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Malvolio is one of the most complex and interesting characters in the play Twelfth Night; his intricately planed personalities were designed by Shakespeare to provide enough depth for there still to be many different views of his purpose and true meaning today. The longer you look at his character the more you find; the number of layers to his personality provides a point or thought that everyone can relate to. Its this ability draw everyone inside the play which secured Shakespeare a place in history, and is the reason why we still, hundreds of years after his death, watch his plays.
The context of the play is the circumstances, or events that form the environment within which something exists or takes place. In the case of the Twelfth Night there are a few key circumstances. The first involves Malvolio Olivia's steward and his attitude to life and the way he acts in the play. The audience's reaction to Malvolio depends on how the director portrays him: however, the way Shakespeare wrote him means that we generally dislike him. We don't like spoilsports, though we may be slightly more sympathetic to him than the Elizabethans would have been. The moment we feel the most sorry for him is at the end, when everyone ends up happy except for him and he departs with the very bitter line; "I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you." (Act 5, scene 1)
In his first appearance in Act 1, scene 5, he is portrayed as a serious, uptight and humourless old man. This leads us to the conclusion that he meant to represent the Puritan way of life, so has censorious moral beliefs, especially about self indulgence and sex. For example he only wears white, grey and black a sign of a Puritan.
One of the reasons Shakespeare puts him in the play is that in the time Twelfth Night was written (1601) Puritans were a bit of a joke and were very against the theatre. So the prank on Malvolio was Shakespeare's way of ridiculing them, adding comic relief, and getting...