Charles Lamb and John Dover on the Character of Malvolio

Kamini   Khan

Charles   Lamb and   John   Dover on the character of Malvolio:

Lamb conveys Malvolio as a tragic character who not should not be

regarded or portrayed as comic or contemptible.   Because “his pride

was inherent and native to the man…sort of a Puritan” Lamb believed

that Malvolio’s ridicule was partially due to his incorrigible weakness

and the others’ cruelty in taking advantage of him within a situation

that encouraged him to indulge in fantasies of marrying Olivia.

His nature of a sober and self-respecting temperament did not make

him intolerable but he was out of place in the Illyrian world. He

occupied a serious position of self imposed dignity as master of the

Household and thought of himself as possessing immeasurable

Qualities. Hence the air of importance that he carried.   Within the

given circumstances and mental state of his mistress, Olivia, Malvolio

would be justified in his efforts to keep the balance and ‘honor’ of

the family.

Lamb regarded the scene of Malvolio’s illusion (resulting from

mischief of Maria, Sir Toby and others) as a pitiable defect of his

nature that allowed him to be receptive to “such frenzies”.

While admiring and comparing his reaction to the Duke’s,

presuming he (the Duke) experienced Malvolio’s delusions of the

imaginary love of Olivia, Lamb remarked who wouldn’t be, including

the Duke, infected with the illusion “to live but a day in the conceit

of such a lady’s love as Olivia?“ There is no room for laughter,

according to Lamb.

View shared by both critics - Malvolio is   an unlikeable character

who is dignified and honest does not deserve to be falsely imprisoned

and taunted as a madman.

His self love and ambition contributed to his downfall. These flaws

attributed to his ridicule by allowing others to enter and abuse the

defects of his inherent qualities.

In what respect do the two critics differ on the character of Malvolio....