Assessment of Malvolio in Twelfth Night

Topics: Feeling, William Shakespeare, Lady Pages: 3 (865 words) Published: October 11, 2012
Malvolio Essay

Shakespeare portrays Malvolio as a Puritan. They were a religious group that believed that things such as theatres should be shut down and were generally strict and quite boring. Consequently Malvolio has some undesirable traits, which lead to him being portrayed as a villain throughout the tale of Twelfth Night.

Despite this Malvolio does have some positive characteristics. These are centred around his job and his employer, Lady Olivia. For example he is moral as he says, “My Lady, you would not give leave for such uncivil rule.” This quote is proof that he prefers order to “uncivil rule” which is a desirable quality, which suits his job and workplace.

Also he is loyal and protective towards his mistress, Lady Olivia. When he speaks to Cesario (aka Viola) he says “And one more thing that you never be so hardy to come here again.” This shows us that although he strives to be as “Puritanical” as possible, there are some things that he does have special feelings for and, in turn, these help us relate to him and understand his actions during the play.

However, that fact can be interpreted rather differently and reveal a darker side to Malvolio. Moreover, far from being the loyal and protective servant he can be seen as a sycophantic, lustful person who acts solely out of greed and his desire for power. An example of this is “Her madam at your service”, as this shows his sycophantic nature and his craving to be closer to Olivia.

As you advance through the play this begins to become more dominant and leads to Malvolio’s lecherous behaviour. This is exploited by Maria’s letter, which plays on Malvolio’s imagination. He is overheard visualising various fantasies such as “I come from a day bed, where I left Olivia sleeping”

This leads him to developing an overinflated ego and he becomes “too big for his own boots”. Consequently he does not know his place and has a superiority complex. This makes him unpopular with both his masters and...
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