Malvolio's Revolve

The joy of Shakespeare is that even if you see the same play dozens of times, each production is its own, unique experience.

Having said that… there are certain bits of stage business that often crop up in numerous productions. One of my favorites is Malvolio’s revolve.

Just for fun, here are various examples of Malvolio’s revolve that have been captured on film:


Alec Guinness in the 1970 ITV Saturday Night Theatre production does the classic dubious, self-conscious revolve, although Sir Toby and his gang are safely behind a hedge and don’t have to hide.


Nicholas Pennell in this 1986 filmed production at the Stratford Festival of Canada executes a confident and rarely-seen double revolve, forcing his peanut gallery to duck out of sight.


In this filmed version of the Renaissance Theatre Company’s 1988 production, Richard Briers executes a very slow , dubious revolve that is notable for being counter-clockwise. In my experience, most Malvolios revolve in a clockwise direction.


Finally, this Stratford Festival production milks the revolve for all it’s worth, with Tom Rooney’s Malvolio turning at just the right speed to miss Sir Andrew’s desperate dash across the stage.

Some productions choose to have Malvolio turn the letter around, rather than himself. Others either blow past the line without acknowledging its comedic gag potential, or cut it in its entirety. All are valid choices, but honestly… why look a gift gag in the mouth?