Act 2, Scene 5, set in Olivia’s Garden, is the famous “M.O.A.I.” scene where Maria shows her wiles, and Malvolio betrays his not-so-puritanical ego. This is Part I of several Director’s Notes blog entries on Twelfth Night: Act 2, Scene 5.
Curiously, Feste completely skips this scene, perhaps because the old fool is more accustomed to nocturnal hours (when there’s likelier to be sixpence for his songs), or is just generally only haphazardly present (thus warranting Maria’s reprimanding words in the brief exchange between Feste and Maria in the opening of Act 1, Scene 5)–anyway, instead of Feste, we have Fabian, a gentleman servant of Olivia’s, with a penchant for bear-baiting (and, who has a grudge towards Malvolio, for getting him in trouble for staging a bear-baiting in Olivia’s garden). Fabian opens Scene 5 with an era-joke about being “boil’d to death by Melancholy (thought by era “medical science” to be a cold humour)”:
Toby: Come thy ways, Signior Fabian.
Fabian: Nah, I’ll come: if I lose a scruple of this sport, let me be boil’d to death with Melancholy.
Toby: Wouldst thou not be glad to have the niggardly Rascally sheep-biter, come by some notable shame?
Then again, perhaps Feste isn’t present in this scene is due to his intuitive sense of tact (Shakespeare’s fools always seem to have that extra bit of wisdom, quintessentially lacking in his star characters)–it’s a scene where the perpetrators could very-well be caught in their deed to render some “notable shame” to their common enemy.
Fabian: I would exult man: you know he brought me out of favour with my Lady, about a Bear-baiting here.
Toby: To anger him we’ll have the Bear again, and we will fool him black and blue, shall we not, Sir Andrew?
Andrew: And we do not, it is pity of our lives.
Like the others, Fabian’s here, having been slighted by Malvolio. Malvolio tattled on Fabian for holding a bear-baiting session in Olivia’s garden (this is rather something *no one wants!* in their backyard — aside from the damage from the animal slaughter, there’d be massive cleanup from the refuse left by the raucous audience such events draw–completely unseemly!); this suggests that Olivia’s garden is large, and that she might be something of a menagerie. (Our OEP2 set will contain quite a few animals.)
Toby seems more feisty and violent than usual, alluding to beating Malvolio “black and blue” after just a few words, and even calling Maria, his “Metal of India (gold)”, a villain (though this might be a term of endearment of sorts).
Maria enters the garden, perhaps breathless, Malvolio being so close behind her:
Toby: Here comes the little villain: how now, my Metal of India?
Maria: Get ye all three into the box tree!
The three men duck behind the boxtree, while Maria throws the letter, for the “trout that must be caught with tickling”:
Maria: Malvolio’s coming down this walk; he has been yonder i’the Sun practicing behavior to his own shadow this half hour. Observe him for the love of Mockery: for I know this Letter will make a contemplate Idiot of him. Close, in the name of jesting, lye thou there! For here comes the Trout, that must be caught with tickling.
Maria, curiously, leaves. (Perhaps this task of tricking a steward is too coarse for a lady, or Maria would rather not be present to “jinx her plot”, or maybe Shakespeare anticipated emergency doubling’s.)