Intransigence in the World of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" Essay by A. Winchell

Intransigence in the World of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night"
Examines the character Malvolio in William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" and his inability to adapt to new situations.
# 26514 | 1,113 words | 1 source | MLA | 2003 | US
Published on May 06, 2003 in Shakespeare (Twelfth Night) , Shakespeare (General)

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This paper examines the purpose of mankind in William Shakespeare's time, looking specifically at the character of Malvolio ("Twelfth Night"),in order to emphasize the importance of character flexibility in the changing world. The paper examines how the character of Malvolio shifts from a man who holds the respect of others to a comic figure, but his downfall occurs because he follows his societal role too strictly and cannot learn to shift mindset and attitude, a characteristic that marks the successful protagonists, Viola, Olivia, and Orsino. The paper shows that in "Twelfth Night", Malvolio is set in his decision to win Olivia's hand, but he fails due to his inability to adapt to new situations, revealing Shakespeare's view that a man who cannot alter himself to fit new situations will not be able to succeed.

From the Paper:

"From the beginning of the story, Malvolio entertains the idea of becoming husband to Olivia, as when he daydreams, "Maria once/ told me she did affect me; and I have heard herself/ come thus near, that, should she fancy, it should/ be one of my complexion" (II.v.22-6). Malvolio sees himself as a fit suitor for Olivia, and is determined to act in ways that he believes will win her hand. As a Puritan, many of Malvolio's characteristics are serious and somber, his natural dignity and grave conduct preventing him from joking and outwitting others. Believing Olivia to be a state of honest mourning, he views his similarly serious demeanor to be appropriate to win her trust, and eventually her hand. The first appearance of Malvolio reveals his inflexible nature; after the Clown tries to win back Olivia's favor, Malvolio insults him and is in turn mocked. Olivia explains to him, "To be generous,/ guiltless, and of free disposition, is to take those/ things for birdbolts that you deem cannon bullets" (I.v.91-3). Malvolio cannot take any matters touching him lightly, because he is set in his ways and unable to adapt. Rather than dodging criticisms and jokes as Olivia suggests, Malvolio turns to insults and reveals his immovable nature. His somberness is suited to fit Olivia's state of mourning, but as Olivia moves towards a normal life again, Malvolio's somber attitude grates on her nerves and a complete outward change is needed to keep her interest."

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