Having received a letter from his baiters, chaos ensues as Malvolio effects the supposed will of his love, Olivia. The scene opens as Olivia has sent for Cesario, despite that she said she wouldn’t see anymore of him, and so as she discusses the humiliating situation she has got herself into with Maria, she is feeling rather embarrassed. ‘I have sent after him; he says he’ll come’. She is talking about Cesario and Malvolio.
Whilst Olivia is contemplating her situation Malvolio arrives, and we see him for the first time as his reformed self. This is not a good time for Olivia to deal with such a situation, but Malvolio is already into his new happy entertaining act. ‘Does he rave? ‘ enquires Olivia, only half interested. When Maria says ‘He does nothing but smile’ it just shows how unsuitable he is for Olivia to discuss with such a matter.
The sadness which Olivia continually refers to incidentally, is the sadness brought about by her unrequited love for Cesario. While trying to explain his state of mind and dress without giving the game away, Malvolio quotes the letter trying to provoke some positive recognition from his love, but this little speech only adds to Olivia’s view that he is out of his whits. ‘Not black in mind, though yellow in my legs’ Malvolio informs his audience merrily as he is pleased with his yellow legs hoping that Olivia may admire them.
Olivia then begins to lose interest and says ‘wilt thou go to bed’ now treating him as ill. Malvolio takes this comment totally the wrong way, and assumes that she wants to go to bed with him, while just a simple misunderstanding, Malvolio must be thinking that things are looking up for him, and that she does love him after all. ‘At your request (Maria)? Yes, nightingales answer daws’ Malvolio says when Maria asks how he is.
By this he means that he is the nightingale and Maria, in whom he is uninterested, is the daw (an ugly scavenger), in other words this is a very derogatory thing to say to her, in order to shut her up. Maria responds haughtily ‘why appear with this ridiculous boldness’ but Malvolio is not concerned with her scathing comments. Soon Olivia begins to lose patience, ‘heaven restore thee! ‘ and meaning to put her straight Malvolio reminds her for whom these efforts are being spent with ‘Remember who commanded thy yellow stockings’.
Where both these characters not so preoccupied with their own objectives then I think that they would quite quickly have realized that something was amiss, and the plot for mischief would have been uncovered, but cleverly everyone is very taxed by their respective anxieties; Malvolio with his odd courtship methods, and Olivia with embarrassment. Things are about to come to a head after: Malvolio: ‘Remember who commanded thy yellow stockings’ Olivia: ‘Thy yellow stockings’? Malvolio: ‘And wished to see thee cross-gartered. ‘ Olivia: ‘Cross gartered’?
Malvolio: ‘Go to, thou art made, if thou desirest to be so’ Olivia: ‘Am I made’? Malvolio: ‘If not let me see thee a servant still. ‘ Olivia: ‘Why, this is very midsummer madness’ But alas then a servant enters and disrupts the mental flow of things, and the farce continues. Also it is a very strange thing for Olivia to say ‘midsummer madness’ as it is totally the opposite, it is after all the twelfth night! This may show how flustered she is. When she has no choice but to leave the Malvolio situation, she says to Maria ‘let… y people have special care of him’.
This show her like and respect for Malvolio, and that she cares for him even in his madness, after all he has been a good servant for her for a long time. In Malvolios following speech much irony and humor on Shakespeare’s part are to be found. ‘She incites me to that in the letter’. By this Malvolio shows how he thinks that despite what has just been said she does love him, and that what she is doing ‘concurs directly with the letter’ and of course this thinking could hardly be further from the truth.
When he says ‘I have limed her’ it is very ironic as he is in fact the one who has been unknowingly trapped, not her. Getting slightly subconsciously desperate perhaps, he starts to pick apart her very speech in order to support his claims that she loves him: “let this fellow (friend) be looked to’. ‘Fellow’ not ‘Malvolio’, nor after my degree but ‘fellow”. There are no pauses in this speech; Malvolio is in a state spontaneousity, overwhelmed by his supposed luck. ‘Nothing… can come between me and the full prospect of me and the full prospect of my hopes’.
At this point we know that this story is going to have a very sad ending for our pompous friend, and things start to get a little less funny. Sir Toby appears as a sort of friend to take charge of the situation, suggesting that devils are at work on Malvolios mind, but his attentions are unwanted; ‘Go off, I discard you’ is the response he gets from Malvolio. Malvolio clearly can’t be bothered with other people, for he has far more important things to think about, such as the upcoming courting of his love, and so he tries to quickly discard his kinsmen.
Maria now being listened to perhaps is very hostile, and tries get him further into trouble ‘how hollow the fiend speaks’ again mentioning devilry. But Sir Toby is unchanged in his approach and replies ‘deal gently with him’ which shows how he also cares for his well-being. Malvolio doesn’t realize what implications these goings on can have on him, and make little objection when Fabian suggests that a urine sample be taken for diagnosis.
Malvolio is a little roused when Sir Toby addresses him as a ‘chuck’, i. . a chicken. ‘Go hang yourselves all’ Malvolio pompously states when he begins to feel a little outnumbered and uncomfortable. ‘His very genius hath taken the infection of the device’ I think that by this Sir Toby means that Malvolios brain has been taken over with love for Olivia, and the result is madness. Now its Sir Toby’s turn to be pompous as he arrogantly tries to take over Gods role: ‘we may carry it thus, for our pleasure and his penance’ for a penance is invalid unless the person wants to repent.
At the last word from Malvolio in this scene, he is a little disgruntled by all the talk of madness, but is still on a high from Olivia’s supposed affections, and so is yet far from realizing what is soon to befall him. Where he not so indignant, pompous and stubborn to Sir Toby then perhaps things wouldn’t have worked out so badly for him, but then thing wouldn’t have ended up so entertaining either.