First impressions are always very important and Malvolio’s must set his character for the whole scene. Socially during Twelfth Night’s era the maid would enter a room before the guest that showed them where the room was and they often renounced the visitor the master/mistress. But given Malvolio’s current mood he would be so eager to speak to Olivia he may want to enter the room first. Upon my entrance I will have a sort of “pushing contest” with Maria in the doorframe so that I could get through first. When I actually manage to get in front of Maria I will brush my clothes haughtily with quick movements to show that Maria is below me.
I will then raise my head up high to make sure that Maria understands her place. On Malvolio’s first line I will bend down on one knee in front of Olivia and kiss her hand twice to exaggerate my inappropriate behaviour; Malvolio is Olivia’s butler and does not carry the status to kiss her hand. Soon as I hear Olivia say “sad occasion” I will beam at her because Malvolio would think she was being sarcastic due to the letter that he received. I will raise my eyebrows on my next line and almost laugh while speaking. At the words “I could be sad” I will pout a bit while speaking to notify Olivia that I understand her ‘sarcasm’.
I will get up then and stand facing the audience. I will also stress the word “some” and shake one leg towards Olivia suggestively at “cross – gartering” and put it down immediately after. I will then sit right next to Olivia and point at her eye when I say, “If it please the eye of one”. Upon my final word on line 22, I will put my arm on top of Olivia’s knee and look down at it suggestively because Malvolio thinks that Olivia wrote the letter to confirm her affections towards him. When Olivia gets up at the bottom of the page I will mimic her rising and stand behind her (the audience will still see me perfectly as I am taller than Olivia).
I will wrap my arms around her and speak. When I talk about “the sweet Roman hand” I will take hold of one of her hands gently and attempt to kiss it. This action will allow Olivia to get free of the irrepressible Malvolio’s arms and walk away. Malvolio will follow and stand near to her. Line 27 Olivia asks Malvolio if he will go to bed. This surprises Malvolio so I will react immediately and energetically with a lot of power and volume in my voice. I will also open my eyes and raise my eyebrows. When I tell her “I will come to [her]” I should stroke her head down wards fairly quickly until I get to her bottom and I will slap it.
Malvolio might do this because slapping someone’s bottom can often be used cheekily and Malvolio thinks she has just been cheeky enough to ask him to sleep with her. At line 33 I will stroll towards centre stage and fling my arms into the air bellowing, ” Yes, nightingales answer daws! ” After Maria speaks I will twirl round flamboyantly whilst saying, “Be not afraid of greatness” I will stride towards Olivia and nudge her hinting ” ’twas well writ” smirking at the same time. I’ll then put my arm tightly around her shoulder clamping our sides together and Malvolio will smile meanwhile.
My words will be delivered slightly above the middle of the audience, when I say “thrust” because of the tight position I can swing my hip towards hers which would end up in her being pushed aside by my frivolous action. After saying line 43 I will jump excitedly giving a kick with one of my legs in the air to show Malvolio’s happiness at the whole situation. “And wish to see thee cross – gartered” shall be said with a mock exhausted but merry tone as if Malvolio thinks Olivia is pretending that she cannot remember the letter she ‘wrote’ to him.
I must smile during this line otherwise the audience will think Malvolio is puzzled why Olivia can’t remember the letter. At his next line Malvolio will point out each word in the air pretending he can see them in front of him. I will also prolong the word “so” at the end of the sentence so Olivia can easily interrupt and also so he looks more pompously ridiculous. If I drew a spiral in the air on this word it would also help emphasise the above. Immediately before Malvolio says his final line before Maria and Olivia exit I will make three clicks of my tongue as if he feels that Olivia is sillier than he realised to forget her letter.
I will say the final line as if I am completely bored out of my mind. As soon as the servant enters I will walk into centre stage and slump down while standing my face should face the audience as if I am much too bored to listen to the servant. My face should gradually come into shock as I realise what has happened but I will not be in my final facial expression till they have actually exited the room and I could gesture and mouth a final “wait! ” but they would have already gone. There will be a blackout as soon as I have refaced the audience.