Twelfth Night Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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How is madness used as a theme in "Twelfth Night"?

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Keri Sadler eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Malvolio should probably be the starting point for any exploration of madness within the play. The sub-plot of the play and the 'letter trick' are designed by Toby and Maria to make Olivia think Malvolio is mad: prancing around, blowing kisses, in his yellow stockings, it seems a good diagnosis. 'This is very midsummer madness', Olivia says in the scene.

Yet Malvolio is NOT mad - but in love with Olivia. Olivia says herself in a later scene 'I am as mad as he [Malvolio] if sad and merry madness equal be'. Olivia, of course, in love with 'Cesario' (actually a girl, Viola , in disguise) is, like Malvolio, fooled into falling in love, which explains her hugely unusual behaviour towards Cesario, who is,...

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Reuben Lindsey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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