In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, compare and contrast Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Malvolio.

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Twelfth Night Malvolio is the character who most represents the title of the play. Twelfth Night is a holiday celebrated in Shakespeare's day in England and many other countries, for example Russia. Twelve days after Christmas, it marks the end of the winter season. The Christianized form of the earlier Roman holiday for Saturn, Twelfth Night, like Saturnalia, features jokes and tricks, false beards, jackets turned inside-out and a King and Queen to rule the festival. One tradition in England's celebration  is that the King and Queen lead the festivities by requiring ludicrous behavior or behavior contrary to normal roles (Waverly Fitzgerald). Maria and Sir Toby might be likened to the Queen and King of Twelfth Night festivities as they make Malvolio perform ridiculous tasks and wear his clothing in ridiculous manners, thus enforcing Malvolio's representative role as the emblem of the title. Malvolio's character is pompous, too serious, arrogant, and vain, as a result, he is an antagonist to the other servants in Olivia's household. Olivia says of him:

Oh, you are sick of self-love, Malvolio, and taste
with a distempered appetite.

Sir Andrew Aguecheek is a counterpart to Malvolio and as such is also representative of the title. Sir Andrew is proven to be ridiculous and foolish, perhaps also a little feeble minded as is shown when he insists on thinking "accost" is Maria's surname:

SIR ANDREW: Good Mistress Accost, I desire better acquaintance.

SIR TOBY: 'accost' is front her, board
her, woo her, assail her.

SIR ANDREW: Is that the meaning of 'accost'?

In the ridiculousness of their character traits, Malvolio and Sir Andrew are similar, but there is one very large difference between them. While both are naturally foolish in their own ways, only Malvolio is manipulated into extra foolishness, thus exemplifying the meaning of the title. Sir Andrew does however honor the meaning of the title by his capacity to drink and revel; he also spends money recklessly while trying rather pathetically to woo Olivia. In addition he suffers from self-pity since he says to Sir Toby: "I was adored once too."

Read the study guide:
Twelfth Night

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question