Twelfth Night is one of the comedy plays of Shakespeare that he wrote in 1601. Critics consider the Twelfth Night as the one of his greatest comedies. The Twelfth Night also named as “ What You Will” by the writers community. Twelfth Night is considered to be the twelfth night of Christmas that people celebrated as a festival in which everything would change its role. The play includes a woman who has to disguise herself as a young man. In all the other plays, the major roles have been played by male characters. The character of Malvolio initially seems to be a minor character, however, projects the Puritan image compelling the audience to deliberate upon and view the character in the wholesome perspective.
Malvolio’s character is the most complex and interesting character of the play, and becomes more interesting with the progress of the play. At first appearance, Malvolio seems to be a simple, proper and stiff servant who is Puritan and likes to spoil the fun of other people. Due to his nature of despising others, he earns the enmity of other characters such as Zany, the clever girl Maria and always drunken Sir Toby. Malvolio drags himself into an engineered love affair after receiving a fake and tempered love letter from Olivia, and makes fun of himself by wearing funny dresses and behaving differently from his actual character. The event changes the impression about Malvolio and exposes his extraordinary ambitions of marrying Olivia and becoming the Count Malvolio (Act II). After receiving the fake love letter from Olivia, character of Malvolio undergoes transformation, and he suddenly changes from a person of rigid and inexpressive personification of pompous modesty into a person with the power of self-misconception. After receiving the letter, he becomes pitiable for his actions that he does to impress Olivia. He appears ridiculous in the scenes after receiving the letter when he wears the cross garter and yellow stockings.
Malvolio’s ambitions overcome his common sense that brings grimaces to the audience, every time he appears on the screen. His changed personality compels Olivia to think that he has gone mad. Malvolio, earlier a total joyless person becomes joyful, and runs after an ambition that everybody less Malvolio knew was false. The audience pity for Malvolio increases when the clever girl Maria and Sir Toby confine him in a dark room in order to declare him insane (Act IV). At this stage of play, Malvolio appears to be a victim of the foul play be Maria and Sir Toby. Malvolio character of order and sobriety sacrificed for bringing the enthusiastic spirit in other characters of the play. After the play sacrifices the character of Malvolio, the character starts getting the sympathies and respect of the audience. Although he is asked to spend one single night in the darkness, his character is not tragic as he keeps his sanity in the face of the insistence that he is mad. He remains true to himself and believes he is not insane, and he is simply trying to win the love of Olivia. When Sir Toby releases him from the confines, there is a celebration going on in which he does not have a part to play and leaves the celebrations (Act V). After the play reveals everything, none of the characters apologizes to Malvolio for his sufferings in the dark room. The exit of Malvolio is shaking note in an otherwise comedy play.
A person of Malvolio’s character is the real world rarely exists. Not many Puritans can be found in the world of today, and there are very few people who stick to their traditional values. Also, there may not be many people who does not enjoy the joyful things and who look towards the darker or the mere formal side of things. Believing on a fake love letter from his own lady shows too much innocence on the part of the character. The funny dresses and mad like depiction of the Malvolio also do not reflect the sanity that a person of Malvolio nature would show after being driven into the game of love. His initial appearance and his sober and serious nature did not convince the audience of his actions in the later part of the play. The character of Malvolio seems to be “ the odd one out” in the play and if the same person is part of the real world, he will be among the few “ odd ones out.” Shakespeare included the character in the play for two reasons. First; to bring comedy in the play when Malvolio is ridiculed by Maria and Sir Tobey. Second; to project puritans’ image as undesired to the audience. Character of Malvolio did not have a place in the chaotic world of the Twelfth Night, and such a person does not have a fair place in the real world too. If everyone enjoys the happiness, someone must suffer to bring happiness to others.