Twelfth Night, By William Shakespeare How Do Sir Toby And Malvolio Represent Two Opposing Principles In The Play 'twelfth Night'?

2601 words - 10 pages

What do you find interesting about the way the characters Sir Toby and Malvolio represent two opposing principles in the play 'Twelfth Night'? Comment on the methods used by Shakespeare to present these ideasSuch characters as Sir Toby and Malvolio have a representative function in 'Twelfth Night'. While on one hand Shakespeare creates Sir Toby as the embodiment of the carnival spirit of excess and self-gratification, the self-righteous and haughty Malvolio acts as a sober reminder to the more decadent characters that the world should be a serious place. These dour and fun despising qualities of Malvolio earn him the enmity of the drunken and riotous Sir Toby who dislikes him enough to engineer his downfall. The contempt that Sir Toby and Malvolio hold for each other demonstrates how different Malvolio's 'puritan' austerity is to Sir Toby's values of merrymaking and profligacy.In order to emphasise the characters' differences, they are often shown in productions to be physically opposed types. Toby would be fat from indulgence and Malvolio thin and pinched. The extent of their differences suggests the magnitude of their hatred that is very much responsible for the major subplot of the play where Sir Toby and his fellow plotters gull Malvolio.Sir Toby and Malvolio are only comparable in that their behaviours are both extreme and that they share a similar hatred for one another. Their dislike for one another is demonstrated by Malvolio and Sir Toby only talking to each other in prose, which is characteristic for passages of petty bickering and course or comic interchange. While they may be contrasting, for instance in almost every scene Sir Toby is drunk and Malvolio is disapproving and tells him 'to separate yourself and your misdemeanours,' they still both fulfil their representative roles by behaving in ways that contrast each other so much as to be counterparts of each other- Malvolio as the new serious 'puritan' and the anti-festive figure of a killjoy and Sir Toby as the old extravagant reveller representing the spirit of carnival. Malvolio's punishment ultimately defends their rights to enjoy 'cakes and ale.'Twelfth Night, like other Elizabethan festivals, was marked by licensed misrule- as carried out by Sir Toby, Feste and Sir Andrew. It is, however, the culmination to the days of merrymaking around Christmas and it therefore represents the end of such fun. Twelfth Night is the last day of celebration and indulgence before a normal life with winter darkness and cold regulations set in, much to the delight of a fun-despising character like Malvolio. This wistful feeling of the festive end is heightened further since Shakespeare's play of 'Twelfth Night' was written while Puritanism was on the ascent. 'Twelfth Night' forms an ending to Shakespeare's period of writing romantic comedy. The first decades of the seventeenth century that were to be characterised by an intense focus on tragedy.'Twelfth Night' picks up on the melancholy...

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