Malvolio

Definition

Theater

  • The pompous and puritanical steward in charge of the countessOlivia's household in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (1601 - 02).He is said to have been based on Sir William Knollys, First Earlof Banbury (1547 - 1632), who was treasurer of the royal householdof Elizabeth I. Stories were told of him appearing in a nightshirtto reprimand carousing courtiers, and of his inappropriate passionfor Mary Fitton, the queen's maid of honour (who some scholars haveidentified as Shakespeare's 'Dark Lady of the Sonnets'). Knollys eventuallymarried a much younger woman; he died believing that his two sonswere fathered by somebody else and left them out of his will.

    Memorable performances in the role include those of LaurenceOlivier (who, according to John Gielgud, played the part "likea Jewish hairdresser"), Donald Sinden, and the comedian KenDodd.

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