Twelfth Night: Malvolio I Is Miss Understood Essay

1749 words - 7 pages

“Twelfth night” was the name given to the last day of the Elizabethan Christmas festivities; they were celebrated everywhere at the time. In the Christian calendar, “Twelfth Night” is known as feast of Epiphany. It is the remembrance of the three kings that came to the stable in Bethlehem with their gifts of gold and other valuables for the birth of Jesus. “Twelfth Night” was sometimes given the title “Malvolio” when it was performed or “what you will”. This is because Shakespeare had turned a character into a memorable individual. The Elizabethan audience at the tame was interested in the depiction of Malvolio as a Puritan. The puritans were a religious group who hated theatres and other forms of entertainment that made people happy. The reason as to why Puritans hated these things is because they thought it corrupted people. The puritans believed they contained sex and violence, the causes of sin. This is why Puritans at the time didn’t drink and were strict on how other people around them should behave (this is mostly seen when Malvolio speaks to Sir Toby and the others.) Thus he has all the characteristics which the Elizabethan audience would hate at the time. There is little sympathy for him in the play, even when cruel things are being done to him, as he much deserved it. At the end of the play, Malvolio makes a final threat of “revenge”; this could be a reference to how the puritans closed down the theatres in 1642. I will explore the character of Malvolio before ending to conclude my thoughts on the question.
The character Malvolio is always negative and has a disagreeable nature which carries on throughout the play leading to his downfall and mockery which, in my opinion was deserved due to his defects of personality. The first piece of evidence that Malvolio gives us, is when he first appears in the play during which he insults Feste “I marvel your ladyship takes delight in such a barren rascal” in doing so, we realise that Malvolio thinks of himself as a superior person; anyone lower than him is treated in a harsh and cruel way, only because of his self belief of superiority. Olivia seems to pick up on Malvolio as she replies, “Oh you are sick of self love, Malvolio”; this quote suggests Olivia finds Malvolio to be a vain person and this accusation sums up the traditional view of Malvolio. This unique characteristic Malvolio possesses, is a key factor to his mockery later on in the play.
His negative personality is shown more in the play as he is revealed to be a strict puritan: Maria says in the play, “The devil a puritan that he is”. He restricts himself from all kinds of pleasure and alcohol whilst at the same time depriving other people of them too; the most obvious clue to his Puritanism is that he dresses in black and white. He tries very hard to act above Maria, Feste and more importantly Sir Toby, his social superior, by scorning them for their drinking habits and...

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