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Twelfth Night

William Shakespeare

  Act 5 Scene 1

page Act 5 Scene 1 Page 16

Original Text

Modern Text

And, acting this in an obedient hope,
335Why have you suffered me to be imprisoned,
Kept in a dark house, visited by the priest,
And made the most notorious geck and gull
That e'er invention played on? Tell me why.
And then tell me why you imprisoned me in a dark house after I followed your instructions perfectly. You made me look like the biggest fool that anybody ever tricked. Tell me why you did it.


Alas, Malvolio, this is not my writing,
340Though, I confess, much like the character.
But out of question, ’tis Maria’s hand.
And now I do bethink me, it was she
First told me thou wast mad, then camest in smiling,
And in such forms which here were presupposed
345Upon thee in the letter. Prithee, be content.
This practice hath most shrewdly passed upon thee;
But when we know the grounds and authors of it,
Thou shalt be both the plaintiff and the judge
Of thine own cause.


I’m sorry, Malvolio, but this isn’t my writing, though I admit it looks like mine. It’s definitely Maria’s handwriting. Now that I think about it, Maria was the one who first told me you were insane. That’s when you came in smiling at me, dressed up like the letter said, and acting just like it told you to act. Someone has played a very mean trick on you, but when we find out who’s responsible, you won’t just be the victim, but the judge who sentences the culprit. I promise.


   Good madam, hear me speak,
350And let no quarrel nor no brawl to come
Taint the condition of this present hour,
Which I have wonder’d at. In hope it shall not,
Most freely I confess, myself and Toby
Set this device against Malvolio here,
355Upon some stubborn and uncourteous parts
We had conceived against him. Maria writ
The letter at Sir Toby’s great importance,
In recompense whereof he hath married her.
How with a sportful malice it was followed,
360May rather pluck on laughter than revenge,
If that the injuries be justly weighed
That have on both sides passed.


Madam, let me say something. Please don’t let squabbles ruin this beautiful and miraculous moment. I confess that Toby and I were the ones who tricked Malvolio because we hated his strict and heavy-handed ways. Sir Toby had Maria wrote that letter, and he married her as a reward. We should just laugh about the whole thing rather than get upset about it, especially if we consider that each of the two parties offended the other equally.


(to MALVOLIO) Alas, poor fool, how have they baffled thee!


(to MALVOLIO) Oh, poor fool, they’ve really humiliated you!