“Oh, you are sick of self-love, Malvolio, and taste with a distempered appetite.” [1.5.87-88]
Olivia gets it right. Malvolio is really into himself, and it ends up costing him the dignity he tries so hard to uphold. When Maria plants the letter for him to read, he falls into the trap by assuming it addresses himself:
“‘M.O.A.I.’ This simulation is not as the former. And yet, to crush this a little, it would bow to me, for every one of these letters are in my name.” [2.5.136-138]
Even the subtleties in his language suggest his narcissism, for instance, how the letters “bow to him.” He goes on to ironically say he will withhold his biased assumption that the letter is to him, but states that the facts indeed point that direction:
“I do not now fool myself, to let imagination jade me; for every reason excites to this, that my lady loves me.” [2.5.160-162]
This trick would only work on someone as self-infatuated as Malvolio.
Tags: Twelfth Night