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Fools and folly are widely used in comedy to create humour To what extent does this apply to Twelfth Night?

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Lewis Keen ?Fools and folly are widely used in comedy to create humour? To what extent does this apply to Twelfth Night? In this essay I will be exploring Twelfth Night and focusing on the extent at which folly is used to create humour. The word folly means "a silly person" or ?one who uses folly for the entertainment of others? etc. In William Shakespeare?s comedy, Feste -licensed fool- the clown is not the only fool who is subject to foolery; others include Sir Andrew Aguecheek (natural fool), Malvolio who is exposed to be the natural fool and Sir Toby who is deemed to be the Lord of Misrule. Overall, fools and folly are widely used in Twelfth Night and form the basic plot. In Shakespeare?s Twelfth Night, Feste?s role in this Illyrian comedy is significant. Feste plays the role of a humble clown and is employed by Olivia?s father thus playing the role of the licensed fool of their household. Olivia states that Feste is ?an allowed fool? meaning he is licensed to speak the truth of people around him in order to entertain others. This is also seen when Curio states to the duke that ?Feste the jester?a fool that the Lady Olivia?s father took much pleasure in?. Even though Feste is employed to be foolish, when compared to the other characters he is deemed to be the wisest, wittiest and the most philosophical of all the characters. ...read more.


In act 1 scene 5, we don?t laugh at Feste for being a so called ?fool?, we laugh at the witty re-marks that he creates and how undermines the people above him. Feste when talking to Maria regarding Countess Olivia states that ?Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage?. This has two comical meanings. Firstly, Feste is saying to Maria that sometimes its better being killed than entering marriage but to increase the comedy the phrase could also mean that a ?well hung?(sexual connotations) man can prevent a ?bad marriage?. When compared to today, a modern day audience would still find that funny due to IY being true yet in Shakespearean comedy, the audience would have been very surprised for a ?fool? to come out with such a controversial phrase, thus increasing comedy. Shakespeare understands the need for ?surprise? because the audience are laughing more at the surprise element rather than the joke itself. By putting this comical line in the final scene of the act, the audience have now gained a further understanding for the character and worked out how intelligent, witty Feste is. This will increase the popularity towards the character as the audience may have forgotten what happened previous to this scene when in act 2 yet the comical line from Feste would have stayed in their heads. Personally, Shakespeare wanted this immensely and therefore in relation to the question, yes fools are used to create humour but not through being stupid but by being witty and controversial as audiences like to be surprised. ...read more.


Therefore comedy isn?t just seen through the eyes of folly and foolishness it?s also achieved elsewhere. Due to it being a live play, the audience would be able to see it?s a disguised woman, even though all actors were men, and thus again increasing comedy. Twelfth Night was once a day to mark the end of the Christmas festivities. It was the feast of fools and even now, the Christmas season is a time where we all seek entertainment in the form of amusement and folly. Therefore Twelfth Night is still relevant today. Even now we love to see people make fools of themselves and the characters we don't like to be served with just retribution. In conclusion to my question, the answer is simply yes. Shakespeare doesn?t just have fools to laugh at (feste) which would seem the normal idea but he makes others look fools. This is through Malvolio being miss-lead, the naivety of Sir Andrew and possibly Orsino not having Olivia and having to make do with Viola. Interestingly, Shakespeare warms to the so called lower class characters like Feste, Maria by creating strong and confident characters that make the more upper class characters around them look fools. Comedy is also achieved in the play by the mistaken identity of Viola, the concept of black comedy and the comedy of manners. All key integral parts of how this play is seen comical. Overall, the main comedy comes from people acting foolish or looking foolish as well as the idea of comedy of errors. Word Count: 1675 ...read more.

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