Twelfth Night Character Analysis

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William Shakespeare writes Twelfth Night a play known for its numerous humorous parts, satire, love, uncertainty and foolishness lurk the pages, creating a comedic value. The sub plot present in this piece opposes the traits listed above. Malvolio, the character that makes up Shakespeare’s sub plot, is known for his pompous personality. A series of events in Malvolio’s life, relating to women’s and acquaintances, lead those around him to plan a number of tricks to fool him. The debate surrounding Malvolio’s role in the comedy, has been up for debate for quite some time. A vigorous look at Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Nancy Lindheim’s Rethinking Sexuality and Class in Twelfth Night, as well as a series of definitions clearing up the meanings…show more content…
Twelfth Night surrounds itself with stories of love, but not all of them end with positive outcomes. The definition of tragedy written by Oxford Dictionary as: “A play dealing with tragic events and having an unhappy ending” (Oxford Dictionaries), and of comedy as: “A film, play, or broadcast programme intended to make an audience laugh.” (Oxford Dictionary), helps to differentiate between these different outcomes of love, some as tragic and others as positive or comedic. Keeping these definitions in mind will help to further develop the lack of comedy and presence of tragedy that surrounds the sub plot concerning Malvolio. Nancy Lindheim continues to broaden the themes produced in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Lindheim’s Rethinking Sexuality and Class in Twelfth Night, notes that “critics of course usually recognize that marriage is the desired closure for comedy”, (Lindheim, 680). Many characters achieve this “desired closure for comedy”; Olivia marries Sebastian, Viola marries Orsino, and so on, yet Malvolio’s story ends in cruel suffering. It can be argued that his character falls into this tragic situation because of his vices and wickedness, but from this comes the question of who deserves what: Does being a part of a lower class with a pessimistic personality warrant torture? Malvolio may be…show more content…
Despite these implications, he holds a lot of influence on the plays genre, objective, and message. His specific involvement is in regard to his fate, and the way it affects a change in genre (comedy to tragedy) between the main and sub plot. Looking at the relationships in Malvolio’s life will lead to a better understanding of the tragedy he lives with. Malvolio was a steward, currently, this role could be compared to that of a butler. The characters that Malvolio is troubled with are of a higher class, and typically hold more power than he had. That being said, the apparent division and maltreatment present between himself and the other characters cannot be fully laid upon those who mistreat him. Malvolio was looked at as an unpleasant, foreign, and humorless man in comparison to the other characters who foil, or put emphasis on his negative qualities. Maria, Olivia’s housemaid, describes Malvolio as “sometimes a kind of puritan” (Shakespeare, 2.3.140). This is a harsh division as Sir Toby, a kinsman to Olivia (who is a countess), is often inebriated, an activity that Malvolio never participates in. Puritans, are known as “person(s) with censorious moral beliefs, especially about self-indulgence and sex.” (Oxford Dictionary). The qualities that a puritan possesses contradict the qualities that make up Sir Toby. Their clashing
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