Moulding Malvolio into Modern Adaptations of “Twelfth Night”

Lisa-Jane Roberts


This paper explores how target-audience expectations and generic limitations on modern, mass-culture adaptations of Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night mould the characterization of his officious steward Malvolio, and dictate the degree of centrality that his subplot holds in each different version. A trans-generic application of Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan’s work on characterization will expose how the character of Malvolio is constructed and presented, first in the original play and then in three modern adaptations of Twelfth Night into different popular genres. The works selected for contrastive analysis with the original play each represent different generic fields found on today’s mass-culture market – romance fiction, teen cinema and the web-comic. Respectively, they are: The Madness of Love, a contemporary romance novel by Katharine Davies, published in 2005; She’s the Man, a Hollywood teen film directed by Andy Fickman in 2006; and a web-comic retelling of Twelfth Night by Mya Lixian Gosling, which was published on her website Good Tickle-Brain Shakespeare in 2014.


Malvolio; characterization; popular culture; adaptations; audience expectation; “Twelfth Night”


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© Universidad de La Rioja, 2013

ISSN 1576-6357

EISSN 1695-4300