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Act 4, Scene 2
Maria carried a clerical cap and gown and a false beard. ‘No, come on, please,’ she implored Feste. ‘Put on this gown and this beard to make him believe that you’re the curate, Sir Topas. Get on with it. I’ll call Sir Toby in the meantime.’
She ran off to find Sir Toby, leaving Feste with the items. Well, he would put them on and disguise himself in them. He wished he were the first to wear clerical garb to disguise deceit. He slipped the gown on – it was very long. He wasn’t tall enough to look the part nor skinny enough to be taken for a dedicated scholar but, he supposed, to be thought of as an honest man who balances his books is as good as saying that he was a cautious man and a great scholar. Ah, here were the conspirators.
Sir Toby bowed exaggeratedly. ‘God bless you, Mister Parson,’ he said.
Feste nodded gravely at him. ‘Bonas Dies,’ he said in the quavering voice of a frail old man. ‘As the old hermit of Prague, who never used pen and ink, said to a niece of King Gorbuduc – ” that that is, is ” ; so I, being Mister Parson, am Mr Parson, because what is ‘that’ but ‘that’ and ‘is’ but ‘is’?’
They stood near the entrance of Olivia’s house. There was a guardhouse with a square hole with bars in the door, in which Sir Toby had locked Malvolio.
‘To him, Sir Topas,’ said Sir Toby.
Feste went and stood beside the door. ‘You in there, I say! Silence in this prison!’
‘The knave does a good impression,’ whispered Sir Toby. ‘He’s a good rogue.’
Malvolio’s voice came, echoing out of the darkness. ‘Who’s calling?’
‘Sir Topas the curate, who comes to visit Malvolio the lunatic.’
‘Sir Topas! Sir Topas! Dear Sir Topas, go to my lady.’
Feste jumped back. ‘Get out of him diabolical fiend! How you’re tormenting this man! Can you talk of nothing but ladies?’
Sir Toby and Maria clung to each other, working hard at stifling their laughter. ‘Well said, Mister Parson,’ mouthed Sir Toby.
‘Sir Topas,’ came the echoing voice. ‘Never has a man been so wronged! Dear Sir Topas, do not think I am mad. They’ve imprisoned me here in hideous darkness.’
‘Shame on you, lying Satan! I’m calling you by the most modest terms because I’m one of those gentle men who would treat the devil himself with courtesy. Are you saying that place is dark?’
‘As hell, Sir Topas.’
‘Why, it has bay windows as transparent as shutters and the windows on the south-north side are as bright as ebony and yet you complain that the light is obstructed?’
‘I am not mad, Sir Topas. I’m telling you, this house is dark.’
Feste tutted. ‘Madman, you’re mistaken. I say there is no darkness except ignorance, in which you are more bogged down than the Egyptians were in their fog.’
‘I’m telling you, this house is as dark as ignorance, the ignorance that’s as dark as hell, and I’m telling you that no man has ever been so abused. I’m no more mad than you are. Test me with some penetrating question.’
Feste paced before the guardhouse door and stroked his beard. ‘What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning wild birds?’
‘That the soul of one’s grandmother might possibly inhabit the body of a bird.’
Feste grunted. ‘What do you think of his opinion?’
‘I think nobly of the soul and in no way agree with his opinion.’
Feste turned. ‘Farewell,’ he said. ‘Remain in darkness. You’ll have to hold the opinion of Pythagoras before I’ll certify you sane. And be careful about killing a woodcock in case you displace the soul of your grandmother. Farewell.’
Malvolio’s voice, crying in desperation, ‘Sir Topas! Sir Topas! followed him as he went to where Sir Toby and Maria waited. Tears rolled down Sir Toby’s cheeks.
‘My most exquisite Sir Topas,’ he gasped, embracing the jester.
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