Twelfth Night Essay

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Malvolio has intrigued critics more than any other character in Twelfth Night. In the seventeenth century, Charles I was so taken by Malvolio's mistreatment that he changed the name of the play in the Second Folio to "Malvolio."

Critics in the nineteenth century argued whether or not Malvolio was a Puritan, or represented the emerging bourgeoisie class, questions which are still being debated today. Twentieth-century critic Paul Siegel also identified Malvolio with Puritan self-discipline and predictability. Melvin Seiden identifies Malvolio with both the Puritans and the new bourgeoisie. However, he asserts that Shakespeare created those parallels only as a pretext for setting Malvolio up as the scapegoat, sacrificed to bring the Bard's comedy to life.

In a departure from the generally accepted interpretation, Seiden also argues that Malvolio's rigid adherence to order springs not from excessive self-love, but from a sense of inferiority. David Wilbern argues that Malvolio's...

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This section contains 4,565 words
(approx. 12 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Twelfth Night Study Guide
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Shakespeare for Students
Twelfth Night from Shakespeare for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.