Malvolio Character Essay Prompt

Character of Malvolio in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

  • Length: 476 words (1.4 double-spaced pages)
  • Rating: Excellent
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - More ↓
Character of Malvolio in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

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.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Character of Malvolio in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night." 14 Mar 2018

LengthColor Rating 
Character of Malvolio in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night Essay - Character of Malvolio in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night 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....   [tags: Papers]476 words
(1.4 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Essay on Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare - ... It's as simple as that” (Collins, 2008). President Snow also shows us his rigidity by wanting to execute and fear the districts “I mean, why do we have a winner. I mean, if we just wanted to intimidate the districts, why not round up twenty-four at random and execute them all at one. It would be a lot faster” (Collins, 2008). It is exactly this behavior of President Snow that we the readers see him as the teacher that punishes theirs students for not washing their car correctly after they do it out of the goodness of their hearts....   [tags: character analysis, puritan malvolio]1058 words
(3 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare Essays - In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare portrays several characters in a controversial way. Some witty characters are portrayed as foolish, and some foolish characters are portrayed as witty. In the beginning of the play, Sir Andrew and Malvolio are presented as smart people; however, as the play progresses, the audience is exposed to their foolish sides. On the other hand, Sir Toby and Feste are portrayed as fools, but as the plot develops the audience acknowledges their wisdom. Malvolio and Sir Andrew’s foolish sides are exposed because of their gullible nature, while Feste and Sir Toby’s wisdom is revealed through their insightful remarks and brilliant prank ideas....   [tags: Character Analysis]1153 words
(3.3 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare Essay - Examining Viola's Character in Twelfth Night "I may not be a lion, but I am a lion's cub, and I have a lion's heart" . These words are said by one of the most celebrated and authoritative women in the 16th century Elizabeth I. Even though the authority was at woman's hands at that time, a dominant woman was unnatural in the society itself. The presence of such a powerful female figure creates an interesting situation for dramatists and playwrights in terms of depicting women's status at that time....   [tags: Character Analysis, Authority]836 words
(2.4 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
The Character of Sebastian in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night: Essay - The Character of Sebastian in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night:       Sebastian's presence in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night: or What You Will is a vexation. More pointedly, it is his sudden marriage to Olivia which troubles me so. Was he written in to give a parallel storyline between Olivia and Viola. Was he a convenient way to have a double wedding, which Shakespeare seemed to prefer for his happy endings. Or, could there be some other meaning to Sebastian.   The last day of the Christmas season is January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, when Christ was revealed to the world in the personage of the Magi....   [tags: Twelfth Night essays]
:: 6 Works Cited
825 words
(2.4 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
Analyzing Themes in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night Essay - William Shakespeare, an English writer in the seventeenth century. He is considered to be the most influential writer in English literature. He wrote various genres, but the common types he wrote were: Tragedies, Comedies, and Histories. Among the many plays he wrote he wrote one his most famous play, “Twelfth Night”, which he wrote during the middle of his career. “Twelfth Night” is considered to be one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies that he has written. In addition to it is also the only play that he wrote that has an alternate title which is called, “Twelfth Night, or What You Will”....   [tags: Twelfth Night]
:: 6 Works Cited
1477 words
(4.2 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]
Twelfth Night Essay: Feste is No Fool - Feste is No Fool in Twelfth Night        In most Shakespearean romantic comedies, there is a character that plays the part of a truth-teller.  And in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night it is no different. Feste, a clown, through his mixed up words and songs enlightens the other characters whilst playing the role of the truth-teller.  Through aiding the Duke with his patience, helping Viola with her love problems, and having a major role in Malvolio's downfall, Feste holds one of the primary parts of the play....   [tags: Twelfth Night essays]
:: 2 Works Cited
688 words
(2 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
Essay on Feste in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night - Feste in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night In William Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night, it is ironic how many times the fool is said to be dishonest, when, in fact, his role proves entirely opposite. Though sometimes the characters do not realize his hidden messages, the reader can instantly comprehend Feste's figurative language, which is evident in every scene in which the fool appears. Whether he is singing to Orsino, arguing with Malvolio, or playing around with Viola, Feste always manages to sneak in a few symbolic foretokens before his exit....   [tags: William Shakespeare Twelfth Night Essays]1065 words
(3 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Malvolio in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night Essay - Malvolio in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night The problem involving Malvolio in Twelfth Night has been known for a long time but still very difficult. The gist of it is this. A lot of modern readers or spectators feel that the way in which Malvolio is treated is extremely bad. We expect him to become the centre of humour; we know that in the business of comedy, a very puritanical and rather joyless figure is likely to receive comedic humiliation; but in this case the humiliation that Malvolio gets, seems protracted and harsh....   [tags: Malvolio William Shakespeare Twelfth Night Essays]576 words
(1.6 pages)
Good Essays[preview]
Misperception and Deception in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night Essay - Misperception and Deception in Twelfth Night                  Twelfth Night is likely one of Shakespeare’s most entertaining and complete comedy. This romance explores a generous wealth of themes and issues. The most recurrent theme is the relationship between misperception and deception. As a result of their environment and immediate circumstances, men are forced into misperceptions. Paradoxically, they are completely trapped by these illusions. Between the bad fortune they encounter and the bad fortune they themselves generate, they become caught between a rock and a hard place; they are victims of deceit as well as their own folly....   [tags: Twelfth Night William Shakespeare]
:: 8 Works Cited
2156 words
(6.2 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]

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.


Character Analysis

Malvolio is the steward (head servant) to Lady Olivia. He's a big time hater and criticizes just about everything – Toby's partying lifestyle, Feste's licensed fooling, and all other forms of fun. His party-pooper ways and constant tattle-telling place a big giant bulls-eye on his back – he's just asking for trouble. And that's exactly what he gets when he's duped into behaving like a "madman" to win the favor of Lady Olivia.

Maria says that "sometimes he is a kind of puritan" (2.3.139), which aligns Malvolio with the religious group despised for its opposition to the theater, winter festivals, and other forms of entertainment (just about everything Twelfth Night celebrates). Malvolio's not a Puritan, per se, but the fact that the play aligns him with the sect and goes out of its way to stage his humiliation makes Malvolio's disgrace an important part of the play's rebellious, nose-thumbing spirit.

Puritans were also accused of being power hungry and Malvolio's secret social ambitions fit the bill. When we catch Malvolio daydreaming about marrying Countess Olivia, we learn that his desire has less to do with love than it has to do with his aspirations for social power. What does Malvolio's power fantasy look like? Well, it involves wearing fancy clothes, bossing around the servants, and playing moral cop to Sir Toby's bad guy. Malvolio seems to be punished as much for his moral haughtiness as for his social climbing fantasies, which makes him central to the play's concern with the dangers of social ambition.

Modern audiences often find Malvolio to be a sympathetic figure. Sure, he's annoying and he gets what he deserves when Toby and company lock him up in a dark room and perform a mock exorcism, but Malvolio's circumstances make us uncomfortably aware of the sheer cruelty of treating a person like a madman for a few laughs. In fact, the play raises the point that the trick is like a bear-baiting, an Elizabethan blood-sport that involved chaining a bear to a post and setting a pack of dogs on it. In this sense, Malvolio's comeuppance is a bit like what happens to Christopher Sly in The Taming of the Shrew. Malvolio and Sly are both abused for the entertainment of others – including Shakespeare's audience, which finds itself in cahoots with the pranksters.

0 Replies to “Malvolio Character Essay Prompt”

Lascia un Commento

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *