Twelfth Night

Malvolio: The Puritan Plays the Fool 11th Grade

Initially, the salient fool in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night appears to be Feste -- a licensed jester. Yet upon further examination, we see that Shakespeare merely uses Feste as a critic of the comedic disarray in Illyria, which parallels the festival Twelfth Night. The nature of the play turns both the class structure and moral values on their head, producing a comedy where even the disciplined Puritan Malvolio is mocked for his social position. His restrained and harsh nature makes him an attractive target for the pranks of others,therefore Malvolio is not only a victim of comedy but a true fool.

Shakespeare presents ambition as Malvolio's hamartia; this quality ostrcises him from the group of other characters in the play due to his strong belief in his exalted position. Alienation makes Malvolio susceptible to the pranks of others and thus he is presented as the real fool. Malvolio enters Act 2 Scene 5 expressing a sanguine soliloquy which concludes with the rhetorical question “What should I think on’t?," suggesting to the audience that he is lost in a fantasy, this interpretation is strengthened by the nature of the soliloquy as this is the action of speaking one's thoughts regardless of who hears. The lexical field of...

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