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William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night Essay

699 words - 3 pages

William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

In 'Twelfth Night' Olivia's trusted steward Malvolio, like Sir Andrew,
is the 'butt of comedy'. His very name suggests 'ill-will', which
echoes his role in the play. Malvolio is an egotistical, "overweening
rogue", who is a straight laced, puritanical, social climbing rebuker
of others for their anti-social and often sinful behaviour, or as he
put it, "misdemeanours". Malvolio's character is summarised
excellently by Maria in Act II Scene III:

The devil a puritan that he is, or anything, constantly, but a
time-pleaser, an affectioned ass that cons state without book and
utters it by great swarths; the best persuaded of himself, so crammed,
as he thinks with excellencies, that if is his grounds of faith that
all that look on him love him.

The positioning of this speech and its venomous tone is meant, without
doubt, to prime the audience, and to turn the audience's neutral
feelings towards Malvolio to ones of somewhat unjustified hatred
considering the small amount that we have seen of him in the play so
far.

It is not just the under-plotters that mock Malvolio. His boss,
Olivia, also criticizes Malvolio, but this time, due to the difference
in status, to his face. She says that he is, "sick of self love."
Malvolio's reaction to this statement shows one of three possible
things about his character. Either he has enough self control to
simply say nothing, demonstrating the traditional, astute, hard faced,
and faithful servant Malvolio, or it could be used to show his
complete, blissful isolation from the outer world, too busy wallowing
in the self love that Olivia was talking about, or finally, and my
personal choice, Malvolio could laugh the remark...

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