Twelfth Night Chaos

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One of the play’s purposes is to show that when people step out of their ‘naturally given’ class, they disrupt the natural order and ultimately cause chaos. The title of the play is a reference to the message, linking to the Christian festival of Twelfth Night; when traditionally, the servants of high status families would be put in charge of the household to hold parties and feasts for the 5th or 6th of January. The festival is also known as ‘the feast of misrule’, due to the reversal of social roles which would associate the period with chaos, which is a major theme in the play. For example, Feste the fool is able to outwit those of a higher status than him, instead of it being, conventionally, the other way around. Malvolio acts as the…show more content…
He emphasizes the importance of maintaining dignity, propriety, and order. “You are sick of self-love, Malvolio”, Olivia tells him after he criticizes Feste’s witty remarks by describing him as “a barren rascal”, despite Olivia’s approval of Feste’s comments on her mourning. Malvolio’s egotism makes him condescending towards people that he deems to be of a lower status. His black clothing and grim disposition make him seem even more of a pretentious character, leading to Maria describing him as “The devil a puritan that he is”; which conveys Shakespeare’s disapproving opinion on puritans, by making him the antagonist of the play. Shakespeare introduces Malvolio, using the ancient Roman comic convention of stock characters. Malvolio would fit in as the pretentious servant that needs to be brought down; which conforms with the events later in the play, when he is…show more content…
Malvolio, having been locked up in a cage, is being furtherly tricked by Feste who is disguised as Sir Topas, the priest. The false name of “Sir Topas” is an ironic choice of name because the mineral, Topaz, was often associated with the cure for madness, even though they are trying to convince Malvolio that he is mad. Feste’s deception relies on the imagery of light and dark. Malvolio criticizes the “hideous darkness” of the cage and Feste confuses him by pointing out the non-existent “bay windows transparent as barricadoes”. He uses his contradiction to convince him that his mind is clouded due to him being ‘possessed’ by the devil: "Out, hyperbolical fiend”. In the Elizabethan era demons were blamed for insanity, so for Malvolio to believe that a priest, who would be in a position of trust to Malvolio, is convinced that he is truly mad would be devastating to him, considering how mad people were treated at the time. Traditionally, the mad were treated as lost causes, so were locked away in insane asylums for the rest of their lives, abandoned by society. The prank has clearly been taken too far; in fact, Sir Toby even admits that the deception is getting out of control: “I would we were well rid of this knavery”. The original intention of the prank was to remind Malvolio that he was no more than a servant. However, the cruelty of the prank being taken too far puts him at the very bottom of society (as a mad person)

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