Sir Toby Belch's function in Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Essay by jennabugUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, March 2005

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Analysis of Sir Toby in Twelfth Night In Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night an emphasis is put on the importance of not taking oneself too seriously. This feeling of folly triumphing over gravity is proven by the success of the happier, less serious characters throughout the story. The embodiment of folly in Twelfth Night is Sir Toby Belch, the drunken uncle of Olivia. He serves many functions in the play, showing the narrator the importance of not taking oneself, or one's ambitions too seriously. Sir Toby acts as an example of one of the only characters with real conviction in the play.

Toby's story functions as a secondary plot in Twelfth Night. His torment of Malvolio, the overly serious manservant, seems to come only out of boredom, and seems to only be profitable for his own enjoyment. He is a retired night with nothing left to be but enjoy his retirement, and his actions show Malvolio that for a servant, there is no real option for social advancement for someone like him.

Sir Toby is the antagonist of Malvolio in the story. He and Maria represent the opposite of Malvolio's hard-working un-smiling spirit. They exist to leave the audience with a feeling that sometimes chaos must reign. Sir Toby could also, by a bit of a stretch, be considered a warrior for true love. His love for Maria, who is not of the same social standing, comes from a genuine connection with her, while Malvolio's pining after Toby's niece Olivia is simply a quest for social advancement. Malvolio dreams of bettering himself, and of rising above Sir Toby, whom he has never liked, he does not want to be with her because he loves her. Toby is perceptive of this, which is why he finds the trick he plays...