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Twelfth Night Act 3 Scene 2: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Katherine Garner

Katie teaches middle school English/Language Arts and has a master's degree in Secondary English Education

In this lesson, you will find a summary and brief analysis of Act 3 Scene 2 of Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night, followed by a multiple choice quiz to test your comprehension.

Sir Andrew Is Frustrated

At the beginning of Act 3 Scene 2 of Twelfth Night, Andrew, Toby, and Fabian, a servant at Olivia's house, are discussing Andrew's progress (or lack thereof) in winning Olivia's heart. Andrew is ready to leave Illyria because she does not care about him and he is running out of money. He is especially convinced that Olivia does not like him because he saw her flirting with Orsino's messenger (Viola disguised as the young man Cesario) in the garden. He believes that if she treats a servant better than him, he must be really undesirable.

Fabian argues that Olivia actually does like Andrew and that she might have been behaving that way towards the messenger because she knew he was watching and she wanted to make him jealous. He suggests that she was probably hoping Andrew would get so angry and jealous that he would interrupt them and put the messenger in his place and that Olivia is probably disappointed in his lack of action.

Andrew comments that he needs to find something to do to show Olivia his courage because he is tired of the intrigue, or the unsure and drawn-out nature of his relationship with her. Toby suggests that he challenge Orsino's messenger to a duel and hurt him in eleven places; he thinks Olivia will definitely take notice and like him after a display of bravery like that.

Fabian supports this idea and Andrew asks one of them to deliver a message from him challenging Orsino's messenger to a fight. Toby tells him to start writing and to keep the message short and to the point. He tells Andrew that he will come and find him later and deliver the message.

Andrew exits the scene and Toby and Fabian have a laugh at his expense. Fabian tells Toby that Andrew will do whatever he tells him to do, and Toby agrees that Andrew must like him a lot because he has allowed Toby to spend two thousand of his ducats, or a type of currency used in several areas around Europe during this time period.

Toby goes on to say that he'll deliver the message and hopes that Orsino's messenger will respond, but doubts that they will actually fight; he believes that Andrew is a coward.

Maria Reports on Her Prank

Maria enters the scene to tell the men about the hilarious ways Malvolio is reacting to the love letter she wrote pretending to be Olivia. In the letter, she told Malvolio to wear yellow stockings and criss-crossed laces, a style that Olivia actually hates. He is following everything the letter tells him to do and is going around with a big grin on his face. Maria says she can hardly contain herself while following him around and watching him; the best part is that when Olivia sees him and how ridiculous he looks, she will be annoyed with him but he will probably think she is flirting with him.

Toby asks Maria to bring them to see Malvolio in action and they all leave, signaling the end of the scene.

Scene Analysis

In Act 3 Scene 2 of Twelfth Night, we learn the truth about Toby's and Andrew's friendship. In previous scenes, Andrew has complained about Olivia not returning his affection and the fact that he is running out of money, and Toby has always encouraged him to stay and keep trying. In this scene, after Andrew exits, we learn that Toby really does not respect Andrew and probably never thought Andrew had much of a chance will Olivia; Toby has been using Andrew for his money.

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