Malvolio Essay

This essay has a total of 1206 words and 6 pages.


Twelfth Night - Character study: Malvolio

Character study: Malvolio: Did he deserve the punishment that he received?

The character Malvolio (meaning literally “I mean ill will) is immediately affected
by the implications of his name. His personage is implied directly to be one of negative
and somewhat disagreeable nature, which is continued and supported throughout the play,
leading to his downfall and mockery which both initially seem to be thoroughly deserved,
due to his numerous defects of personality.

The first evidence of Malvolio’s undesirable disposition comes with his own first
appearance in the play during which he makes a point of insulting the wit and intelligence
of Feste “I marvel your ladyship takes delight in such a barren rascal”.
Through doing this he shows himself to be man who condescends to those that he believes to
be lower than him in any way, by acting on his own personal belief of superiority, and
this later becomes a major player in his downfall.

Initial impressions are supported by further vices in Malvolio’s general character
and these lead to further aversion to him. He shows himself to be a strict puritan and
this is also suggested by the opinion of Maria “The devil a puritan that he
is”. He denies himself indulgences and pleasure whilst at the same time begrudging
these things of others. He makes a point of taking the moral high ground over Maria, Feste
and more importantly, his social superior Sir Toby, when he scorns them for their
revelries and “disorders”. This in turn adds to their desire to avenge him and
bring him from his level of false authority, back to his true social class of a mere
steward at which he is unable to give out orders, but only to receive them.

Although he is a man of supposed purity and self-denial in practice, his aspirations are
such that he becomes hypocritical. In turn he makes his character one of further
malevolence. He secretly longs for the life of a man higher in social status and fancies
that through the love of Olivia, he could become such a person “having come from my
day bed, where I have left Olivia sleeping ”. At the same time he has great, worldly
ambitions, which are strictly against the puritan philosophy. This longing for new
superiority and strong belief that he will gain it, causes him to be open for trickery and
thus provides the starting point of the punishment and humiliation through which he later

In order to try at pleasing Olivia and through doing so attempting at gaining her
admiration and love, he carries out deeds at the expense of others. Malvolio is in many
ways a “time pleaser” and he shows this when in the ways of a sycophant, he
reports to Olivia the “misdemeanors” of his superior Sir Toby “this
uncivil rule; she shall know of it by this hand”. Thus he does well in conjuring up
further resentment from Sir Toby and the servants, while making his punishment both more
justified and more craved by those that he wrongs.

A further hypocrisy of Malvolio and yet another vice opposing his puritan philosophy, is
his extreme vanity. He places himself on a pedestal above all but Olivia, through
purposely using language above his station, seemingly memorized from books “an
affection ass, which cons state without book and utters it in great swathes”. He
also makes an effort to pride himself on his physical appearance “should she fancy,
it should be one of my complexion” which he seems to assume is one to be admired. He
is generally proud about all aspects of himself, to such an extent that he is greatly
bordering on superciliousness. Overall, with taking into consideration the negative and
truly objectionable aspects of Malvolio, it can be seen that he does in fact need to be
Continues for 3 more pages >>