The Folly, Madness, and Foolishness of "Twelfth Night"

Catherine Keable and Katie Antoniello

Most Foolish Characters

Sir Toby and Sir Andrew-

To  begin, both men are drunk throughout the entire play so their characters are never taken seriously and they don't take anything seriously themselves. Their most foolish act occurred after Malvolio requested them to quiet down. This lead the men to construct a plan to get back at Malvolio. They asked Maria to write a fake love letter from Olivia addressed to Malvolio, knowing that Malvolio would follow the ridiculous request from the letter. Another foolish act was locking Malvolio in a dark closet for an extended period of time for their own enjoyment.


When he arrived in Illyria, Olivia requested him to marry her (believing it was Cesario). Upon seeing her face, he agreed only because she was pretty and of noble status. He had never met this fair lady before, meaning he was marrying someone he had no prior knowledge on.


She lead on Duke Orsino in order to have more contact with Cesario. She would have Cesario go back and question Duke in order for Olivia to see Cesario more often.  Instead of requesting to talk to Cesario, she had him do an unnecessary amount of work and go back and froth between Duke and herself just for her convince. Olivia told Cesario that she loves him but Viola said that a women would never had her heart. Then she gave Cesario a locket with her picture in it, even though she knew that Cesario was no longer interested. After Cesario claimed he had no interest in her, Olivia told him to just keep returning to try woo her for Duke. This sent Viola mixed signals for who she actually wanted.

The Official "Fool" Feste

Throughout the play, because of his job as the court jester he appeared to be very foolish, but in reality he was the least foolish of all. Feste acted foolishly on purpose, while all the other characters acted in this manner without knowing their actual stupidity. Feste was the most observant and he was able to speak his mind in situations where others could not. He was able to tell Viola that she should grow  beard because she was very feminine. It was obvious that he was more knowledgeable then any other character was at any point of the play. At the end of the play, he sang a song about the harshness of life proving he understands what growing old and being in love is actually like.

Stupid Love

Do you act stupidly while in love?

According to "Twelfth Night" you do. One example is when Malvolio was overly in love with Olivia so he did all of the crazy requests from "her" letter. Like wearing yellow sock that were cross gartered. He was so blinded by his love that he did not realize that he was being tricked into acting like a fool. Another example is Orsino falling in love with Olivia. He tried to woo her multiple times even though it was not working, he would not stop trying. He even changed servants just because he felt as though one was better than the other at wooing Olivia for himself. The third was Viola who was so in love with Orsino that she did whatever he asked of her, which included her trying to make another women fall in love with him. The last was Olivia falling in love with Cesario just due to Cesario's wooing words. Olivia was so in love that she rushed into marriage and ended up marrying the wrong person.

Malvolio's Punishment

Malvolio is punished by other characters through out the play because he tries to assert his power over others. However he does not hold enough power to tell others what to do. For example, when he told Sir Toby and Sir Andrew to be quite, he did not have the authority so they tried to get back at him by playing tricks on him.

Malvolio's Actions

Some would say that Malvolio acted the most foolish when he was trying to impress his love but in reality he believed he was being practical with the information he was given. He believed that the love letter was real so he only did things from the letter while other characters from the play tried to make up stuff that they believed that their point of affection would enjoy.

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