Why does Shakespeare give Malvolio an ambiguous ending in Twelfth Night?
Malvolio's place in Twelfth Night is fascinating because he does not seem to entirely fit into the foolish prig antagonist character type allotted to him. Even though we are supposed to root against him, he becomes strangely sympathetic in his indignities. I would say his ambiguous ending is part of the play's subversive nature, since the ending as a whole is rather weird even though it adheres to romantic comedy conventions on the surface. After all, Orsino declares his love for Viola even though he's only just gotten over Olivia and even though he's only known her to be a woman for a short time. He also continues to call her by her male persona's name, which opens up a whole lot of questions as to why he might be in love with her.
By the end, Malvolio is one of two outright unhappy characters in the play (the other is Antonio, who sacrifices himself for Sebastian, a character he has almost romantic levels of affection for). Throughout Twelfth Night , there has been a strain of melancholy amidst...
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