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

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

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

GCSE English/English Literature Coursework: Twelfth Night Throughout Twelfth Night, there are many instances in which the audience feels it is licensed to laugh at certain characters because of their mishaps and embarrassing situations. One of these characters is the Lady Olivia's steward, Malvolio, a pompous and puritanical figure who is the most unlucky of all the characters, as nobody seems to like him. His character reveals lots of human weaknesses when exposed to humiliating situations, and so the audience cannot help but find his misfortune humourous. In this essay I am going to look in depth at the key scenes that shape the audience's perceptions of Malvolio. The three main aspects of Malvolio that provide talking points are: his religious beliefs (he is a Puritan), his social status (he looks down on others whom he thinks lower than him) and his personality (he is vain and egoistic). Each of these characteristics mean that Malvolio an obvious target for humour, as many of the characters take advantage of him throughout the play. Our initial impressions are supported by Malvolio's general character. He shows himself to be a strict puritan and this is also suggested by the opinion of Maria "Sometimes he is a kind of puritan". ...read more.

Middle

He then continues, "Do ye make an alehouse of my lady's house, that ye squeak out your coziers' catches without any mitigation or remorse of voice? Is there no respect of place, persons, nor time in you?". He is continuing his rhetorical questions, yet now he is also addressing them as his inferiors by calling them 'ye' ('socially inferior'), 'coziers' and 'tinkers' ('working class' men) when in fact Sir Toby is his superior. Malvolio is speaking to Sir Toby as if Malvolio is the master of the house, which in Act 2 Scene 5, we learn, is Malvolio's secret ambition. This is Malvolio's first big mistake in the play. Even though it seemed like the right thing to do, it starts off a poor relationship with Sir Toby and the others and later on in the play, Malvolio would pay for his actions. In fact, Maria begins to unveil a plan for revenge almost as soon as Malvolio leaves the room. The plan entails a forged letter, supposedly from Olivia to Malvolio, telling of her love for him. The letter 'refers subliminally to Malvolio's character weaknesses and hence ensures that he will be fooled by its meanings.' (Google) Maria actually writes the letter, but Malvolio will surely be too gullible to realise that, or that's what Maria is hoping for. ...read more.

Conclusion

swearing revenge. We have to make up our minds whether we, as the audience, are licensed to laugh at Malvolio in his various mishaps throughout the play because even despite it seeming funny to us we wouldn't like it if we were in his shoes and so, it may be considered quite cruel to find his embarrassment hilarious. 'Through succumbing to the trick and carrying out the orders of the letter, Malvolio is receiving adequate punishment. By believing and acting on the letter's commands, he shows himself to be gullible and ironically, lacking in the superiority of mind that he is convinced he possesses.' (Google) Thus, he allows Sir Toby and the servants to achieve their aim. I feel that Malvolio suffers a great injustice at the hands of his tormentors and is "notoriously abused" beyond the brink of mere teasing. He does not deserve his latter treatment, as his only real crime is his undesirable character. Ironically, after having been released from his prison, it becomes clear that he has not amended his ways in the slightest and that he is now filled with resentment for his abusers, as well as for Olivia. In all, no rewards are gained and no lessons learnt from Malvolio's unnecessary suffering. ...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. How does Shakespeare explore the theme of love in Twelfth Night(TM)?

    characters; Olivia and Sebastian portray this type of love, as Olivia does not really love Sebastian, but is in fact in love with his sister, but settles for him because of their similar appearance, 'So comes it, lady, you have been mistook'. Sebastian also marries Olivia without really loving her.

  2. Malvolio did he deserve the punishment he received in the play Twelfth Night?

    level, but he also shows himself to be gullible and lacking the intelligence he believes he possesses. This helps sir Toby achieve their aim. Having archived their goal and humiliating Malvolio the prank should of come to an end, however in order to have as much fun and cause as

  1. What Types of love does Shakespeare explore in Twelfth Night?

    cast me on your niece, give me this prerogative of speech, You must amend your drunkenness'. Malvolio wants to rank above Sir Toby and all the rest of Olivia's kinsmen, just so he can feel superior and have control over them.

  2. Consider the ways in which love, obsession and disguise inform our understanding of the ...

    scare Malvolio for fun, that is where the joke goes too far. For example when Malvolio is locked in a dark room feste acting as Sir Topas says to him "there is no darkness but ignorance." I think that Malvolio didn't deserve as harsh a punishment as he received because

  1. Examine the ways in which Shakespeare creates comedy for the audience in Act 3 ...

    Cesario, or Viola, in turn longs for Duke Orsino, whom she becomes very close to throughout the play. Duke Orsino is on love with Olivia- a point he makes very clear at the start of the play, where he declares "if music is the food of love, play on; give me excess of it."

  2. A close, critical analysis of Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night' with regard to relating a particular ...

    He seems more interested in the passion and 'purity' of his own alleged love, rather than the actual object his love is directed at. In my opinion, Orsino is clearly self-obsessed. To continue with Ovid's story, a young man named Aimeinias falls deeply in love with Narcissus - but is turned away.

  1. Malvolio’s Treatment in Twelfth Night

    Olivia certainly did not ask him to do that! Malvolio is a dutiful servant but one who will exceed his duty to increase his own self importance and humiliate a rival. In Act 2, Scene 3, Malvolio again gives the characters in Twelfth Night cause for complaint. Sir Toby, Feste and Sir Andrew are up very late, having a

  2. What exactly is the purpose of Feste in 'Twelfth Night'?

    The prime example of this is Sir Andrew. It is in the scenes with Sir Andrew and Feste together that the most enjoyable entertainment emerges. It is also during Feste's first scene with Andrew (2:3), that the true irony of the play is seen.

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