• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Analyse and show how Shakespeare shapes the audience's perception of Olivia's steward, Malvolio.

Extracts from this document...


Analyse and show how Shakespeare shapes the audience's perception of Olivia's steward, Malvolio. Twelfth Night was a play written by William Shakespeare, first performed in 1602, February 2nd. In comedies Shakespeare loved to use mistaken identity and tricks, and in Twelfth Night he uses a lot of it. The key figure un the comic subplot is Malvolio, Olivia's steward, who strongly disapproves of the other members of her household - her uncle Sir Toby Belch, his friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek and the jester Feste. Together with Maria, Olivia's waiting-woman, these three plot Malvolio's downfall. The content of this essay is about how Shakespeare shapes the audience's response to Malvolio as the target of the joke and how this changes as the trick progresses. I will also discuss the techniques that Shakespeare uses to get these responses. In Malvolio's first scene the audience dislike him before he speaks because he is a Puritan. Many directors therefore will dress him in black, and will have him with black hair. Later on Maria reinforces this in Act II, Scene III, Line 119; "Marry, sir, sometimes he is a kind of puritan" Puritan was the name given in the 16th century to the more extreme Protestants within the Church of England who thought the English Reformation had not ...read more.


Firstly when Sir Toby obviously ignores him and is rude to him in the beginning when Malvolio insults him, and later when Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Maria are talking about the plot. In Act II, Scene V Maria drops the letter and Malvolio finds it. He instantly thinks that it is for him, and as he is so self-inflated he instantly believes that his lady loves him. With this Shakespeare shows the significance of Malvolio fantasy at the beginning of this scene. "Daylight and champaign discovers not more: this is open. I will be proud, I will read politic authors, I will baffle Sir Toby, I will wash off gross acquaintance, I will be point-devise the very man. I do not now fool myself, to let imagination jade me; for every reason excites to this, that my lady loves me." Act II, Scene V, Line 133-137 I think Shakespeare uses this soliloquy to show how Malvolio really believes everything said in the letter. It is not signed to him or from Olivia exactly but he instantly takes it to be so. This gives the audience another reason to laugh at his pompousness. So far Shakespeare has only shown Malvolio in a bad light, showing his foolish side but as yet there has not been a scene that shows Malvolio to be a reasonable person. ...read more.


Malvolio's last line leaves the audience feeling a little sorry for him, but can sense his anger. Act V, Scene I, Line 355 "I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you !" But this is unfair to Olivia as she has done no wrong. She did not know of the plot or of anything to do with the trick played by her cousin and his friends. She genuinely thought he was mad. This is another pointer that shows just how angry Malvolio really is. During the play, a modern audience's perception and feelings towards Malvolio change dramatically. For the first two acts, the audience sees Malvolio as a pompous, self-centred man who claims to be a puritan and Shakespeare does this so that they can laugh at him. Yet during the third act we start to feel a little sorry for Malvolio as he is pushed down to supposed "madness". This continues throughout the play until the last scene, Act 5, Scene 1 when he escapes. In this scene the audience feels mixed emotions for him. At some points he is almost comical, yet it would not feel right to laugh at him. But I can see that if the trick had never been played on Malvolio then we never would have seen the other side to him. This shows that Malvolio is a man that cannot be judged at first sight. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Twelfth Night section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Twelfth Night essays


    They are a bit raucous, but basically are just having a good time & enjoying themselves, - singing & having fun. Maria joins them shortly afterward & it is a small party of four. Malvolio's opening line to Sir Andrew & Sir Toby is: "My masters are you mad?"

  2. Twelfth Night - Consider Shakespeare's portrayal of Malvolio throughout the play and say how ...

    'Tis but fortune, all is fortune. Maria once told me she did affect me, and I have heard herself come thus near, that should she fancy, it should be one of my complexion....' This tells the audience that Malvolio genuinely believes that Olivia could be in love with him, like he is in love with her.

  1. Explore how Shakespeare shapes the audience's perceptions of Malvolio in Twelfth Night

    In general, he is proud about all aspects of himself to the point of great arrogance, and it can be seen that he needs to be taught a lesson about the downfalls of his disdainful ways. The fact that he is so totally self-obsessed means that convincing himself of another's love is easy to achieve.

  2. Does Malvolio get what he deserves, or is it a joke gone too far?

    This outburst to Sir Toby leads to his resentment of Malvolio. However more importantly Malvolio also threatens to telltales to her mistress Olivia about Maria (Olivia's servant), who had entered the room to try (although she failed) to quieten the gentleman.

  1. How does Shakespeare manipulate the audience to dislike Malvolio towards the beginning of the ...

    The audience themselves feel involved in the party. A Shakespearean audience would feel even more involved in the party as they were physically closer to the stage and the characters, whereas with a modern stage the seats are often placed far from the stage so the audience's reaction to the party would be different in different times, however, both audiences recognise this scene as an enjoyable experience.

  2. how Shakespeare uses disguise to suit his comic purpose

    This brings great comedy to the play because the people watching will know that Cesario is actually a girl but in the play Olivia does not know this, so she does everything she can to get Cesario to love her, This is seen when she sends Malvolio with her ring

  1. Do you agree with Olivia when she says that Malvolio

    I believe that the opinions of the Puritans in general are expressed through Malvolio in the course of this play. Puritans on the whole were people who did not like the thought of people doing pleasurable activities and enjoying themselves.

  2. Twelfth Night - Character of Olivia and her arrogant steward Malvolio.

    Olivia asks Malvolio for his thoughts on the fool "I marvel your ladyship takes delight in such a barren rascal" "unless you laugh and minister occasion to him, he is gagged" Olivia thinks this to be a bit harsh and replies "O, you are sick of self-love, Malvolio, and taste

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work