Twelfth Night Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Twelfth Night book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Why does Shakespeare give Malvolio an ambiguous ending in Twelfth Night?

Expert Answers info

Dolly Doyle eNotes educator | Certified Educator


calendarEducator since 2018

write1,219 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

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...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 587 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write13,728 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

check Approved by eNotes Editorial