The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1822 Tuesday, 3 September 2002
From: Don Bloom <
Date: Wednesday, 28 Aug 2002 15:02:36 -0500
Subject: 13.1758 Re: Her C's . . .
Comment: Re: SHK 13.1758 Re: Her C's . . .
Michael Shurgot writes (some time ago)
>Malvolio, I would argue, sees the absurdity and depravity of
>those he serves (i.e., Olivia), and her ilk, and despises them for their
>obviously fatuous waste of time and talent.
Not to me. The Malvolio I see sees nothing except Malvolio and the lure
of wealth and station. I see no indication that Shakespeare saw or shows
us an "obviously fatuous waste of time and talent," if I understand the
phrase aright. Though MS sees Olivia as a fatuous time-waster, but I'm
not sure why I should. Not without evidence, certainly.
>He is a sycophant, who debases himself in the service of
>those he detests, and such people strike me as cynical about the
>possibility of happiness or even the possibility of honest human
>emotional experiences and responses.
He is certainly a sycophant, but I don't see him detesting Olivia. Where
is the evidence for this? Because some sycophants detest the people they
grovel to doesn't mean that M is one of them.
>indulges himself in the service of this stupid high-brow woman and
>thinks himself thereby elegant and important. Is this not cynical?
What's so stupid about Olivia? Silly, perhaps. Excessive, certainly. But
If we are to regard stupid as synonymous with foolish (which we
shouldn't, but that seems to be the implication), then Malvolio is in
the running for most stupid with Sir Andrew. People are fools when they
have no self-awareness, and, contrary to MS, Malvolio never shows any
indication of seeing himself as he really is. It never occurs to him (as
it does to the wise) that he may be mis-reading the circumstances around
him, that he might be mistaken, that he might be letting vanity, greed
and lust over-power his capacity to reason accurately.
His primary contrast with Sir Andrew is in the matter of pathos, for
there is something pathetic about Sir A, but not about M. He is arrogant
and malicious, as well as self-deceived, and that is why many of us have
never shed one single tear over the brutal practical joke that's played
Again my apologies for taking up an old thread, but I consider the point
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