October 20, 2021

Malvolio is one of the characters in William Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night.


Among the most characteristic and most important characters of the comedy is Malvolio; Olivia's butler, secretly in love with her. With an impetuous character, he is part of the ranks of comic characters that animate the comic sub-plot that intertwines with the main plot of the comedy. Together with Captain Antonio, he is the character who remains alone at the end of the comedy, who claims to take revenge for the insult he suffered and who is not included in the celebration of the Epiphany which, on the contrary, sees happiness in the wedding of the three newly formed couples (Orsino and Viola, Sebastiano and Olivia and Sir Toby and Maria). In the play, Malvolio is defined as a Puritan and is the exact opposite of the characters he opposes, such as Sir Toby and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, however, he proves hypocritical when the moment we hear him raving alone before finding the letter of Olivia fantasizes wearing the damask velvet zimarra, just coming from the sofa where she left Olivia asleep. The first actor to play the character was Richard Burbage in the Globe theater. Other famous actors who have played him in the theater are for example: Henry Irving, E. H. Sothern, Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Henry Ainley, John Gielgud, Simon Russell Beale, Maurice Evans, and Richard Briers. Some Shakespeare scholars speculate that Malvolio's character was inspired by the Puritan landowner Sir Thomas Posthumous Hoby who became involved in a famous case against some of his Yorkshire neighbors, in which he sued them for arriving uninvited into his home, having drunk, played cards, cursed and threatened to rape his wife (which he ultimately won); the scene to which reference would be made in this story is the one in which Malvolio interrupts the late night party of the trio Toby, Andrew, Feste. The demonstration of the importance of this character can also be seen from the fact that the comedy itself was popularly known as "Malvolio". A poem by Eugenio Montale, included in the Diario collection of '71 and '72, is called the letter in Malvolio. In it "Malvolio" is a pseudonym that alludes to Pier Paolo Pasolini, who had harshly criticized Montale for his political disengagement. Montale's choice of the pseudonym Malvolio evidently refers to the hypocrisy that, according to him, would characterize Pasolini's behavior.


Related items

William Shakespeare The twelfth night

External links

(EN) Malvolio, in Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

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