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Does Malvolio deserve his fate?

Extracts from this essay...

Introduction

Georgia Smith 11V October 2001 Does Malvolio deserve his fate? Malvolio's character and the misfortunes he encounters though out Twelfth Night provide a lot of the play's comedy scenes. His haughty and pretentious demeanour makes him easy to dislike, yet the treatment he receives is at times a little undeserved and leads to the issue of whether or not Malvolio deserves his fate. In Act 1 of Twelfth Night the audience is immediately presented with Malvolio as a pompous and arrogant man who is 'sick of self-love.' He is shown as selfish and disillusioned with self-importance when unwilling to carry out menial tasks like delivering a ring; 'you might have saved me pains' even though it is part of his job. Blindly, he simultaneously criticises Feste's lack of funniness and Olivia for laughing at it; 'your ladyship takes delight in such a barren rascal,' he arrogantly lectures his superiors showing that he thinks he is above them. This negative representation of Malvolio is continued into Act 2 where the audience gets a glimpse of Malvolio as a puritanical killjoy. Before Malvolio even enters to bring an end to Sir Toby's fun, Maria comments on her surprise that Olivia hasn't already 'called up her steward Malvolio' to do so. This shows how other characters also think Malvolio is a curmudgeon. Our contempt for Malvolio increases further when he enters and begins to tell the knights off, even though they are his social superiors.

Middle

He is a naturally ambitious person, a social climber who only wishes to fulfil his personal potential. Perhaps his imagination is a little over active but he isn't harming anybody with thoughts. Despite Malvolio's self-delusion the actions of the conspirators begin to appear a little spiteful and excessive, especially as they are already sowing the seeds for further misunderstandings within the play by forewarning Olivia of Malvolio's 'madness.' Ironically Olivia calls for Malvolio because his seriousness suits her mood but his transformation to her 'requests' surprises her, 'Smil'st thou?' Naively, Malvolio has meticulously 'executed' the ridiculous requests including the 'trick of singularity' and 'yellow stockings.' He clearly believes that by doing this he will 'achieve greatness' and nothing can come between him and the 'full prospects' of his hopes. His soaring high opinion of himself allows him to believe what he wants to, because of this he misunderstands everything Olivia says. When she instructs him to 'go to bed' to sleep off his madness he believes she means to go to bed with her, 'I'll come to thee.' Olivia shows concern for her loyal servant and asks for 'special care' of her 'fellow.' He also takes these words the wrong way and launches into a great speech about how she recognises him as her social equal and 'fellow.' The scheme has succeeded to make Malvolio look completely foolish but the tricksters then begin to take things a little too far when they accuse him of being 'possessed.'

Conclusion

In the final scene of the play, Malvolio's letter to Olivia reveals how he has suffered, 'put me into darkness.' He leaves his 'duty' to Olivia in order to speak honestly of his 'injury.' It is clear how much his dignity and feelings have been hurt without just reason and the treatment he has received has been appalling. Olivia sympathises with him, 'this practice has most shrewdly passed upon thee' and considers his fate to be excessive. It is difficult not to feel pity for Malvolio when he discovers he is the last to find out about the wicked trick that has been played upon him, 'poor fool...they baffled thee.' Malvolio's last words lack his usual dignity; 'I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you,' these words show his anger and resentment towards people he believed he knew, his motive for revenge being the immense humiliation he has suffered. Malvolio is a loyal servant to Olivia and does far more to help her than the likes of Sir Toby or Feste. His personality flaws are not nearly as destructive as some other characters yet he is excessively punished for them. The joke would have been acceptable if it had only gone as far as to make him look a little foolish and remind him of his position but unfortunately it was taken too far. Throughout Twelfth Night the audience is reminded of Malvolio's pompous and occasionally arrogant attitude, but despite his faults he still does not deserve his unkind fate.

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