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How does Shakespeare present the role of Feste in Twelfth Night?


In William Shakespeare’s funny Twelfth Night the character of Feste is a solitary wit surrounded by fools. His occupation is that of Olivia’s paid fool, which she inherited from her dad, ‘Feste the jester … a fool that the Lady Olivia’s daddy took much pleasure in.’ This long standing relationship might be the reason he seems to have a status higher than that of a servant within the household, and appears to leave and return at will without fear of penalty, ‘Inform me where thou hast been or my lady will hang thee … Let her hang me.

This may also be because of Elizabethan attitudes towards permitted fools, who had gained appeal due to their existence in numerous royal courts. Feste’s palpable intelligence is an essential part of his function, as he uses it to communicate the subtext of Shakespeare’s complicated plot to both the other characters and the audience. It is therefore paradoxical that the fool is so frequently said to be unethical, ‘Y’are a dry fool: I’ll take say goodbye to of you. Besides, you grow dishonest,’ as throughout the play he does nothing however reveal facts.

His cleverness is instantly evident upon his very first look for several different factors. If he were not a fool then he would have no other way of earning money, therefore his choice to ingratiate himself once again into Olivia’s good graces is a wise one, ‘To be turned away, is that not as good as a hanging to you?’ It would likewise be vital for him to be intelligent to play the role of fool, as he is paid for his intense observation camouflaged as amusing remarks. The most apparent testament to Feste’s intelligence however is his ability to control words.

This guarantees he keeps his job in Olivia’s household, as when she requests the fool to be eliminated because he is dry, Feste twists her words around and returns them in the form of a pun, ‘Offer the dry fool a beverage, then is the fool moist?’ His craftiness entertains Olivia, who enables him to remain. His way with words also permits him to voice his opinions on other characters without fear of retribution. Whilst engaged in idle small talk Feste shares his observation of Malvolio and Sir Toby, ‘Sir Toby will be sworn that I am no fox, but he will not pass his word for twopence that you are no fool.

This reveals that although Toby is silly as he can not perceive Feste’s intellect, Malvolio’s idiocy is so obvious that even a fool such as Toby can see it. Feste later declares his belief that Sir Toby is a fool and also shares his view of Sir Andrew. He welcomes the set with the line, ‘Did you never see the picture of We Three?’ The painting shows only 2 fools whilst suggesting that the audience is the third, and this contrast recommends he perceives Toby and Andrew to be fools in addition to himself. It remains in by doing this that he contributes to the underlying theme of deceptiveness that runs through the play.

He intentionally provides himself to others as a mere fool, and regardless of the reality he is clearly a lot more than that, he is so proficient at this ruse that the only character to see through it is Viola, ‘This fellow is wise enough to play the fool, And to do that well, craves a type of wit.’ It might be since he not just accepts his function as a fool but uses it to his advantage, accordingly gaining point of view from this self understanding, that he can vary from the other characters and trick others instead of himself.

Maybe it is due to the fact that Feste’s intellect is so plentiful that he is taken beyond the function of merely a character. Through it he acquires the function of a somewhat omniscient storyteller, infesting both the audience and the other characters with an increased awareness of what is taking place around and within them. This is revealed throughout a conversation with Viola, where as thanks for a coin Feste states, ‘Now Jove, in his next product of hair, send thee a beard.’ This reveals his awareness of her camouflage, both to the audience and to Viola herself.

It likewise shows he must at least be very discerning, to deduce such a thing from just observing the conferences in between Orsino and Viola and Olivia and Viola. The primary method he interacts his puzzling messages however is through tune. The clown sings no fewer than 7 songs throughout the play, and although the other characters see them as nothing more than a convenient source of entertainment, lots of have an underlying foresight far beyond the grasp of a mere jester. Feste sings his first song upon Sir Toby and Sir Andrews ask for a love song.

