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Twelfth Night

William Shakespeare

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 4

Daylight and champaign discovers not more. This is open. I will be proud, I will read politic authors, I will baffle Sir Toby, I will wash off gross acquaintance, I will be point-device the very man. I do not now fool myself, to let imagination jade me; for every reason excites to this, that my lady loves me. She did commend my yellow stockings of late, she did praise my leg, being cross-gartered, and in this she manifests herself to my love, and with a kind of injunction drives to these habits of her liking. I thank my stars, I am happy. I will be strange, stout, in yellow stockings, and cross-gartered, even with the swiftness of putting on. Jove and my stars be praised.
          (II.v.140–150)

Malvolio speaks these words after he finds the letter written by Maria that seems to reveal that Olivia is in love with him. Until this point, Malvolio has seemed a straitlaced prig with no enthusiasms or desires beyond decorum and an orderly house. Here we see his puritanical exterior is only a veneer, covering powerful ambitions. Malvolio dreams of being loved by Olivia and of rising in the world to become a nobleman—both of these dreams seem to be fulfilled by the letter. For the audience, this scene is tremendously comic, since we can easily anticipate that Malvolio will make a fool of himself when he follows the letter’s instructions and puts on yellow stockings and crossed garters. But there is also a hint of pathos in Malvolio’s situation, since we know that his grand ambitions will come crashing down. Our pity for him increases in later scenes, when Sir Toby and Maria use his preposterous behavior to lock him away as a madman. Malvolio is not exactly a tragic figure; he is too absurd for that. But there is something at least pitiable in the way the vanity he displays in this speech leads to his undoing.