Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare- How do Sir Toby and Malvolio represent two opposing principles in the play 'Twelfth Night'?

Essay by cheskiesHigh School, 12th gradeA, May 2008

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What do you find interesting about the way the characters Sir Toby and Malvolio represent two opposing principles in the play 'Twelfth Night'? Comment on the methods used by Shakespeare to present these ideasSuch characters as Sir Toby and Malvolio have a representative function in 'Twelfth Night'. While on one hand Shakespeare creates Sir Toby as the embodiment of the carnival spirit of excess and self-gratification, the self-righteous and haughty Malvolio acts as a sober reminder to the more decadent characters that the world should be a serious place. These dour and fun despising qualities of Malvolio earn him the enmity of the drunken and riotous Sir Toby who dislikes him enough to engineer his downfall. The contempt that Sir Toby and Malvolio hold for each other demonstrates how different Malvolio's 'puritan' austerity is to Sir Toby's values of merrymaking and profligacy.

In order to emphasise the characters' differences, they are often shown in productions to be physically opposed types.

Toby would be fat from indulgence and Malvolio thin and pinched. The extent of their differences suggests the magnitude of their hatred that is very much responsible for the major subplot of the play where Sir Toby and his fellow plotters gull Malvolio.

Sir Toby and Malvolio are only comparable in that their behaviours are both extreme and that they share a similar hatred for one another. Their dislike for one another is demonstrated by Malvolio and Sir Toby only talking to each other in prose, which is characteristic for passages of petty bickering and course or comic interchange. While they may be contrasting, for instance in almost every scene Sir Toby is drunk and Malvolio is disapproving and tells him 'to separate yourself and your misdemeanours,' they still both fulfil their representative roles by behaving in ways...