The Importance of Malvolio’s Role in Twelfth Night

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While the main characters in Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night play the biggest part in developing the topsy-turvy spirit of the Twelfth night holiday, Malvolio, a smaller character, plays a large part in strengthening the theme found throughout the story of how love can reveal a persons true personality as well. At the beginning of the play, when we are first introduced to Malvolio, we see that Malvolio is not an average servant. “My masters, are you mad? or what are you? Have ye no wit, manners, nor honesty, but to gabble like tinkers at this time of night? …Is there no respect of place, persons, nor time in you?” 788-794 Malvolio boasts up his higher in social class character, by trying to demote the other servants for their irresponsibility and poor demeanor. His character throughout this part of the play makes us think he is different from the other peasants and that he is a man of self-pride, ethics and dignity. All this time Malvolio was oppressing over showing his “higher social worth” to Olivia, that his true personality was disguised. Later through the play when Malvolio realizes that Olivia actually “supposedly” loved him, Malvolio’s character changes and his true personality starts to reveal. “this does make some obstruction in the blood, this cross-gartering; but what of that? if it please the eye of one, it is with me as the very true sonnet is, 'Please one, and please all.” He makes a complete fool of himself in these scenes, as he capers around in yellow stockings and crossed garters in hopes to please Olivia, but instead becomes pitiable as he uses very adolescent terms like “thrust upon them”. The way he acts in this part of the play reveals to the audience that Malvolio really isn’t a character of self-pride, ethics and dignity as he displayed in the beginning. The realization of love later in the plot helps to uncover to us how foolish and pitiable Malvolio really is.

But they do so by playing on a side of Malvolio that might have...
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