Character Of Malvolio In Twelfth Night Essay

, Research Paper

In William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night we encounter several interesting

characters. The character I found to be most interesting and most different from the

others was Malvolio.

Malvolio is the servant of Olivia. Although he belongs to the servant class, he

believes strongly that he is better than the individuals that he serves. Malvolio often

takes it upon himself to try to discipline others when Olivia is not around. For example

he even takes it upon himself to discipline Sir Toby, his social superior. Malvolio

appears to be a dedicated worker. Most of the time Olivia seems to appreciate the solemn

dignity with which he carries out his duties, however, the others find him arrogant and

regard him as an enemy.

Malvolio, like Rosalind in As You Like It is in disguise. He pretends to be a

Puritan. He dresses in black and never laughs. Throughout the movie we never see a

smile on his face. This however, is merely a disguise that he assumes, that allows him to

criticize others. Under his black garments, lies a heart filled with vanity. He often

daydreams that Olivia will marry him and as a result he will become her equal. He

imagines himself wearing fine clothes and jewelry. He would then have command of the

household, and he would then be able to get revenge on those who haven’t treated him


I find it ironic that Malvolio is more successful at fooling himself than he is at

deceiving others. The other members of the household see through Malvolio’s

hypocritical nature. Even Olivia, who seems to value Malvolio as a servant, says he is

“sick of self love”, Act 1, Scene I, line 92). Though others can see through him,

Malvolio fools himself completely. Maria says, he believes that “all that look on him

love him”(Act II, sc.iii, l.152). He is sure that some accident of luck has caused a man as

fine as him to be born a servant rather than a master. He believes that fortune will

eventually correct that mistake. Malvolio’s self deception makes him the perfect target for

Maria and Sir Toby’s joke. Maria’s letter is only able to convince him that Olivia loves

him because that’s what he wants to believe. When the letter tells him to act proud and

haughty, it only gives him permission to show how he already feels. His own pride

causes him to act as foolishly as he does. Malvolio’s real downfall however, is not caused

by foolishness. Nearly everybody in this play is foolish at one time or another. Unlike the

others, however, Malvolio simply cannot laugh at himself, cannot

recognize his faults. Therefore, he has no part in the healing that occurs at the end of the

play. While the others are all laughing at themselves and forgiving each other, Malvolio

clings to his anger. When he makes his final exit, he vows to take revenge on


In Conclusion, from viewing the play I had a better understanding of the plot. I

did however notice when trying to follow the movie with the play itself, that it was a little

off. They first scene in the play is not acted until ten minutes into the movie. In the

beginning of the play I felt like I was watching a remake of Titanic because everyone was

jumping into the water. I also noticed that while I understood the purpose of Viola’s

disguise, she didn’t look too masculine to me. I thought the power struggle between

Malvolio and Sir Toby was very entertaining. It was portrayed in a light, flimsy manner.

Overall the film wasn’t too bad to watch and I thought Helene Bonham Carter was

fabulous in her role as Olivia.