Kaitlin has a BA in political science and extensive experience working in the business world as Director of Marketing and Business Development at a financial advice firm.
Way Too Far
Do you and your friends like to play jokes on each other or other people? Everyone gets a good laugh, and sometimes you feel that people deserve those mean tricks, especially if they are guilty of treating you and your friends like dirt. However, sometimes those jokes go way too far. You end up really upsetting someone, and now it's you who feels guilty - even though that person may have really treated you badly before. Now it's you who looks like the jerk.
This is the situation in which Olivia's uncle, Sir Toby, and her lady-in-waiting Maria find themselves in act 4, scene 2 of William Shakespeare's comedic play, Twelfth Night. Despite the fact that Malvolio, Olivia's haughty steward, has been a huge pain, Sir Toby knows that if Olivia finds out the lengths this prank has reached his whole crew, including Maria, Olivia's suitor Sir Andrew, and Feste the clown, are all in big trouble. Meanwhile, Malvolio is starting to think that he might just be crazy.
Maria, Feste the clown, Sir Toby, and Sir Andrew are loving their trick on Malvolio. Not only did they get him to wear crazy clothing, smile crazily, and act like a loon in general, they have now confined him to a dark, windowless room. To make matters worse, Feste the clown is impersonating a fictional priest named Sir Topas and speaking with Malvolio.
When Malvolio begs Sir Topas to let him out of the dark room, the fake priest teases him by saying that the room is full of windows like barricades that shine like ebony, so he must obviously be crazy. Malvolio denies that he is actually crazy, and Feste as the wily priest asks him ridiculous questions to try and prove his sanity, or lack thereof. At this point, you have to feel rather sorry for Malvolio.
Meanwhile, Sir Toby and Maria, while still having fun, know that this prank has dragged on long enough, and are getting rather bored. Sir Toby also astutely realizes that if his niece Olivia finds out what the group has been up to, she is going to be ticked off. Add that to her unhappiness about his and Sir Andrew's already drunken shenanigans, and he may soon find himself out of his cushy digs at the house that Olivia owns. With this in mind, Feste says that he will get Malvolio writing implements and paper to write to Olivia for his release.
We see character development in this act on the part of Sir Toby and Maria. While they were previously content with seeking revenge on Malvolio for his snobby behavior, the two (especially Sir Toby) realize that this could easily backfire on them, particularly in light of their previous debauchery. They show some compassion towards Malvolio towards the end of the act. Whether or not this is to save their own skins or actual remorse for the lengths this prank has gone to remains to be seen.
The audience is also allowed to feel something for Malvolio that we haven't felt before: pity. He has made a fool of himself in front of the woman he loves, and now he has been locked up and accused of being crazy, by someone he thinks is a priest no less! He is being messed with, and though everyone was previously rooting for the pranksters, this now seems slightly unfair. Thankfully, the other characters are starting to see this, and may let him attempt to dig himself out of the situation by writing to Olivia.
In act 4, scene 2 of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night the pranking of Malvolio continues and is ramped up to new heights. He is imprisoned in a dark room and questioned by a fake priest played by Feste the clown. Sir Toby and Maria start to realize that this joke has gone on too long and start to consider their options.
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