Twelfth Night

Loveable Knaves: The Humanity of Malvolio and Parolles

Malvolio and Parolles both appear as relatively unlikable characters due to their inflated egos, and convince themselves that they are socially greater than they are in reality. In Twelfth Night, Malvolio, a mere steward, behaves with utter scorn and haughtiness to the nobles whose conduct he attempts to regulate. But proper behavior is not his highest concern. One critic writes that Malvolio's only goal is "to advance himself to the position of authority" that Olivia's husband would hold (MacCary, 189). Another critic notes that in this quest for power, his arrogance extends even to his use of Jove to denote God (Mangan, 239). Although these traits make Malvolio somewhat despicable, he never resorts to deception in his attempt to achieve his aim, unlike other characters in the play. Furthermore, in his constant pursuit of social improvement, he attempts to instill order in an environment that threatens to descend into complete chaos. Similarly, in All's Well That Ends Well, the dishonorable behavior of Parolles, including his hollow boasts and direct lies are frustrating at times. But he positively affects his environment by lightening the mood through his baseless views and threats. As each play...

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