This picture shows a scene from William Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night. Malvolio works in the household of the rich Countess Olivia. Fed up with his arrogant behaviour, Malvolio’s colleagues trick him into believing that Olivia is in love with him, by forging a letter from her. The letter suggests that if Malvolio shares her feelings, he should show this by wearing yellow stockings, as seen in this painting. It also requests that he smile constantly. Malvolio follows the demands of the letter, and his uncharacteristic behaviour and appearance lead Olivia to believe he is mentally ill.
Gallery label, February 2019
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