My abiding love for Scrabble hasn’t always exactly translated into useful life skills. But when I started thinking about the names in Twelfth Night, all of a sudden, all that agonizing over anagrams finally paid off!
Check it out:
All of these names have the letters “Viola” in them!
If one thinks of Olivia as standing in between Malvolio and Viola– which she arguably is, since Olivia is the object of Malvolio’s repressed love, and Viola (as Cesario) is the object of Olivia’s love, this suggests a weird sort of Scrabble math equation:
Viola = Olivia without the i
Malvolio= Olivia without the i, plus the m-o-l
It’s fascinating to me that both of the characters that are in social status flux lack the extra i in their names that Olivia has, and I think it could signify their loss of identity, in a sense. The significance of Olivia and Viola having near-identical names and dead or thought-to-be dead brothers is also fascinating to me.
Olivia’s attraction to Viola, perhaps, hints at their underlying similarities– despite the fact that Viola is dressed as a man and performing a lower social status. Malvolio, meanwhile, unsuccessfully tries to break out of his social status and woo Olivia– but even the letters in his name speak to his differentness.