Make me a willow cabin at your gate,
    And call upon my soul within the house;
    Write loyal cantons of contemned love,
    And sing them loud even in the dead of night;
    Holla your name to the reverberate hills,
    And make the babbling gossip of the air
    Cry out.
    • Viola, scene v

Act II

  • O Time, thou must untangle this, not I;
    It is too hard a knot for me t' untie.
    • Viola, scene ii, lines 38-39

  • O 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 lovers' meeting,
    Every wise man’s son doth know.
    • Feste, scene iii

  • 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.
    • Feste, scene iii

  • He does it with a better grace, but I do it more natural.
    • Sir Andrew, scene iii

  • Is there no respect of place, persons, nor time in you?
    • Malvolio, scene iii

  • Sir Toby: Art any more than a steward? Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?
    Feste: Yes, by Saint Anne; and ginger shall be hot i’ the mouth too.
    • Scene iii

  • My purpose is, indeed, a horse of that colour.
    • Maria, scene iii

  • These most brisk and giddy-paced times.
    • Orsino, scene iv

  • Let still the woman take
    An elder than herself: so wears she to him,
    So sways she level in her husband's heart:
    For, boy, however we do praise ourselves,
    Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm,
    More longing, wavering, sooner lost and worn,
    Than women's are.
    • Orsino, scene iv

  • Then let thy love be younger than thyself,
    Or thy affection cannot hold the bent.
    • Orsino, scene iv

  • The spinsters and the knitters in the sun
    And the free maids that weave their thread with bones
    Do use to chant it: it is silly sooth,
    And dallies with the innocence of love,
    Like the old age.
    • Orsino, scene iv

  • Come away, come away, death,
    And in sad cypress let me be laid;
    Fly away, fly away, breath;
    I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
    • Feste, scene iv

  • Orsino: And what's her history?
    Viola: A blank, my lord. She never told her love,
    But let concealment, like a worm i' the bud,
    Feed on her damask cheek: she pin'd in thought,
    And, with a green and yellow melancholy,
    She sat like Patience on a monument,
    Smiling at grief. Was not this love, indeed?
    • Scene iv

  • I am all the daughters of my father's house,
    And all the brothers too.
    • Viola, scene iv

  • This is my lady's hand these be her very C's, her U's and her T's and thus makes she her great P's.
    • Malvolio, scene v

  • An you had any eye behind you, you might see more detraction at your heels than fortunes before you.
    • Fabian, scene v

  • Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.
    • Malvolio, scene v
    • Malvolio is reading aloud a letter which he believes to be from Olivia.
    • Parodied in Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Chapter 9, as “Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them.”


  • Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb, like the sun; it shines everywhere.
    • Feste, scene i

  • O, what a deal of scorn looks beautiful
    In the contempt and anger of his lip!
    • Olivia, scene i

  • Love sought is good, but given unsought, is better.
    • Olivia, scene i

  • Let there be gall enough in thy ink; though thou write with a goose-pen, no matter.
    • Sir Toby, scene ii

  • I think we do know the sweet Roman hand.
    • Malvolio, scene iv

  • Why, this is very midsummer madness.
    • Olivia, scene iv

  • Put thyself into the trick of singularity.
    • Malvolio, scene iv
    • Malvolio is quoting what he believes to be a letter from Olivia.

  • What, man! defy the Devil: consider, he's an enemy to mankind.
    • Sir Toby, scene iv

  • ’T is not for gravity to play at cherry-pit with Satan.
    • Sir Toby, scene iv

  • If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.
    • Fabian, scene iv

  • More matter for a May morning.
    • Fabian, scene iv

  • Still, you keep o’ the windy side of the law.
    • Fabian, scene iv

  • An I thought he had been valiant and so cunning in fence, I'ld have seen him damned ere I'ld have challenged him.
    • Sir Andrew, scene v

  • Out of my lean and low ability
    I'll lend you something.
    • Viola, scene v

  • Out of the jaws of death.
    • Antonio, scene v

Act IV

  • As the old hermit of Prague, that never saw pen and ink, very wittily said to a niece of King Gorboduc, That, that is, is.
    • Feste, scene ii

  • Feste: What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning wild-fowl?
    Malvolio: That the soul of our grandam might haply inhabit a bird.

Act V

  • Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.
    • Feste, scene i

  • When that I was and a little tiny boy,
    With hey, ho, the wind and the rain:
    A foolish thing was but a toy,
    For the rain it raineth every day.
    • Feste, scene i

  • A great while ago the world begun,
    With hey, ho, the wind and the rain:
    But that's all one, our play is done,
    And we'll strive to please you every day.
    • Feste, scene i


  • Viola – a shipwrecked young woman who disguises herself as a page named Cesario
  • Sebastian – Viola's twin brother
  • Duke Orsino – Duke of Illyria
  • Olivia – a wealthy countess
  • Malvolio – steward in Olivia's household
  • Maria – Olivia's gentlewoman
  • Sir Toby Belch – Olivia's uncle
  • Sir Andrew Aguecheek – a friend of Sir Toby
  • Feste – Olivia's servant, a jester
  • Fabian – a servant in Olivia's household
  • Antonio – a sea captain and friend to Sebastian
  • Valentine and Curio – gentlemen attending on the Duke
  • A Sea Captain – a friend to Viola
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