Sir Andrew, at right in the red stockings, during the third act
|Play||Twelfth Night, or What You Will|
Sir Andrew Aguecheek (also spelled Ague-cheek) is a comic character in William Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night, or What You Will. Sir Andrew is a stereotypical fool, who is goaded into unwisely duelling with Cesario and who is slowly having his money pilfered by Sir Toby Belch. His role in the play not only provides comedy through his pathetic situation and his slow speech, but also by his distinct, long-faced appearance and garish dress sense.
Background and character
Sir Andrew Aguecheek first appears in the third scene of Act I, as the so-called friend of Sir Toby Belch. Sir Andrew is a guest at the home of Sir Toby's niece Lady Olivia, where Sir Toby, a drunkard and glutton, resides. Although we are not made aware of Sir Andrew's family or connections, it is said that his annual income is 3,000 ducats, a significant amount and roughly equal to that of a skilled craftsman of the period, leading us to assume that he is a gentleman of some leisure. Ineptly, Sir Andrew attempts to court Olivia, and her rejection of him, in favour of dashing Cesario, prompts Sir Andrew to challenge Cesario to a duel. His slow-witted nature allows Sir Toby perfect opportunity to take advantage of him, even openly admitting that by playing to Sir Andrew's generosity and gullibility, he has milked him for approximately two-thirds of his stated income. Sir Andrew fancies himself a great dancer and swordsman, and the scenes where he ineptly engages in these activities are points of physical comedy in the play. Sir Andrew's age is not made clear, but it is assumed that he is a number of years younger than Sir Toby.
Sir Andrew and Malvolio are probably the only characters whose situation at the end of the play is not as favourable as in the beginning. Amongst three happy couples and a humiliated Malvolio in the final scene, Sir Andrew has already made his closing exit, following Sir Toby's open insults toward him. Friendless and deep in debt, this ending echoes one of Sir Andrew's better known lines, from the third scene of the second act: "I was adored once too." The negative outcome for Sir Andrew, combined with his having been the subject of jokes and Sir Toby's greed, is a strain of melancholy in an otherwise comical play.
As one of the central supporting roles in Twelfth Night, Sir Andrew's character speaks a total of 152 lines and appears in seven of the eighteen scenes.
Richard E. Grant played the part in Trevor Nunn's movie adaptation of Twelfth Night, dancing dreadfully in front of Mel Smith's Sir Toby, getting his sword caught in a branch of a tree and being kicked in the groin during his duel with "Cesario" (Imogen Stubbs). When Maria (Imelda Staunton) tricks Malvolio (Nigel Hawthorne) into wearing yellow stockings, she reveals to her fellow conspirators that "'tis a colour [my lady Olivia] abhors". They then turn to Sir Andrew who is wearing a yellow waistcoat, tie and stockings. Like the others, however, he is allowed some dignity by kissing the hand of Olivia (Helena Bonham Carter) before leaving her estate, his head held high.
- but I am a great eater of beef, and I believe that does harm to my wit.' (1.3.85)
- Sir Andrew explains himself.
- Nay, let me alone for swearing (3.4.183)
- Sir Andrew's boast that he is an expert at cursing.
- He does it with a better grace, but I do it more natural (2.3.83)
- Sir Andrew Aguecheek compares his fooling with that of Sir Toby Belch.
- I was adored once too (2.3.171)
- The reference of this quote is unclear, but indicates sadness underneath his carefree and idiotic nature.
- Shakespeare. Twelfth Night. A1s3. "Sir Toby: Why, he has three thousand ducats a year."
- Albert A. Nofi, James F. Dunnigan (1997). "Medieval Life & The Hundred Years War: Money, Income, and Expenses". Archived from the original on 15 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-14.
- Shakespeare. Twelfth Night. A3s2. "Sir Toby: I have been dear to him, lad, some two thousand strong or so."
- Shakespeare. Twelfth Night. A1s3. "Sir Andrew: ...I would I had bestowed that time in the tongues that I have in fencing, dancing, and bear-baiting. O, had I but followed the arts."
- Shakespeare. Twelfth Night. A1s3. "Sir Andrew: Faith, I can cut a caper."
- Elam 2008, pp. 179, 180
- Elam 2008, p. 178
- Shakespeare. Twelfth Night. A5s1. "Sir Toby: Will you help? An ass-head and a coxcomb and a knave, a thin-faced knave, a gull?"
- Elam 2008, p. 382
- "Wells, Stanley (2006). Shakespeare & Co. London: Penguin. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-14-101713-6.
- See Robert Appelbaum, Aguecheek's Beef, Belch's Hiccup, and Other Gastronomic Interjections (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006).
- Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night.
- Elam, Keir (2008). Twelfth Night: The Critical Edition of Shakespeare. London: Arden Shakespeare. ISBN 978-1-903436-99-8.