Literary Analysis of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night Essay

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Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a play with themes that parallel the folly of the festival it is named after. The main storyline of the plot plays on this a lot by mixing up the stereotypes around gender that were very present at the time. However, a sub-plot involving secondary characters defines this theme even more. It takes the idea even further by relating servants’ attempts to blur the lines between social classes. Twelfth Night’s Maria and Malvolio both have great aspirations to rise above their social class. However, Maria succeeds where Malvolio fails because of her capability to make use of the satiric ambiance of her mistress’s household to achieve her goals.

To begin this essay, I will provide a brief analysis of the
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In Shakespeare’s play, Malvolio and Maria both wish to do this; one by courting Olivia, and the other by trying to get closer to Sir Toby. The main difference between the two characters is Malvolio’s self-adulation and lust for power in comparison of Maria’s cleverness and her willingness to put her immediate wants aside to ultimately satisfy her craving for a better social standing at a later time. Malvolio’s immediate addiction to power and wish to get revenge on others overcomes any will he could have to play a part to access a higher social status.

While some may think that Malvolio is essentially a moral and just person, this can be disproved by shedding more light on his less-honourable practices, like his abuse of power. Essentially, like it is pointed out even by her mistress (INSERT QUOTE), Malvolio is just an extensively pompous person. Personality-wise, his narcistic and patronizing ways are made to recall those of a nobleman. These traits fit in easily with his character, as he obviously aspires to be part Illyria’s nobility one day (INSERT QUOTE). The essence of Malvolio’s personality is ascertained by Maria when she describes him as a Puritan (INSERT QUOTE). In the Elizabethan era, Puritans were stereotypically associated with being kill-joys and an excessive hatred of theatre.

Maria is one of Twelfth Night’s characters whose superior intellect seemingly clashes with her social standing

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