Malvolio in Twelfth Night

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Charles Lamb states that Malvolio “becomes comic by accident”. His criticism portrays Malvolio as a tragic character. Lamb describes Malvolio’s dialect as “that of a gentleman, and a man of education.” Predisposed with Malvolio’s dialect and seemingly noble manner is hubris which leads to his downfall in the play. In Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’, Malvolio is not a tragic character but, the fool of the play in that he is a scapegoat for mockery and entertainment. Aristotle in ‘Poetics’ defined comedy as “an imitation of inferior people-not, however, with respect to every kind of defect; the laughable species of what is disgraceful. The laughable is an error of disgrace that does not involve pain or destruction. For example a comic mask is ugly and distorted but does not involve pain.” (Stott, Andrew McConnell. Comedy. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.) Malvolio fulfills the role as the disgraceful, inferior person within Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”. The characters in ‘Twelfth Night’ despise Malvolio. Upon Malvolio’s entrance in Act II Scene V, Sir Toby states “here’s an overweening rogue!” (Act 2, scene 5, line 27) after plotting with Fabian and Maria to punish Malvolio, referring to him as a “little villain” (Act 2, scene 5, line 12). Upon his entrance in the scene, Malvolio states his ambitions for nobility, “To be Count Malvolio!’ (Act 2, scene 5, line 32) to the group. The disdain the other characters have for Malvolio throughout the play is only met with vanity, hubris and patronizing comments on Malvolio’s part, doing very little to conjure any remorse for the character following his downfall later in the play. Malvolio opposes the fun and festivities of the “Twelfth Night” and chastises the characters in the play several times for their celebrations. Malvolio questions their actions in the form of patronizing dialogue by asking “My masters,
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