In Act 2, Malvolio appears to be arrogant, puritanical and malicious. In this scene, he tries to stop Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Feste from being so noisy in the middle of the night. When Malvolio enters the stage in Act 2 Scene 3, the first thing he does is asking a series of five rhetorical questions. This is quite a powerful blaming technique, suggesting that he thinks highly of himself and believes that he has the right to tell Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Feste off, even though the social status of Sir Toby is higher than his. He asked them, “Have you no wit, manners, nor honesty? ‘Wit’, ‘manners’, and ‘honesty’ refer to ‘judgement’, ‘breeding’ and ‘decency’ respectively.
The fact that he asks them this question rhetorically suggest that he thinks that he has better judgement, breeding and decency than them, emphasizing his arrogant nature, which can be quite irritating to the audience, especially when they know that Sir Toby and Feste are likely to be cleverer than him. Moreover, he thinks he has better ‘breeding’ than them, as they are not behaving themselves properly; however, his rudeness and pomposity prove that his ‘breeding’ is just as bad as Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Feste’s.
The first rhetorical question he asks is, “My masters, are you mad? ” ‘Mad’ suggests that what they are doing is absolutely foolish and unacceptable, especially when his tone is so serious, but in fact, they are only singing and drinking, which are not really ‘madness’, even though they are not behaving properly. He then describes their amusement as ‘disorder’ and ‘misdemeanour’, which are exaggerations again, as they refer to serious misbehaviours. This shows that Malvolio is puritanical as puritans believe in a lifestyle without any indulgence at all and they see any wrongdoing ten times worse than it really is.
Sir Toby rightly describes him as ‘virtuous’ in this scene, which in Elizabethan times, means strictly religious and narrow-minded. When it is clear that Sir Toby has absolutely no respect for him, he threatens him by telling him that Olivia will kick them out of her house if they do not behave. His tone is serious and malicious, demonstrating his malicious character. Moreover, even though Olivia might have said it, the way he says it is likely to be a lot more malicious than what Olivia said, seeing that he has done that in the previous scene, when he twists Olivia’s lovely message to Viola into something really rude.
The fact that he speaks to Sir Toby as if he is representing Olivia again demonstrates his arrogant nature, seeing that he is only her servant while Sir Toby is her kinsman. After being insulted and humiliated by Sir Toby and Feste, Malvolio leaves in anger. Before he leaves, he leaves a thinly-veiled threat behind by telling them that he is going to tell Olivia what has happened. This again shows that he is malicious and he seeks revenge on people who do not treat him with respect. In conclusion, Malvolio is presented as an arrogant, puritanical and malicious character in this part of the play.