E316 Fall 2010 Students' Blog

Jenaun Aboud on Twelfth Night, Act 1

Published by admin_main on Wed 29 Sep, 2010


3. In Act 1, Scene 3, what is Sir Toby Belch's attitude towards his niece Countess Olivia's insistence on mourning for her departed brother? What seems to be his philosophy of life generally? What accounts for his interest in Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and by means of what advice does Toby urge Andrew to pursue his courtship of Olivia?

Sir Toby Belch isn't able to comprehend the grief that Olivia feels in light of her brother's death. She has sworn that she will remain in mourning for the next seven years and that she will conceal her face behind a veil for that length of time whenever a man is present. Sir Toby Belch appears to have adopted a very carefree attitude towards life and sees the intense level of Olivia's sorrow as a force that is crippling her quality of life. In the opening of Act 1, Scene 3, he says that he does not understand why the death of Olivia's brother is plaguing her so and uses the phrase, "I am sure care is an enemy to life." That tells the audience a great deal about Sir Toby Belch, whom other characters continually refer to as a drunk and a jokester. Sir Toby Belch is obviously no stranger to a good time and is the kind of person who will not allow himself to make life tougher than it has to be by bogging himself down with sorrow. He feels that an overabundance of sorrow, like the sorrow that Olivia is experiencing, is a waste of the precious gift of life and should be shoved aside in favor of cherishing the time that one has to live.

Sir Andrew Aguecheek is a man who speaks his mind, oftentimes with vulgar things to say, and who is an attractive companion and drinking buddy for Sir Toby Belch, who values these outspoken tendencies. He boasts heavily to Olivia's maid of Sir Andrew's accomplishments, which seem to be largely exaggerated (he claimed that the man could speak four languages and it was later revealed that he did not know the meaning of "pourquoi"). He probably sees Sir Andrew as a viable candidate for his niece Olivia's affections because he feels that his blunt honesty and zest for life may help to bring her out of her depression, and because he knows that he has the funds to support her. Indeed, at this point in the play the audience has not read enough to accurately discern the integrity of Sir Andrew's character based only off of a few negative comments that Maria makes. Sir Toby Belch genuinely believes that he is serving his niece's best interest in trying to put this match together. He tells Sir Andrew that Olivia has mentioned that on principle she refuses to marry anyone above her social station or anybody who is richer, older, or smarter than her, which puts Duke Orsino out of the running and may give Sir Andrew a fighting chance. He urges Sir Andrew to put his only talent, dance, to good use and to dance freely and often in the quest for Olivia's affections.

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