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In the play Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, Maria serves the role as housemaid for Olivia’s palace, and simultaneously has a close and acquainted relationship with her, which is unusual for her position in other kingdoms. Both Maria and Malvolio, her steward, are consistent with their motivations, as they are built off of Olivia’s orders and grievances she has with the rest of the people who reside within her kingdom. To maintain the familiarity with Olivia, she asserts dominance of Olivia’s rule through herself, which gives her a boost of authority and recognition, which most traditional housemaids do not get. This obviously conflicts with Malvolio’s self-interests as he views himself the most powerful authority offered under the reign of Olivia. Throughout the show, the feud of power between Malvolio and Maria is entirely present, and because Malvolio is very egotistical, he has lost acquaintanceship with everyone in Illyria, except with the princess. His desires to woo her are all because he lacks admiration and approval from everyone else. In this, she proves herself to have a power hungry attitude under the surface of her persona by conspiring with Olivia’s uncle, Sir Toby, to suppress his position to benefit her authority in the palace. While also for Sir Toby, he would remain involved in the dynasty instead of being evicted for his drunkenness under the conspired plan. The plan was manipulative and evil, and completely intentional for Maria’s gain. It was the goal of Maria’s to woo over Sir Toby in order for the plan to go to accordance and be able to get away with it if she was caught. Marrying into the royal family would be just enough to rule over Malvolio and have actual control over the actions, proving her prank to be more than just a joke; it was a well thought scheme that would infuriate Malvolio and please her appetite for dominion. The cruel prank that was taken too far, despite all of the annoyance Malvolio placed them under, proves Maria to be the true villain in this instance, rather than the steward who never during the show used his position to manipulate the outcome of his authority. Her implied ego and motivation to be second in command among the powers in Illyria is a subplot of its own, and in its very nature has a direct effect of the relationships that take place in Illyria.To show proof of the close connection Maria has with Olivia, she explains that she is in no capacity to court a man until she has gotten over the loss of her father and brother, and Sir Andrew is of no exception, especially because he is just as much of a drunkard as Olivia’s uncle Twelfth Night 1.3.14-43. Maria personally does not like Andrew either, and would not be willing to betray her lady’s trust at the risk of losing her chance of earning dominance. However, she does not quickly liquidate the issue of Sir Andrew’s efforts of wooing Olivia in order to retain familiarity with Sir Toby 1.3.46-59. In Act 1, Scene 3, she could have gotten rid of Sir Aguecheek immediately as she has that kind of authority throughout the play. But destroying the potential efforts of Sir Andrew would also ruin the chance of her gaining influence in Illyria’s ruling family. She does mock Sir Andrew 1.3.66-79, but continuously mocks Malvolio too, just like the rest of the castle 2.3.131-152. Empathizing with the power struggles the rest of the castle faces, she establishes her ability to connect and conspire, and ultimately win in the challenge for royal leverage 2.3.154-160. The plan gave a benefit to everyone involved: Sir Andrew had easier access to Olivia, if the servant was not there to stop him and Sir Toby; Sir Toby’s drunkenness would no longer be reported to Olivia if the snitch was no longer in the castle 2.3.73-75; and Maria herself would get a boost of influence by marrying Toby, as the plan did leave him awed 2.3.177, and lowering Malvolio’s status.In paragraph 5 of  “Sportful Malice”, Marguerite Tassi argues as well that Malvolio’s self centered position and constant harshness on the entire castle is vered by all the characters involved in the prank, and like Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing, positions of power are highly desired, so Malvolio’s urge to woo Olivia is justified by the common trends in autocracies. The examples of Feste being mocked when confronted by Olivia and threatening to spoil the joy of Sirs Andrew and Toby by reporting their drunkenness to the queen are openly apparent to the viewership, and allows the audience to understand Maria’s motives for pulling the prank. Arguably, while she develops her plot to gull Malvolio, she realizes the power within it, as he tries to court someone of royalty. She knows how desperately Malvolio craves power, and seeks to undermine it. But while conspiring, she realizes how that places her in the line of power, and also she connects the dots to how she could go one step further and advance herself above Malvolio before he can even try by marrying Sir Toby. “If Malvolio’s transgressions lies, in part, in his wish to cross lines through marriage–to become Count Malvolio– so, too, does Maria’s”. The author of the article labels the punishment for Malvolio craving power as “ironic”. However Maria’s true character is not just an angered maid; she has an unspoken ego of her own and knows through her actions what will come of her bait for gulling him. “…Malvolio and Maria pursue twinned plots of social ambition, which leads to a pair of plots (one carried out, the other threatened) centered on revenge” (Tassi). She continues by explaining that the subplot of marriage between the maid and the queen’s uncle has a direct effect on the comedic and vengeful genres, which is key to the development of entertaining satire and relationships between the other couples in the show. To add as well, the underground subplot also brings out the true ego of Maria. The reason why she relies on the close relationship with Olivia for her position is because of how the aristocracy works. Her public image is directly affected by her position in the castle. Being Lady Maria and not Maria the Courtier would give her a significant boost in publicity, which fuels her ego (Tassi 5).To be second in command has its benefits, and to gull the very “affectioned ass that cons state without book and utters it by great swaths” to discontinue the annoyance in Illyria, while also strengthening bonds with the other members of the castle, guarantees a stronger position in the aristocratic dominion that governs the kingdom. The motivation for Maria, though it be hidden at first to the audience, is present and clear with further analysis, and is absolutely intentional for character development and comedic purposes, and also adds to the genre of vengeance and selfishness in the play. With evidence, it proves that Maria is the true evil figure in the show, rather than Malvolio because of her premeditated notions to build a connection of influence for herself, and went out of her way to break Malvolio’s connection to power to lift her public image. Let it be known that Malvolio was indeed egotistical. But after the gulling of him, it brought attention to the devilish and manipulative features within Maria’s persona, breaking the belief of her being the heroine of the show for Malvolio’s cruelty to the rest of the characters involved in Olivia’s castle.Works CitedTassi, Marguerite. “‘Sportful Malice,’ or What Maria Wills: Revenge Comedy in Twelfth Night.” Shakespearean Criticism, edited by Michelle Lee, vol. 134, Gale, 2010. Literature Resource Center, http://bit.ly/2lzVz0x. Accessed 1 Jan. 2018. Originally published in Upstart Crow, vol. 27, 2007, pp. 32-50.

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