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    The Deception of Malvolio

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    In Twelfth Night William Shakespeare uses many forms of deception on Malvolio and the other characters for humour purposes. The deception devices used are mistaken identity, cross dressing, disguise, forged handwriting, self deception, word play and dramatic irony. Malvolio’s character is deceived by forged handwriting, disguise, word play and self deception. The devices used to create humour in this play are word play which is used to confuse characters is, mistaken identity (this uses dramatic irony to also entertain the audience as they know that for example Viola is a girl yet Olivia thinks otherwise).

    Cross dressing is humorous also as it seems unnatural to see a girl dressed and trying to speak more like a man, however in Shakespeare’s era there were only males actors. . Forged handwriting is also humorous because it’s tricking the recipient into thinking that it is true, yet as the audience very well know it is not, this is also dramatic irony much like the mistaken identity is. Self deception to some is funny as it plays on the dramatic irony idea, as the character self deceiving themself is not aware they are doing so unlike the audience who do know about it.

    Malvolio is a character that tends to be picked on by Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, Feste and Maria. Sir Toby and Maria deceive Malvolio by use of forged handwriting. Maria writes a letter to Malvolio pretending to be Olivia, who he admires, telling him to smile, “put thyself into the trick of singularity”, when around her also her must wear yellow stockings. These actions are very anti Malvolio as throughout the play he is shown as a puritan. Puritans are Christians who believe that life should be kept simple and plain; they believed that the theatre was evil or bad and in many occasions tried getting Shakespeare’s theatre shut down.

    This annoyed Shakespeare greatly and therefore he used Malvolio, a puritan doppelganger, as an object of humour. Maria’s letter shows to the audience that Malvolios personality is rather foolhardy when love or pretty women are involved. However the letter Maria wrote was never written for Malvolio. The letter was written to M and Malvolio self-deceived himself and said that that M meant Malvolio. This act of self deception shows that Malvolio does really have an interest in Olivia and he is very foolhardy when it comes to her requests “I don’t foot myself”.

    The self deception shows that Malvolios character although hard and mature on the outside when it comes to inside feelings he is rather easily lead. Feste deceives Malvolio in act 4 scene 2 by using a disguise and pretending to be a man of higher authority,”Sir Topas the curate, who comes to visit Malvolio the lunatic”. Malvolio at this stage of the play has been locked up in a dark room as Sir Toby has accused him of being mad, due to the fact he was smiling and wearing yellow stockings, which Maria’s fake letter told him to do.

    Remember who commended thy yellow stockings, and wished to see thee ever cross-garted” meaning she wants to see him in yellow stockings. Feste’s deception using the disguise is rather effective, as he almost does drive Malvolio to the brink of madness by teasing him about the room Malvolio is being held in. For example Feste says that the room is rather light even though in reality the room is almost pitch black, this confuses Malvolio and causes him to almost loose his mind. “Madman, thou errest; I say there is no darkness but ignorance”.

    When the play comes to an end however Malvolio is not entertained at all by the idea of him being deceived and vows to have revenge, “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you”, which in simple terms means he’ll be getting revenge on Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Feste. The plays genre is comedy. Possibly the biggest humorous deception is disguise. Viola throughout most of the play uses disguise and cross dressing, however Violas disguise is a good source of humour because it causes problems, mainly confusion, between Viola and Sebastian, her twin brother, who she thought was dead.

    The love triangle is also rather amusing for the audience; the love triangle is shown below. Word play is used more by Feste “I live by the church…… my house doth stand by the church” however Viola does use word play nearer the start of the play when talking to the Duke, “my father had a daughter loved a man…… I am all the daughters of my father’s house… ” This quote shows Viola almost telling Orsino that she is a woman, however I believe Orsino does not guess this as he does not believe she is a woman at this time.

    Feste uses a fair amount of word play to confuse or entertain other characters. In a discussion between Oliva and Feste in act1 scene 5 Feste calls Olivia a fool, even though his job title is fool, for mourning her brothers soul for going to heaven as to him it is a better place, “the more fool, Madonna, to mourn for your brother’s soul being in heaven. Although the word play is written to be funny or entertaining to a modern day audience is it not quite as funny as a Shakespearean audience would find it, due to modern audiences being more entertained by special effects or more rough/slang word play.

    Sir Tobys deceives Sir Andrew by lying to him about Olivias feelings. Sir Toby tells Sir Andrew that Olivia loves him but he must prove himself by defeating Viola in combat or a duel as it is more commonly known, “this was a great argument of love in her towards you”. This is humorous for the audience as they know the character is being tricked and performing foolish actions. I felt that in Twelfth Night the main source of deception was disguise, as it is the one form of deception that is kept going through the majority of the play.

    Forged handwriting is also a large form of deception as it contributes to the sub story. The forged handwriting used on Malvolio was very effective as the one letter made him act totally out of character. The forged handwriting was a turning point for the fight against Malvolio as it persuades him to wear yellow stockings and smile which gave them a reason to call him mad and lock him away which then allowed them to play further deception on him.

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