Topics: Comedy, Love, Feste Pages: 5 (1995 words) Published: June 23, 2013
Examine the character of Malvolio in Act II Scene 3. How does he change in Act III Scene 3? Twelfth Night is a Shakespearean comedy that was first performed on the epiphany. It was not given a proper name as Shakespeare said to call it ‘What You Will’. Twelfth Night explores the key themes of unrequited love, mistaken identity, madness and revenge. This analysis will focus on the character of Malvolio, who is at the centre of the play’s sub plot, intended to lighten the mood in the play. We will examine his personality and how it changes throughout the play. Malvolio was tricked my Maria the maid, Feste the clown, Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Fabian as an act of revenge due to his actions. We first meet Malvolio in Act 1 Scene 5, when he calls Feste ‘a barren rascal’ or an ‘empty fool’. This offends Feste and will sit deep with him throughout the play. Straight away he comes across as a very pompous and self-obsessed character to the audience. Olivia furthers this by saying, ‘Oh you are sick of self-love Malvolio.’ This shows that Olivia also has a similar impression of Malvolio to the audience and that she does not agree to his behaviour. Shakespeare purposely wrote this scene so Malvolio would become a figure of mockery from early on and so he can be taught a lesson later on in the play. He then returns in Act 2 Scene 3 and deepens our negative impression further by acting badly once more. He offends Sir Toby and Sir Andrew, who were drinking and singing by saying. “My Masters are you Mad?” This becomes very ironic as later on in the play he is shown to be a lunatic when he is tricked by Maria and the others. He then proceeds to offend them even more:

‘Have you no wit, manners or honesty, but to gabble like tinkers at this time of night? Is the no respect of place, persons, or time in you?’

This appears as if he has planned what he was going to say before he came to say it, which makes him appear even more pompous to the audience and the characters in the play than before as he seems to be trying too hard. He then offends Maria, someone of the same class as him, which will later come back to haunt him:-

‘If you prized my lady’s favour anything more than contempt, you would not give means for this civil unrule.’

He is criticizing Marias standard of work and her devotion to Olivia. This shows that Malvolio seems to act above his class even though he is below Sir Toby and Sir Andrew. Even though he is only trying to do right by Olivia, he is very insulting and uses derogatory terms towards them which come across as insulting and very rude. However he is a Puritan so it is understandable he is against any kind of frivolity, but the audience begin to question his morals later on in the play. Toby is quick to remind Malvolio of his position by saying ‘Art any more than a steward?’ This remark will sit deep with Malvolio as in Act 2 Scene 5 he goes on to dream about being of a higher position and rank. Maria is very angry because of these remarks and calls Malvolio ‘a devil of a puritan’ a ‘time pleaser’ and ‘an affectioned ass’. The question of his religion later rings true. She comes up with a plan to make Malvolio look like a fool and to bring him back down:

‘I will drop in his way some obscure epistles of love…he shall find himself most feelingly personated… I can write very much like my lady your niece.’

This plan is originally for a laugh. They intended to teach Malvolio a lesson, strip him of his arrogance and remind him of his status to make sure he realises the error of his ways but later on in the play the joke gets more serious. In Act 2 Scene 2 we see even more of his arrogant side when he confronts Viola about the ring she had “left behind” upon visiting Olivia’s court. He says:

“You might have saved me your pains, to have taken it away yourself.”

This shows that he sees Viola to be lower to him, and he seems to be oblivious to his rank in society. This has become a common thing with...
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