The Importance Of Romantic Comedy In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

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Three plots intertwine to craft the comedy of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, or What You Will: Olivia’s love for Viola disguised as Cesario, Viola’s love for Orsino, and the downfall of Malvolio, but Malvolio’s plot seems to be a stark contrast to the other two. Many Shakespearean scholars genre the play as a romantic comedy that stretches the boundaries of comedy by playing on complex human error, and Malvolio’s downfall seems to be an odd piece of the plot. Shakespeare concludes the play with Act 5, scene 1, where Viola, Sebastian, Olivia, and Orsino settled the comedy of errors and everyone receives their happy ending - all but Malvolio, a victim of a Maria’s, Feste’s, and Belch’s prank which leaves him only with revenge in his heart instead …show more content…
Because Malvolio bends to Olivia’s will and acts as if he were superior to Maria, Feste, and Belch when he told them “[i]f you can separate yourself from your misdemeanors, you are welcome to the house; if not, an it would please you to take leave of her, she is very willing to bid you farewell,” the three decided to expose his flaws, his real stance in society, and his infatuation with Olivia in order to destroy his ego (Act 2 scene 3 line90-2). Maria crafts a riddle for Malvolio and while he interprets it, he comedically depends on his ego instead of the actual contents of the riddle, making him more deserving of the outcome and a laughing stock to Maria, Feste, and Belch. Malvolio “is already so taken with his own attractiveness that he can convince himself Olivia loves him,” to the point where he doesn’t need to “unravel the fustian” Maria crafted for his ego(Hassel). The comedy of this situation lies in the fact that Malvolio is so self assured that he only reads the first couple of letters of the riddle before he is positive it is a letter from Olivia revealing her love for him. Malvolio announces “‘M.’ -- Malvolio. ‘M” -- why, that begins my name,” which hints at the true depth of his narcissism (act 2 scene 5 ln. 119). This scene reveals most of Malvolio’s flaws, and the scenes following demonstrate the process of correcting …show more content…
The yellow stockings are purposefully mentioned in Maria’s riddle to expose his character to the person he wishes to wear a mask in front of most, Olivia. In a study of the implications of yellow stockings in early london, it was found that “wives...wore yellows tockings as an admission of a husband’s betrayal [so] when Malvolio wears them, he takes on the role of a wife...whether socially, domestically, or sexually,” tying him into the overall gender theme of the play and subtly exposing the weakness of his self-confidence masked by his overbearing ego (Giese ). Even though Malvolio wishes to be the dominating force of this false relationship when he repeats the phrase “And some have greatness thrust upon them” with sexual implications, Olivia still views him as a submissive servant, and now insane, but Malvolio cannot see past his own ego, even when she fetches Toby (Act 3 scene 4 ln. 42). Malvolio can be seen as “a literal example of the Italian mavoglio, which means ‘ill will,’ but [in Twelfth Night] seems to imply wrong desire,” meaning his desire to possess Olivia’s heart and be a nobel in his condition is sinful (GIese). Malvolio’s yellow stockings and how he uses them to promote his own ego hints at more aspects of his

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