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

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

Extracts from this document...


Does Malvolio get what he deserves, or is it a joke gone too far? Twelfth Night is one of the great comedy plays by William Shakespeare. The play centres on the character of Viola who is shipwrecked with her twin brother Sebastian off the Illyrian coast. Believing her brother Sebastian to be dead, Viola then disguises herself as a man and becomes known as Cesario, so that she can work for Orsino, the Duke of Illyria as his manservant. Orsino is in love with the rich countess Olivia, Orsino instructs Cesario to explain his love for her, however this plan backfires as Olivia falls in love with the messenger Cesario. To further complicate matters Viola then falls in love with Orsino and a classic Shakespearian love triangle is established. To add to the farce Viola's identical twin, Sebastian who has survived the shipwreck turns up in the duke's court. This leads to much confusion culminating in Olivia asking Sebastian (whom she believes to be Cesario) to marry her. Finally the twins (Sebastian and Viola) appear together and Cesario reveals that he, is really a she. The play finishes with Orsino and Viola declaring they will marry. Much of the play concentrates on a comic sub-plot to bring a comeuppance to Countess Olivia's pompous head steward Malvolio. Living in Olivia's household is her uncle, Sir Toby, who was invited to stay whilst Olivia was mourning the death of her brother. ...read more.


This is significant because in Elizabethan times a stone was the name for a fool, so Malvolio is saying that Feste has the brain and wit of a rock. This reprimand of Feste even caused Olivia to chastise him "O you are sick of self-love, Malvolio, and taste with a distempered appetite, to be generous, guiltless, and of free disposition is to take those things for bird-bolts that you deem canon bullets". Olivia believes that Malvolio is in-love with himself and that he has no concerns or thought for anyone else. This characteristic of Malvolio is essential in the subsequent prank as it uses his ego and self-love against him. The joke letter written by Maria "in her lady's hand" and left for Malvolio to find can be viewed in one of two ways; Either it was a justifiable joke toward a pompous man who wishes to marry Olivia to boost his personal status as "Count Malvolio", or he should be pitied as he has a genuine affection for Olivia "I do not now fool myself, to let imagination jade me, for every reason excites to this, that my lady loves me". As the letter Malvolio receives asks him to dress in yellow cross-gartered stockings, a fashion Olivia does not like. The fact that he parades in front of her with a ridiculously broad smile and comic stance was punishment enough. ...read more.


I was one, Sir, in this interlude, one Sir Topas, Sir - but that's all one. 'By the lord, fool, I am not mad.' But you remember - 'madam, why laugh you at such a barren rascal, and you smile not, he's gagged'? And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges." This is very clever because he is using the language of the letter from Maria and several things said and done in the joke, to further make a 'fool' of Malvolio. He also uses some of the insults thrown at him by Malvolio against him, this is embarrassing for Malvolio, as all his insults are being thrown right back at him in a more effective fashion. Finally Feste says "whirligig of time brings in his revenges", this means that what goes around comes around and that Malvolio deserved everything done to him, showing that even at this stage Feste has no sympathy toward Malvolio at all. Malvolio clearly deserved some sort of comeuppance, as he was a pompous, opinionated individual with ideas above his status in the household. The joke initial joke played upon him was therefore probably justified. When the joke was taken beyond this first point it was probably a joke too far as it attempted to manipulate his mind and is therefore quite sinister "there was never a man so notoriously abused". In the end Malvolio was still upset with all the other members of the household declaring that he will be " revenged on the whole pack of them". James king 4mts ...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

  1. Write an account of the plot against Malvolio and consider how far you feel ...

    He is sure possessed, madam.' (Act Three Scene Four line 8-9). Malvolio is wearing yellow stockings and cross-gartered sandals. When Olivia asks if he needs to have a lie down, he replies 'Ay sweetheart, and I'll come to thee.' (Act Three Scene Four line 30).

  2. Twelfth night - Feste says to Olivia, Maria and Malvolio 'better a witty fool ...

    Feste is a loose-living character and his enjoyment of the 'midnight revels' shows this. It is also shown by the fact that he does not seem to stay in one place as he travels and is shown singing for Orsino, and not in Olivia's court.


    impossible thing for Malvolio, & an almost ironic thing to ask him to do, since Malvolio is pictured throughout the play as a very serious character who would hardly ever smile. He however, perhaps stupidly, did not question that, he was too wrapped up in self love, & picturing what might become.

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

    Personally, although I don't particuarlly like him, I don't hate Malvolio at all at this point. To me he is just a man that likes order and disipline and has differing opnions to Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and the Clown.

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

    What follows are four scenes that prolong the resolution of the joke and concentrate on the main plot and themes. There are two reasons Shakespeare puts in the gap between scenes with Malvolio's action; firstly, to create suspense and builds up anticipation and the more they build up Malvolio in

  2. how Shakespeare uses disguise to suit his comic purpose

    So we can see straight away he thinks Sir Andrew is not a true friend. Then he says "Castilliano vulgu" which means keep a straight face, because Sir Toby and Maria must have been laughing about what Sir Toby had said and they do not want Sir Toby to find out.

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

    To the audience this enhanced the comical effect of the play. Furthermore when Twelfth Night was performed on the stage the part of Malvolio would be the biggest male part in the play and only the most important actors could take up that role.

  2. Twelfth Night - We may laugh at Malvolio but to what extent does he ...

    self-importance is unbelievable, to imagine that he should be the chosen husband of Olivia who is a countess when he is only a steward. This behaviour of his cancels out any sympathy we might of felt towards him as it seems that Maria, Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, Feste and now

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