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This paper’s main focus is to explain the tragic subplot in a festive comedy called Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. The thesis for this paper is “There are several ways, including Aristotle’s theory on comedies and tragedies, and several critics who show how Malvolio is a tragic hero with a tragic journey in a festive comedy” (Spires 1). It does this by first explaining what a comedy is according to Aristotle’s book Poetics. Then this paper goes on to explain what tragedy is according to Aristotle. It shows how Malvolio fits more into the tragic subplot than that of a comedic one. This paper uses the first interaction with Olivia and Feste seen with Malvolio to explain a few of his personality traits. Then it goes into several of his bad personality traits and how this makes Malvolio seem more human. In some ways Malvolio seems more human than the other characters. Even with all of his flaws Malvolio’s main tragic flaw is pride. His pride is why he has such a downfall. One critic named MichaelHays does try to redeem Malvolio and show how it is not easy. Another critic seems to think that Malvolio was picked on because Malvolio is a purist. This critic also seems to think that Maria was actually doing Malvolio a favor and helping him get back into heaven by performing an excommunication on Malvolio. This paper explores how Malvolio’s downfall all begins with reading the letter and his misinterpretation of it. How the letter never actually said his name and Malvolio wanted to be Olivia’s husband that he just read himself into the letter. This paper also goes into why Maria attacks Malvolio so viscously. Another critic named Amanbayeva states that this tragic plot is supposed to bring humor and teach a lesson at the same time. There may be some humor in the situation, but it evokes more pity than humor. Of course in the twentieth century, someone wrote a play where Malvolio gets long waited revenge.


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  • Subject
    • English

  • Institution
    • Dahlonega

  • Event location
    • MPR 3

  • Event date
    • 22 March 2019

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      Dr. Jennifer Gilstrap