Social Amibition is the Stepping Stone to Humilliation in Shakespeare's Twefth Night

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In William Shakespeare’s romantic comedy of Twelfth Night, Malvolio’s, Sebastian’s and Sir Andrew’s greed for power and status, mirror the theme that being socially ambitious makes people an easy target for mockery and embarrassment. In the play, Malvolio desperately tries to win Olivia’s heart, falling under Maria’s trap. Sebastian proves his shallow and ambiguous self when he agrees to wed a complete stranger for wealth, and Sir Andrew vainly tries to prove his worth and nobleness to his fellow upper classmen, turning himself into a laughing stock. These three characters’ foolish actions create humor in the play as well as preach us that social ambition is the stepping stone for humiliation. Malvolio, head steward of Olivia’s household is an arrogant and proud man, who evokes distaste but also pity from the audience. Maria and company craft a masterful trap into which Malvolio walks right into; they trick him into believing that the lady Olivia loves him and wishes him to prove his love for her through a series of actions. Not only does he not doubt this for a second, but he eagerly agrees to fulfill all of the embarrassing things he has been set up to do: “I do not now fool/ myself, to let my imagination jade me; for every reason/ excites to this, that my lady loves me” [5.2.153-155]. Malvolio’s declaration confirms that he is completely blinded by the thought of him being a count and imagining himself bossing servants around and being showered with wealth that he

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