Malvolio originally seems to be a minor character, andhis humiliation appears little more than an funny subplot to theViola-Olivia-Orsino- love triangle. But he becomes much more interestingas the beat progresses, and also most critics have judged him one ofthe most complicated and fascinating personalities in Twelfth Night. Whenwe first meet Malvolio, he appears to it is in a an easy type—a puritan,a stiff and proper servant who likes nothing much better than to spoilother people’s fun. The is this dour, fun-despising side that earnshim the enmity of the zany, drunken sir Toby and also the clever Maria,who with each other engineer his downfall. However they do so by play ona next of Malvolio that can have otherwise stayed hidden—hisself-regard and also his amazing ambitions, which prolong to marryingOlivia and becoming, as he put it, “Count Malvolio” (II.v.30).

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When he finds the forged letter native Olivia (actuallypenned by Maria) that seems to market hope to his ambitions, Malvolioundergoes his first transformation—from a stiff and wooden embodiment ofpriggish propriety right into an personification of the power of self--delusion.He is man in this scenes, as he capers roughly in the yellowstockings and also crossed garters the he thinks will please Olivia,but he additionally becomes pitiable. He might deserve his come-uppance, butthere is one uncomfortable universality come his experience. Malvolio’smisfortune is a cautionary tale of ambitious overcoming an excellent sense,and the audience winces at the means he adapts every event—includingOlivia’s confused assumption that he should be mad—to right his rosypicture that his glorious future as a nobleman. Earlier, that embodiesstiff joylessness; currently he is joyful, however in quest of a dream thateveryone, other than him, knows is false.

Our pity because that Malvolio only rises when the vindictiveMaria and also Toby confine him to a dark room in act IV. Together he no hope proteststhat that is no mad, Malvolio begins to seem moreof a victim than a victimizer. The is together if the regrettably steward,as the embodiment of order and sobriety, must be sacrificed therefore thatthe remainder of the characters can indulge in the hearty heart thatsuffuses Twelfth Night. As he is sacrificed, Malvoliobegins to knife our respect. It is too much to speak to him a tragicfigure, however—after all, he is just being asked come endure a singlenight in darkness, solid a fate similar to the sufferings ofKing Lear or Hamlet. But there is a type of nobility, but limited,in the means that the deluded steward stubbornly clings come his sanity,even in the confront of Feste’s insistence the he is mad. Malvolioremains true to himself, in spite of everything: he to know thathe is sane, and also he will not enable anything to damage this knowledge.

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Malvolio (and the audience) need to be content with thisself-knowledge, since the play allows Malvolio no genuine recompense forhis sufferings. In ~ the close of the play, he is carried out of the darknessinto a celebration in i beg your pardon he has actually no part, and where no one seemswilling to market him a genuine apology. “I’ll be revenged top top the wholepack of you,” that snarls, stalking out of the festivities (V.i.365).His exit strikes a jarring keep in mind in an otherwise joyful comedy. Malvoliohas no real location in the anarchic people of Twelfth Night, exceptto indicate that, also in the finest of worlds, someone must sufferwhile anyone else is happy.


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