Malvolio's 'Cruelty In Twelfth Night'

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Throughout ‘Twelfth Night’ Malvolio is vilified by Shakespeare, portrayed as a snide character who looks down on the fun, debauchery and excess of the play despite his low status. Shakespeare uses the vilifying of Malvolio to manipulate audiences into disliking the character, which in turn enables the treatment of Malvolio to be viewed as rather comical. However, it is debatable as to what extent this treatment is funny and to what extent it is cruel. For example, the general thesis is that the other characters treat Malvolio badly due to his behaviour. But, when examining Malvolio’s supposedly “uptight” behaviour from the perspective of a contemporary audience, one could concede that Malvolio is not acting strict, but simply as the voice of reason. If one were to take his attitude and relate it…show more content…
Yes, it is fair to say that cruelty can be comical to a point, and this is a vital part in the comedic construct of dramatic comedy, however the result of the ‘letter prank’ actually had serious consequences for Malvolio. The usual intention of a trick is to have a brief laugh at somebody and then carry on usual. In this instance, Sir Toby declares that “Come, we’ll have him in a dark room and bound. My niece is already in the belief that he’s mad. We may carry it thus for our pleasure”. The result of this trick was that Malvolio ended up incarcerated due to his madness, however we as the audience know that he is not really mad, which means that the whole punishment can be declared unjust. This is when, in my opinion the trick was taken too far, and crossed the line between comical and cruel, and Sir Toby even mentions that they are doing it simply “for (their) pleasure”. This creates even more sympathy for Malvolio, and arguably vilifies Sir Toby, Maria, Feste and Andrew for enabling the trick to get this

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