William Shakespeare

Puritans

When Elizabeth made it compulsory to attend Protestant Church of England services, Catholics weren’t the only religious group to refuse. A small but influential group known as the Puritans believed that Elizabeth’s Church of England was not Protestant enough. The Puritans disapproved of many things in Elizabethan society, and one of the things they hated most was the theater. They regarded the convention of boy actors playing women’s roles as immoral, and they disliked all forms of entertainment that distracted people from worshipping God. Unsurprisingly, Elizabethan playwrights frequently made fun of Puritans. Shakespeare’s most famous Puritan character is Malvolio in Twelfth Night . Shakespeare portrays Malvolio as a killjoy and a hypocrite with social-climbing ambitions. However, Shakespeare also shows sympathy for Malvolio’s point of view. Throughout the play, Malvolio is in conflict with Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Shakespeare portrays these characters as drunken, selfish and irresponsible. Although we enjoy watching them, we can understand why Malvolio wants to put an end to their fun.