Twelfth Night Act 4 Scene 1: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Katherine Garner

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

This lesson provides a summary and brief analysis of Act 4 Scene 1 in Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night, as well as a short multiple choice quiz to test your comprehension.

Sebastian and the Fool

When Act 4 Scene 1 of Twelfth Night opens, the fool is asking Sebastian if he was sure that Olivia did not tell the fool to send for him. Sebastian insists that no one sent for him and is confused about why the fool seems to think he knows him. The fool sarcastically replies, 'No, I do not know you, nor am I sent to you by my lady…nor your name is not Master Cesario, and this is not my nose neither. Nothing is what it is.'

Sebastian is annoyed by the fool and tells him to stop acting so foolish and leave him alone. The fool laughs at Sebastian's suggestion that a fool should stop acting foolish. Sebastian gives the fool money to bribe him to go away, and the fool gratefully accepts.

Andrew and Toby Challenge Sebastian

Before the fool leaves, Andrew, Toby, and Fabian enter. They think that Sebastian is Cesario, whom Andrew has been planning to challenge to a duel over Olivia. Andrew strikes Sebastian, who immediately hits him back and asks if everyone in this town is crazy, because these men are acting as if they know him just as the fool had. Toby, in defense of Andrew, tells Sebastian to stop or he will throw his dagger over the roof of the house.

The fool witnesses this altercation, or conflict, and says to himself that he will go tell Olivia right away and that he would hate to be in these men's shoes when she finds out about this fight.

Toby once again tells Sebastian to back off, but Andrew says it's alright; he is going to try to sue Sebastian for attacking him even though Andrew struck him first. After struggling for a little while, Sebastian frees himself from Toby's restraining arms and challenges him. Toby replies that Sebastian doesn't want that because he will certainly draw blood. He draws his sword but just as he does, Olivia enters and stops the fight.

Olivia Defends Sebastian

Olivia scolds Andrew, Toby, and Fabian and tells Toby that he is nothing but an ungrateful, drunken, animal who should being living in a mountain or cave, somewhere that doesn't require good manners. She apologizes to Sebastian for him, thinking he is Cesario, the object of her affection. After banishing Toby, Andrew, and Fabian from the room, she leads Sebastian away, telling him that she will tell him all about the foolish antics and silly pranks her uncle has been involved in so that maybe he will understand and laugh at his behavior.

Sebastian is even more confused because Olivia is treating him as if she knows him as well. He says to himself that he must be either going insane or is dreaming and if this is a dream, he hopes he will continue sleeping. Olivia asks him to go with her and Sebastian agrees. He is behaving much more agreeably towards her than Cesario had, so Olivia replies, unbelievingly, 'Oh, say it and mean it!' as the two of them exit the scene.

Scene Analysis

When the fool is arguing with Sebastian at the beginning of Act 4 Scene 1, he sarcastically states 'Nothing is what it is,' which is actually much truer than he knows. This is another example of the fool showing a great deal of wisdom, sometimes unknowingly.

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