The Twelfth Night Summary Act II
Viola’s brother Sebastian has also survived the shipwreck and believing Viola his sister to be dead, makes his way to Orsino’s court accompanied by his friend Antonio who is a wanted man in Illyria. Sebastian laments to Antonio using a pun to describe his feelings saying “She is drowned already, sir, with salt water, though I seem to drown her remembrance again with more” (act ii, 1). Although she is drowned in the sea, the sad memory of her death continuously unfolds in his mind time and again.
Meanwhile Malvolio rudely returns Cesario’s ring which confuses Cesario (Viola) as he did not recall giving the lady Olivia any ring. Malvolio also informs him that Olivia wishes him to return as she requires confirmation that Orsino has finally accepted her refusal of love.
Olivia’s ploy strikes Cesario who realizes that Olivia is attracted to him. Cesario is now worried and hopes future events may clear up the mess. Cesario (Viola) delivers an apt soliloquy on love. She refers to time as an apostrophe hoping time will unravel the confusion. “O, Time, thou must unravel this, not I; It is too hard a knot for me to untie. (act 2.2.)
Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and fester the clown are having a late night drinking session. Despite of Olivia’s maid Maria warning them, they continue their revelry till Malvolio warns them he will inform Olivia. Malvolio ends up threatening to make Olivia displeased with Maria if she doesn’t quiet them down. This enrages Maria who connives with the three men to make a fool of Malvolio. They would write a fake letter addressed to Malvolio from Olivia making him believe that Olivia is in love with him.
This gets the Groups attention and they quiet down as all of them hold utter contempt for Malvolio. They plan to hide in a secluded spot so they can watch Malvolio find the letter and watch his reactions for their own amusement and his humiliation
Orsino and cesario discuss the pangs of unrequited love. Cesario describes Orsinos character but he does not realize that cesario is actually Viola and in love with him. Cesario uses one of the plays most descriptive metaphors for depression describing how unrequited love has left her in a state of “a green and yellow melancholy, she sat like patience on a monument smiling at grief’ (actii, iv). Shakespeare uses both a metaphor and a simile where the term ‘a green and yellow melancholy’ is likened to the bilious state of depression.
Throughout the play Orsino uses poetic imagery to describe love but he does it best in these liens for women are as roses, whose fair flower, being once displayed, doth fall that very hour”. (act ii, 4)
Although Orsino learns from Cesario that Olivia doesn’t love him, he does not intend giving up. This time he sends Cesario to Olivia with a jewel symbolic of his love hoping that would sway her heart.
In Olivia’s residence. Maria, Sir Toby and group prepare to fool Malvolio. Without even finding the fake letter, Malvolio contemplates the possibility of Olivia being in love with him. When he finds the letter, he puts himself on a pedestal making his popular speech “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” (act ii, v). the letter goes on to say that Olivia would like to see him wearing yellow stockings and they should be cross gartered too as this would surely attract Olivia. Shakespeare’s use of dramatic irony and self deception is well reflected in the example of Malvolio’s characterization.
Maria explains to the hiding spectators that Olivia hates yellow stockings.