The Importance Of Malvolio In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

Improved Essays
In a classic segment of Sesame Street, Big Bird sings “One of these things is not like the others” when referring to the largest of four bowls of bird seeds. The children must identify which item does not belong, and why. This task proves very easy, demonstrating that humans can easily single out an anomaly from a pattern. This theme corresponds with William Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night, a romantic comedy with an outcast. The main characters, Orsino, Olivia, and Viola, entangle themselves in a hopeless love triangle and act without reason. Even many of the minor characters fall under love’s spell or behave merrily, enjoying the exaggerated drama. However, one character detracts from the lighthearted mood of the play: Malvolio. As the steward …show more content…
During the introduction of Olivia and her court, Feste, the fool, jokes about the death of Olivia’s brother. He amuses Olivia, so she asks Malvolio for his opinion on Feste’s humor. Bluntly, Malvolio insults the fool for his insolence and marvels at how Olivia can tolerate him. Olivia disregards Malvolio’s attempt to dampen her mood, and responds: “O, you are sick of self-love, Malvolio, and taste with a distempered appetite. To be generous, guiltless, and of free disposition is to take those things for bird-bolts that you deem cannon bullets” (Shakespeare 1.5.89-92). First, Olivia rebukes Malvolio for treating Feste in a condescending manner and failing to understand his humor. She cannot fathom how the jokes fail to appeal to Malvolio, especially since Feste entertains everyone else. Also, Olivia advises him to take insults lightly in order to improve noble character. Malvolio’s stern demeanor seems unfitting for the play’s jovial mood, and Olivia detects this oddity first. That night, Sir Toby, Andrew, and Feste hold a party. Maria, one of Olivia’s servants, warns them to quiet down, and then Malvolio apprehends them all. He gives a lecture and threatens them with dismissal from the house, agitating Maria the most. Once he leaves, she speculates to the group whether Malvolio may be a puritan, ridiculing him …show more content…
This raises the question: why did Shakespeare include a character that seems to belong to a different play? The answer lies in the title of the play: Twelfth Night, “... a time for pranks and disguises and playful games and folly” (Kravchak BOR). While most of the characters enjoy the brief period of chaos and drama, Malvolio does not engage in the festivities. Shakespeare chooses to detach him from the romance in order to explain that not everyone will conform to society’s values. Often, outsiders resist change when members of society try to impose their beliefs on them. Shakespeare teaches that while everyone may not conform to a single set of ideals, society must tolerate those with other

Related Documents

  • Improved Essays

    Without any proof or knowledge he agreed with Don John and assumed his true love was dishonorable. The aspect of self-deception that Shakespeare creates resembles to being wicked. Claudio portrays wickedness, as he creates a life punishing plan over his former lover to ruin her innocence in front of her family and the guests. He made such a heinous thought to ruin her life because he felt weak and powerless which is totally unacceptable to him, as he is supposed to feel more strengthened as a married man. He could not afford to lose his fame in society and so the idea of deceiving her, on her virginity, and letting her be shamed instead of himself, made…

    • 1223 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Then when the twins find each other again they find themselves in a misunderstood situation. Romantic comedies are based on happiness with a little bit of tragedy added, but Twelfth Night is based on tragedy with some happiness added. Firstly, Shakespeare makes unrequited love a tragic sadness. Orsino is so depressed and desperate for the love of Olivia he will do anything to get over his love for her. This unrequited love differs from other romantic comedies because the characters are not usually this depressed or desperate.…

    • 1032 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Sir Toby and Maria makes fun of Malvolio by faking a love letter from Olivia. The letter directs Malvolio to do everything against Olivia’s taste making himself into a mad man. Only with Malvolio’s folly of self-love makes the humorous scene of the letter of love possible. Clearly, the humour in Twelfth Night caused by the folly of love which is fully revealed by Olivia, Antonio, and Malvolio. Olivia marries a gentleman she has just met and confuses him with Cesario which causes her own humorous emotional swings.…

    • 747 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Orsino even listens to romantic music as the quote implies and enjoys the bittersweet emotions it casts about him. Thus he is not truely in love with Olivia, he is in love with love itself. At the end of the play, Orsino once again reitterates that his love is not actually true. Upon the realization that the main character, Viola, is actually a woman, he says, “Give me thy hand, and let me see thee in thy woman’s weeds.” (5.1.290-291). As soons as he realizes Cesario is actually a female, he completely forgets about his infatuation with Olivia and throws himself at Viola’s feet.…

    • 1761 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Maria is an example of someone who could manipulate others when she had ruined Malvolio 's life by fooling him into thinking Olivia loves him. Maria tells Malvolio through a love letter that Malvolio must wear cross-gartered stockings and prance around Olivia. But Malvolio just looks insane distinction finds amusement off of Malvolio 's pain: Maria says to Sir Toby, "He shall find most feeling impersonated/ I can write very like my lady, your niece/ on a forgotten matter we can hardly/ make distinction of our hands," (2.3.67). This quote shows that Maria means that Malvolio is going to act upon the example written by Maria but he will believe that it was Olivia. As Malvolio has lost his job and trust from his people Maria tries to go further on her joke to prank Malvolio.…

    • 1539 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Roderigo's Evil In Othello

    • 1041 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Iago is able to appear as a caring friend to deceive Desdemona who did not like him in Act II when he slander his wife with obscene language. Iago stays by Othello’s side to lead him to the right moment of Cassio and Desdemona being together. Othello asked Iago if Cassio was with Desdemona and Iago replied in a manner that made Cassio looked guilty. Once Desdemona leaves, Iago asked Othello, “Did Michael Cassio, when you wooed my lady, know of your love?” (123). Iago wonders if Cassio knew that Desdemona and Othello were together?…

    • 1041 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    The irony in the whole situation is quite humorous. It’s usually girl falls for boy, and they live happily ever after. But in this case, the girl unknowingly falls for the girl, and is doomed to never get the love returned, in other words, Olivia’s love is a sad and unrequited one, which is similar to the unrequited love of Orsino and Viola. After the initial reveal of her looks, Olivia requests Viola to leave, and tell Orsino to stop sending messages. That is, different messengers.…

    • 1936 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Oberon accuses her of loving Theseus while he has many affairs with different women. On the other hand, in a different passage he conveys how much he cares for the Athenian couples to come together and to love the right people as he fixes a mistake that Puck created when he put the juice of the flower on the wrong Athenian…

    • 1113 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    They are being beguiled without anyone else's input or potentially the others around them. There are sure occasions in the play where the feeling of adoration is valid, and two individuals included feel emphatically toward each other. Viola's love for Orsino is an awesome cause of genuine romance. Despite the fact that she is professing to take care of business and is practically unknown in Illyria, she wants to win the Duke's heart. In act, I, scene IV, Viola real affections for Orsino come out "yet a bareful strife/Whoe'er I woo, myself would be his wife" (1.5.40-41).…

    • 1351 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    She thinks that the men confessing their love is just a prank or joke, stating, “O spite! O hell! I see you all are bent To set against me for your merriment. If you were civil and knew courtesy, You would not do me thus much injury,” (III.ii.148-151). Helena also reveals that she cares for her and Hermia’s friendship, as well as Demetrius’ love when she argues with Hermia.…

    • 1268 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays