In William Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night, the play revolves around the love triangle that exists between Viola, Olivia, and Orsino. Although the play focuses on their love triangle and the festivities that other characters have, all of these characters and the gaiety in the play are sharply contrasted by Malvolio. Malvolio is the steward of Lady Olivia’s household. In the beginning of the play, Malvolio is shown as an insignificant minor character; however as the reader continues to know Malvolio better, he becomes one of the most complex and fascinating characters in Twelfth Night. When Malvolio is first introduced, he is portrayed as a puritan that enjoys nothing more than ruining other people’s fun; however it is through Malvolio’s self-regard and remarkable ambitions that he becomes the laughing stock of the play. Because of this, Malvolio is able to connect with the audience on numerous levels that the other characters are not able to create with the reader. Because of the dangers of social ambition which are still rampant in society today, the audience is sympathetic of Malvolio’s transformation from a puritanical bully to a power thirsty fiend.
The first evidence of Malvolio’s undesirable disposition comes from his first appearance in the play when he insults the wit and intelligence of Feste when he says, “I marvel your ladyship takes delight in such a barren rascal” (Twelfth Night,I,v,4).
By saying this to Feste, Malvolio shows himself to be a man who condescends to those he believes to be lower than him in any way. He decides who is “lower” than him by acting on his own personal belief of superiority, this unique trait that Malvolio has later becomes a major component of his downfall. In addition to this, Malvolio “rejects the challenge to alter himself, and grotesquely continues to defy his antagonists, who are not villains of great power, but jovial tipplers” (Barnet 56).
... above and below stairs.." makes Feste significant as a character. In Twelfth Night, Feste plays the role of a humble clown employed by Olivia's ... confuses him by wittingly making him a fool. Throughout the play, Malvolio has always been the person who intentionally spoils the pleasure ...
This is demonstrated when he speaks out against Maria, Feste and more importantly, his social superior Sir Toby, when he criticizes them for the things that they do that he regards as disdainful. This in turn adds to their desire to bring Malvolio back to his true social class of a mere steward where he is only able to receive orders, not give them out. Because of this depiction of Malvolio to the audience, “Shakespeare’s audiences would have found Malvolio, unpleasant and with a ‘holier than thou’ attitude. Consequently, audiences are likely to have thoroughly enjoyed the mockery and later torment of him.”(Markham 2).
It is because of this ‘holier than thou’ attitude that causes Malvolio to be open for trickery and thus provides the starting point of the punishment and humiliation through which he later suffers.
Malvolio’s haughtiness and desire to achieve a higher political standing is ultimately his demise. It is from this innate desire to go higher on the social rungs that forces the characters around him to tease him and mock him at every turn. However, due to the way that Malvolio interacts with the characters around him, the audience falls in love with his character because, as Sylvan Barnet states, his opinion on love is strangely reminiscent to that of our own society (62).
This view that Malvolio has about love is one that is shared by a countless number of people today. Nevertheless, this view that is shared by many people today is overshadowed by Malvolio’s desire for power. He does not care about Olivia like he claims to. On the contrary, he sees her so-called love for him as a way to become a count. His view of achieving greatness by using Olivia as his mode of transportation to get there is apparent when he reads the supposed letter that Olivia wrote to Malvolio. It is towards the end of the letter that the phrase which reiterates Malvolio’s malicious nature appears: “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em” (Twelfth Night,II,v,144-146).
Oliver Twist When poverty and class was an issue in the Old World, injustice and society shunned all that was not good. Oliver Twist was a novel that hit all the aspects of that time. The story of Oliver Twist had many underlying to the plot. However, the themes that may be the most apparent within the story are underlined throughout it. The names within the story each have an individual purpose ...
Malvolio takes these words and is convinced that being Olivia’s husband will bring him great power. In addition to this, the constant repetition of calling himself “Count Malvolio” shows that he “has no love for Olivia at all and instead is a supreme egotist attempting to increase his power and authority” (Bai 1).
These features, combined with his puritanical behavior, cause the audience to look down upon Malvolio in disdain, they, alongside the characters pranking Malvolio, are ready to accept his humiliation and laugh at Malvolio when he is embarrassed. Due to Malvolio’s fervent efforts of achieving “greatness” and becoming a nobleman, he is ultimately embarrassed in front of everyone when he is tricked into wearing yellow stockings and making a fool of himself in front of everyone. This humiliation ultimately leads to the audience becoming sympathetic of Malvolio.
After Malvolio is locked in a prison and tortured by Feste dressed as a priest, “modern audiences have bestowed more sympathy upon Malvolio than Shakespeare perhaps intended” (Doren 330).
This is so because he suffers a great injustice at the hands of his tormentors. Even though he did torment his peers with words, Malvolio does not deserve the severity of the prank. Ironically, after being released Malvolio did not learn his lesson. He leaves the play promising to be “revenged on the whole pack of [them]” (Twelfth Night,V,i,365).
This demonstrates how even after all that pain and suffering he went through, Malvolio is not going to change. This parallels society. Even though it promises to change for the better, it resorts to its old ways because changing for the better is extremely difficult. In addition to the audience feeling bad for Malvolio because of what was done to him, they also pitied him because “his fall inspires us to think of the weakness and yet the majesty of human nature” (Barnet 58).
His demise inspires us to think of society’s weaknesses because it has them. Ranging from pride to fear, society’s weaknesses create a feeling of vulnerability that is soothed by the acceptance of its weaknesses and using them as our strengths.
Malvolio’s roundabout transformation that ultimately returns to the same spot causes the audience to look in retrospect at themselves because of Malvolio’s relatable character. Society as a whole is in the constant search for something bigger and better, it is this ambitious nature of society that causes it to bring danger to itself. Furthermore just like Malvolio, society is left alone to fend for itself causing it to always feel out of place.
A mood of self-indulgence prevails in Illyria. The Duke, Orsino, languidly pines for the love of Olivia, a noblewoman who has forsworn society to spend seven years mourning her dead brother. Contrary to Olivia’s assumed somberness, frivolity reigns in her house. Her uncle, Sir Toby Belch, presides over drunken riots attended by Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a rich but foolish knight whose wooing of ...
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“Character Analysis of Malvolio from Twelfth Night | Suite101.com.” Samantha Markham | Suite101.com. Web. 20 Jan. 2012. <http://samantha-markham.suite101.com/character-analysis-of-malvolio-from-twelfth-night-a266683>.
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“Malvolio in Twelfth Night, or What You Will.” Shmoop: Homework Help, Teacher Resources, Test Prep. Web. 20 Jan. 2012. <http://www.shmoop.com/twelfth-night/malvolio.html>.
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