Malvolio in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night or What You Will

Malvolio in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night or What You Will

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Malvolio

Malvolio is the steward of Olivia’s house and is in control of everything that goes on with the servants. He is always looking to make things perfect, and things that are unorthodox, like Sir Toby and Sir Andrew, have to be rid of. ‘”If you can separate yourself and your misdemeanors, you are welcome to the house. If not, and it would please you to take leave of her, she is very willing to bid you farewell.”’ Even though Malvolio says that Olivia would want them to leave if they carried on being loud and rude, I think that he is just saying that because he wants them to leave. The first evidence of Malvolio’s adverse behaviour is his first appearance in the play during which he insults the wit of Feste. “’I marvel your ladyship takes delight in such a barren rascal”’. By doing this he shows himself to be a person who tries to humiliate people whom he believes are lower than him in every way.

Malvolio’s weakness is his yearn to be of a higher superiority and his strong belief that he will gain it. Maria uses this weakness to create a plan to make a fool of Malvolio in front of Olivia as well as using it as a way to get their revenge. Maria writes a letter to Malvolio from Olivia. In this letter “Olivia” is pouring her heart out to Malvolio. ‘”I may command where I adore, but silence, like a Lucrece knife, with bloodless stroke my heart doth gore. M. O. A. I. doth sway my life.”’ After Malvolio finally realizes that M. O. A. I. stands for Malvolio, he began to think about his status. He fantasizes about becoming more important than he already is, calling himself ‘Count Malvolio’. The letter then goes on to talk about what Malvolio must do in order to show Olivia that he has read the letter. He is given three commands: one is to wear yellow stockings (this is a colour that Olivia hates), the second is to wear the stockings cross gartered (this is a fashion Olivia also hates), lastly he must smile at all times (this last thing is very inappropriate because of Olivia’s brother’s death).

I think that this joke was justifiable because of the way Malvolio had treated them. It was just supposed to put him in his place, so that he would stop thinking himself as very important but treating others like animals.

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Of course, because Malvolio believes that it could be possible that Olivia would be in love him, he fell for the trick and followed the instructions at the end of the letter. Malvolio then went to Olivia confessing his love and making a fool of himself. Olivia was obviously worried about Malvolio’s health, so he was sent away with Sir Toby, who took things too far.

Malvolio was locked away in the dark, made to think that he was crazy. Malvolio begs to see the priest, Sir Topaz. However, in order to keep the joke running longer Sir Toby makes Feste dress up as Sir Topaz, and nearly drives Malvolio to insanity. At this point Malvolio has completely forgotten about his pride and dignity, while it seems to become more obvious that this joke has turned into torture. Even Sir Toby finally realizes that such bad treatment of a person is much more than a mere joke. ‘”I cannot pursue with any safety this sport to the upshot”’.

It was completely true that Malvolio deserved most of what happened to him, but Sir Toby went too far and while reading the play your view of Malvolio changes from hate to thinking he’s funny to taking pity on him.
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