The first reason why Shakespeare took it as a necessity to involve him in the play is the fact that, during that time, the Puritans were much of jokes and against theatre art. This amusing clown takes an important position in the play through embracing several roles. These roles range from serious to humorous and comic, literate to nonsensical, a practical joker to witty and intelligent, best fit to the occasion at hand. He is both in the main plot and subsequent plots thus creating a link between these two important parts of the play. Malvolio is used in a prank to ridicule the Puritans. He has been brought out in the first scene as a serious old man, who is upright and humourless. This makes as to justly conclude that Shakespeare wanted to show Puritans lifestyle, their moral beliefs that are censorious, especially on their indulgence in self desires and sex. This is also emphasised by the fact that Malvolio is dressed in black, white, and grey attires a clear sign of Puritans way of life. ("Twelfth Night- Analysis of Fools")
Malvolio has immense contribution to the entertainment presented in this play. This is achieved in a humorous manner through the jokes and puns he creates in his relationship with other characters. He always brings laughter in every instance. This is not because of his humour in his foolery, but he creates amusement in a brilliant and witty manner.
He has mastered the skill of jesting making him more sensitive to his profession and duty to his employee who is Olivia. He is elevated as a character that is fully aware of circumstances surrounding him, and the most appropriate folly to uses to counter these circumstances. This character is also used in a witty manner to show defects in people's personality, though held with high profiles in the society. The name Malvolio literally meaning "ill will" is been used purposely due to the resultant implication of this name in relation to his character. His personality is directly implied to be of negative and disagreeable nature. Consequently, this elevates other characters to be of better status, as supported all through the play. This leads to the evident downfall and insults that seems deserved in relation to the defects in his lifestyle. ("Twelfth Night- Analysis of Fools")
Malvolio does not take stands on aliening himself with any specific character. He examines the behaviours and personalities of other characters, and brings into light the conspicuous truth about these characters. This joins the main plot and the involved themes with subsequent plots and their minor themes. Through this undesirable characteristic, he truly criticises the negative personalities and behaviours of other characters. In an appearance in the first Act, he insults Feste's wit and intelligence. This shows that he condescends to individuals with believing that he has a sense of superiority and Feste is lower than him.
He refuses to indulge himself in pleasure, as he tries to expose the dirty linen of the partying activities done by others in the play. This in essence, makes him take a higher ground in relation to morality over Maria, Feste and Sir Toby who is believed to have social superiority. He goes on to scorn them about their revelries and disorderliness. Moreover, he promotes the theme of revenge from this inclination, as shown by the desires of the affected characters to stage a revenge on him, as a method to pull him out of the false authority he possesses. They are out to take him back to his true class in the society, as a mere steward without powers to command people around and issuing orders instead, he should be the one receiving the orders.("Twelfth Night-Character study: Malvolio")
Development of the plot is further improved by Malvolio supposed purity and practise of self denial to life's desires. These aspirations develop the theme of hypocrisy. He privately desires for the life of men in the higher social class. He consequently, becomes opportunists through fancying the love that he has for Olivia with the hope that, it will be able to transform him to such desired status. In addition to this, he has numerous ambitions that go against Puritan characters. This desire for superiority, and the conviction that he has to get it, makes him become prone to trickery that latter results into the suffering that he undergoes. Shakespeare uses Malvolio in this context to bring interrelations between different characters, creating a better understanding of the play to the audience. ("Twelfth Night-Character Study: Malvolio").
The audience are able to get a better understanding of the personalities of other characters through Malvolio's help. These personalities are commonly unseen, not only by the audience, but also the involved characters in the play. He takes the responsibility to help Olivia get over her brother's death; by showing her how unrealistic it is to mourn over such a long period. Moreover, he strongly stands out to tell Orsino how foolish it is to continue suffering in pretence of a love-sick mood for Olivia. This makes Orsino realise the mercurial in his personality. In this context, Feste emerges to make a fool of Malvolio pompous foolery. Men's struggle in pleasing women they love, and their plight in the society is high lightened through Malvolio's endeavour to please Olivia, and grasp her love and admiration. He takes up actions that negatively affect others making him a time pleaser through sycophant reports, which he makes to Olivia on the misdemeanours committed by Sir Toby who is socially superior. ("Importance of Feste in Twelfth Night: Twelfth Night Essay")
The Sub-plot of the gulling of Malvolio is brought out through getting involved with Sir Toby, Feste, Maria and Aguecheek. This is joined to the main plot, in the context that it deals with numerous aspects of love, starting from self love, wholesome occupation of self interest, and denial to perceive anyone as important but him. Consequently, Malvolio gets a misconception of the world important aspects, and becomes totally vulnerable to manipulations and betraying himself. ("The ironies of happy endings: an introduction to Twelfth Night")
It is evident that Malvolio has immense contribution in Shakespeare's twelfth night. The mode of change in movement from one personality to another and character evolution such as singing and his steward responsibility, establish different distinct roles of the play. He puts a comic structural end to the play, where he faces consequences due to his previous deeds.
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Ian, Johnston. The Ironies of Happy Endings: An Introduction to Twelfth Night. Vancouver Island University, 4 May 2007. Web 25 May 2011.
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Shakespeare, William. Ed. Craig, William J. The complete works of William Shakespeare. The online Library of Liberty.Ed.Liberty Fund, 25 May. 2011. Web. 25 May 2011
"Twelfth Night". Wowessays.com, n.d. Web. 25 May 2011.