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As the director of Twelfth Night, what guidance would you give the respective actors on how to perform their roles as Feste and Malvolio

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Introduction

As the director of Twelfth Night, what guidance would you give the respective actors on how to perform their roles as Feste and Malvolio? The characters of Feste and Malvolio are central to the subplot of Twelfth Night. Malvolio's arrogance forms the basis of a plot, put in place by the other servants of Olivia's household, designed to ridicule and mock Malvolio. Around this, most of the play's comedy is centred, such as in II.5, in which Malvolio finds a letter supposedly from Olivia, but in fact put in place by Maria, Olivia's servant. As a director, it is essential to ensure that the actors playing Feste and Malvolio capture the essence of their character; otherwise the subplot will not be understood. A lot of information about how each character should be played can be found within their name, without even consulting the text. Malvolio is Italian and means 'ill-wishing' (the opposite of Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet). From this we can derive that Malvolio is perhaps a nonchalant and moody character, fairly abrupt with his friends and colleagues. From studying the text, we can make further judgements about Malvolio's personality. Olivia says in I.5, "O, you are sick of self-love, Malvolio", suggesting Malvolio is vain and slightly conceited. Other example of Malvolio's arrogance can be found in II.5. ...read more.

Middle

Malvolio's overall deportment should be quite stiff, to represent his lack of humour. He should be seen as quite ridiculous, not only in his un-fashionable speech (using words such as "element") but also is his dress. He should be seen as more of a psychological misfit rather than a social one. His vanity and arrogance make him immune to the animosity directed towards him by members of the household to a certain point, but at the end, all the negative aspects of his character must become clear, with perhaps a hunched posture, narrowed eyes and a low voice depicting his anger and desire for revenge. Maria's line, "The house will be the quieter", in III.4, show that he is a large presence within the house. The actor could represent this maybe playing him as melodramatic and with enunciated, clear speech. Feste should be played in stark contrast to Malvolio. His name, meaning Festival, also shows us how he should be played, in an excited and confident way. He is a very comical character, leading many of the play's comic scenes, such as in IV.2, where he visits Malvolio as a curate called Sir Topas. His role within the house, as a jester or fool, tells us about his personality as a confident showman. ...read more.

Conclusion

I believe all aspects of Feste's deportment on stage must be in contrast with that of Malvolio, due to their differing characters. I would direct Feste, to carry out all his movements in top-speed and all his speech at top-volume, to represent the 'showman' aspect of his life and his job. The audience should see him as a likeable, fun character, whose antics regarding Malvolio are humorous, not unjust. Although, the actor may move quickly around the stage, given Feste's self- confidence and assurance, when he does talk and argue with people he should be static, giving his opinion in a clear and eloquent way. His underlying distain of the others in his household could be represented by smirks or sneers while they are not looking. Overall, it is essential that the actors not only crate convincingly their character, but also represent clearly their status within the home. It is vital that the audience do not feel pity for Malvolio but do find Feste humorous otherwise the entire subplot is ineffective. Using the text to make judgements about each character, creating given circumstances and finding any information about appearance are all useful to an actor, trying to create a believable performance. By studying the text deeper, actors can also decide what idiosyncrasies to develop and how to interact with other actors on the stage. These are just a few ideas on how to play the complex characters of Feste and Malvolio. ...read more.

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