Twelfth Night | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Twelfth Night | Act 3, Scene 2 | Summary



Sir Andrew complains to Sir Toby and Fabian that he is thoroughly disillusioned about his chances with Olivia: "Marry, I saw your niece do more favors to the count's servingman than ever she bestowed upon me." Sir Toby assures him Olivia did this on purpose to make Sir Andrew jealous, and he convinces Sir Andrew to write a letter to Cesario "in a martial hand," challenging him to a duel. Sir Andrew sets off to do so, but Sir Toby says Sir Andrew is not brave enough to fight a challenge, and he doubts whether Cesario is, either. Maria tells them Malvolio is dressed in cross-gartered, yellow stockings and grinning from ear to ear as he goes to see Olivia. They all race off to watch how their trick on him ultimately plays out.


Sir Andrew is one of the saddest characters in Twelfth Night. In the previous scene, he is making mental notes of the words Cesario uses in speaking with Olivia, as if he can make Olivia love him simply by using the correct words. In the present scene he is understandably dismayed when the woman he wants to marry is more gracious and affectionate to a servant than to a knight such as himself. However, Sir Andrew continues to demonstrate how easily he can be manipulated. Sir Toby has to exert very little effort to convince Sir Andrew that Olivia wanted to make him jealous. Sir Toby addresses Sir Andrew in affectionate terms, but once Sir Andrew has left, he bluntly confides to Fabian that he has gotten money from Sir Andrew, which is the real reason for his affection.

Sir Toby is the instigator: he encourages Sir Andrew to challenge Cesario to a duel, and he will later be the one to make Malvolio's humiliation even more painful for him. Sir Toby does not seem to care about the people he tricks. In the Elizabethan era, duels regularly ended in death, but Sir Toby is confident Sir Andrew doesn't have the courage to actually fight a real duel. Fabian agrees with Sir Toby's assessment of both Sir Andrew's cowardice and Cesario's courage.

Maria's appearance at the end of the scene reminds the audience of the great fun they will have in seeing Malvolio looking ridiculous and being humiliated in front of Olivia. His pathetic attempt to ingratiate himself with Olivia is already irritating to Maria: "I can hardly forbear hurling things at / him. I know my lady will strike him. If she do, he'll / smile and take 't for a great favor."

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