The first verse seems about Olivia, and shows Feste’s keen perception of the other characters and his exceptional understanding of future events, ‘O mistress mine, where are you roaming?’ This reveals Feste’s knowledge of Olivia’s roaming heart, looking for its true love. ‘O stay and hear, your true enjoys coming.’ This line perfectly foreshadows future events, as Olivia discovers love not whilst searching for it, but by it finding her in the kind of Sebastian. Feste then continues to encapsulate the plays plot within one line of his tune, ‘Journeys end in fans meeting. This suggests that he may be common, as his knowledge is not just of the future, but of the past occasions too. It could nevertheless just be referring to the metaphorical journeys the characters have actually been on in their search for love, not the literal journey Viola and Sebastian have carried out to Illyria. The 2nd verse of his song appears to be resolved to Sir Toby, regarding his so far secret love for Maria.

It shows Feste’s understanding of their resistance towards love, ‘What’s to come is still not sure. Entwined with the advice Feste appears to have actually also interwoven a philosophy for life, ‘Present mirth hath present laughter,’ can be translated as carpe diem, fitting counsel for Sir Toby who needs to act on his love prior to it is far too late, ‘Youth’s a stuff will not withstand.’ Another of Feste’s songs that has more to it than what appears in the beginning glimpse is that which he sings at the Duke’s court for Orsino and Viola. Feste informs the sad tale of a kid that craved love, ‘I am killed be a fair terrible housemaid.’ It is a tune that Viola and Orsino, both struggling with the pain of unrequited love, can relate to.

The tunes ‘reasonable cruel house maid’ for Orsino is Olivia, who understands of his love however does not return it. Viola’s ‘harsh house maid’is Orsino himself, who can not return her love as he does not understand of it and thinks her to be a guy. The one event that does not accept the omniscient representation of Feste is the arrival of Sebastian. Feste appears to truly believe that Sebastian is Cesario, to the level that he ends up being disappointed and turn to sarcasm as a defence,’ your name is not Master Cesario; nor this is not my nose either. This scene recommends that Feste is not as all called he can appear, and is perhaps only a highly perceptive person, a characteristic born of his substantial intelligence. Feste is presented as one of the more developed characters in the play, and his complex character displays in his tormenting of Malvolio. Prior to this Feste’s purpose has been to traverse between the main plot and the subplot (the only character to do so) and though he has actually passively influenced the occasions, he has actually stayed quite an observer rather than an actual participant.

The exception to this is his imitating Sir Topas to distress Malvolio, ‘I prithee put on this gown, and this beard; make him believe thou art Sir Topas the curate,’ although his reasons for accepting Maria’s demand are not entirely clear. He may have done it simply because he is creative enough to understand absolutely nothing bad will happen to him due to the fact that of it. He would probably likewise have recognized that Malvolio is not popular currently with Olivia, ‘O, you are sick of self-love, Malvolio, and taste with a distempered cravings,’ and thus making him suffer would put Feste in a beneficial position within the home.

It may also be because he is plainly used to his abilities as a fool charming him to others, and although the other characters do become irritated and fed up with him sometimes, Malvolio is the just one that appears to actively dislike him, ‘I marvel your ladyship takes pleasure in such a barren rascal.’ Whatever his reasons are this scene highlights the more unsavoury aspects of Feste’s character, but at the same time it likewise offers a contrast between how Feste and Malvolio exist.

Due to Malvolio’s self worried and unpleasant behaviour it appears justifiable that he should be a rather one dimensional character, hindered by his own contemptible qualities. It is for this reason Feste’s remarkable mindset and actions towards him are easy to understand, and instead of serving to make the reader dislike Feste, it causes them to empathise with him as it reveals his more human side that had formerly been concealed below his sharp wit. In the design of a real narrator the last word (or indeed words) of Twelfth Night come from Feste, who combines his double functions, and provides them in tune format.

It appears to be a rather miserable song for a clown, as it recommends that every day brings suffering, ‘For the rain it raineth every day.’ This might be since the other characters have gone, leaving him alone with the audience, to whom he can deliver a last message. Feste’s final lesson appears to suggest that life is afflicted with misery, therefore, like the characters in Twelfth Night, you need to welcome joy in whatever form it takes due to the fact that it might not last.

Shakespeare presents the role of Feste as a paradox: the best character of the play is the paid fool. Throughout Twelfth Night Feste directs, captivates and criticizes the other characters through his revealing tunes and amusing wordplay, and at the exact same time makes them reflect on their present scenarios. This is a similar relationship that Shakespeare, as a playwright, would have had with his audience, and it develops a parallel in between the writer and his creation.

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