The fun of the play is capped by the presence of a particularly clever
fool whose function of making every one the butt of his wit makes one
of the least important of the characters represent the special
drollery of the whole play. The only grudge he bears is against the
man who does not appreciate fun--who calls him a 'barren rascal.'
Describe the passages in which he particularly shines. Of the minor
characters the fool is minor only through his station and unimportance
in the plot; he really occupies much space in the play and in fact
pervades it. How is Antonio connected with the plot? What traits of
his does the play bring out? Is his fondness for Sebastian unnatural?
How is he concerned in the foolery of the play? Is he necessary to the
plot? As the fool represents the merry-making spirit of the play, so
Malvolio stands for the dupes of it. Does any one sympathize with him?
Who shows the clearest understanding of his faults? (I. v.). What
signs are there in the play of Malvolio's being a Puritan? Is there
any evidence against it? Is Maria right, for example, when she says,
'The Devil a Puritan he is or anything constantly but a time-server,'
etc.? That the character of Malvolio was generally taken on the stage
as a portrait of the Puritan, and that Shakespeare must have known it
would borrow some of its popularity from being so considered, seems
not to be denied; on the other hand, it may hardly seem to be proven
that Shakespeare thought he was drawing a genuine Puritan. Show
Malvolio's character, his connection with the other characters and
with the plot and the foolery of the play, and state the argument for
and against Shakespeare's meaning to make fun of him as a Puritan.