Malvolio by Maclise, circa 1875
Malvolio by Daniel Maclise, engraved by Robert Staines, from The Works of Shakespeare, circa 1875.
Malvolio is a character from William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. His role in the play is of secondary importance to the main plot, but he does become more involved as the play progresses. He is the steward to Countess Olivia. His character is stiff, conservative, and grave. However, through the antics of Maria and Sir Toby it is also revealed that Malvolio is highly ambitious. He wishes to rise above the the rank of servant by marrying Olivia and becoming a count. He is tricked into believing that Olivia loves him by Maria who forges a note to him in her Lady's hand. After reading the letter, Malvolio adopts the suggested behaviors contained within it, believing that they will please Olivia. However the radical change in behavior only makes her think he has gone mad. When the rouse is revealed he angrily storms off stage swearing he'll get revenge on the others for their trick.
In this print we see Olivia and Maria watching Malvolio as he tries to make himself agreeable to the Countess. He is wearing the yellow stockings and crossed garters which were mentioned in the false note as being agreeable to Olivia. The seated countess shrinks back from him and is alarmed by such an abrupt change in character. Maria stands behind her trying to disguise her amusement as Malvolio makes a fool of himself.
Daniel Maclise (1806-1870) was the son of a Scottish soldier turned cobbler. Though he received only a basic education in Cork, he aspired to be an artist. After working two years at Newenham's Bank, he enrolled in the Cork School of Art. In 1825 he drew a portrait of Sir Walter Scott which brought him considerable notice. He became sought after for his portraits and in 1827 had saved enough money to move to London. The next year he enrolled in the Royal Academy. Maclise was elected an Associate of the Academy in 1832 and he became a full member in 1840. He had a prosperous career and made many influential friends. His work spanned a number of genres and included many historical and literary subjects. During the 1830s he contributed to Fraser's Magazine and illustrated several of Dickens' Christmas pieces. Many consider his greatest work to be The Meeting of Wellington and Blucher and its pendant piece The Death of Nelson located in Westminster Palace.
- Naomi Bean