Twelfth Night-Shakespeare An Analysis of Malvolio and How He Changes Throughout the Play

Essay by tunaktunaktuJunior High, 9th gradeA, November 2009

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MalvolioIn the play, Twelfth Night, most of the characters seem to go through many changes, particularly to their personalities. However, the one character that does not go through any changes to their personality is Malvolio. He was a very strict, self-righteous servant of Olivia. It appears he changes almost completely into the opposite of himself, but these changes were engineered to garner what he thought would be more power for himself. At first glance it may look like there is a change in him, but with careful scrutiny, it becomes apparent how superficial these changes actually are. Despite all of the seemingly radical transformations he undergoes in the play, he remains a stiff, conceited, power hungry narcissist.

Malvolio's conceited personality is first revealed when he discovers Sir Toby, Sir Aguecheek and Maria singing and dancing late at night. "My masters, are you mad?" exclaims Malvolio (2.3.77) Shakespeare makes a tool of the carnivalesque and uses it to portray Malvolio.

Malvolio scolds his social superiors, which in reality would not happen. This piece of carnivalesque shows Malvolio's false sense of seniority. "Have you no wit, manners, nor honesty, but to gabble like tinkers at this time of night? (2.3.77-78). As he speaks, his tone suggests that he believes himself to be above these frivolous activities that his masters are taking part in.

When Malvolio stumbles upon the forged letter made to look like it was sent from Olivia, Malvolio speaks to himself, "I will read politic authors, I will baffle Sir Toby, I will wash off gross acquaintances" (2.5.149-150). When Malvolio says, "I will read politic authors", he is essentially saying I will take part in the business of politicians, politicians being of high social status. The term "baffle" in this context means to treat in contempt.