William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview

Malvolio and Class Ideology
in Twelfth Night

Elliot Krieger


“THE MORALITY OF INDULGENCE”

In 1959 C. L. Barber’s book Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy and John Hollander’s article “Twelfth Night and the Morality of Indulgence” challenged, with similar arguments, Morris P. Tilley’s long-accepted thesis that Twelfth Night advocates a mean between extremes. Tilley saw Twelfth Night as “a philosophical defense of a moderate indulgence in pleasure, in opposition on the one hand to an extreme hostility to pleasure and on the other hand to an extreme self-indulgence.” Hollander reacted against the entire tendency to place Twelfth Night, to find a moral “position” for the play. Hollander argued that in Twelfth Night Shakespeare substituted “what one might call a moral process for a moral system,” that the “essential action” of this moral process is

to so surfeit the Appetite upon excess that it “may sicken and so
die.” It is the Appetite, not the whole Self, however, which is
surfeited: the Self will emerge at the conclusion of the action
from where it has been hidden. The movement of the play is
toward this emergence of humanity from behind a mask of
comic type.

This “action,” according to Hollander, ensures that Orsino, “embodying the overpowering appetite for romantic love,” Olivia, “despite herself, a private glutton,” and Sir Toby, with his “huge stomach for food and

From A Marxist Study of Shakespeare’s Comedies. © 1979 by Elliot Krieger. Barnes & Noble, 1979.

-19-

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William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Editor’s Note vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Shakespeare’s Many Sorts of Music 7
  • Malvolio and Class Ideology in Twelfth Night 19
  • Nature’s Bias 27
  • Choosing the Right Mate in Twelfth Night 41
  • Plays and Playing in Twelfth Night 47
  • The Principle of Recompense in Twelfth Night 61
  • Language, Theme, and Character in Twelfth Night 75
  • The Orchestration of Twelfth Night - The Rhythm of Restraint and Release 87
  • Shakespeare’s Realism- Viola 109
  • Shakespeare’s Poetical Character in Twelfth Night 129
  • Chronology 147
  • Contributors 149
  • Bibliography 151
  • Acknowledgments 155
  • Index 157
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