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

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare present the role of "Feste" in Twelfth Night? In William Shakespeare's comedy 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 father, 'Feste the jester... a fool that the Lady Olivia's father took much pleasure in.' This long standing relationship may 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 punishment, 'Tell me where thou hast been or my lady will hang thee...Let her hang me.' This may also be because of Elizabethan attitudes towards allowed fools, who had gained popularity due to their presence in many royal courts. Feste`s palpable intelligence is an integral part of his role, as he uses it to communicate the subtext of Shakespeare`s complicated plot to both the other characters and the audience. It is therefore ironic that the fool is so frequently said to be dishonest, 'Y`are a dry fool: I`ll take no more of you. Besides, you grow dishonest,' as throughout the play he does nothing but divulge truths. His cleverness is immediately apparent upon his first appearance for several different reasons. If he were not a fool then he would have no other way of making money, thus his decision to ingratiate himself once more ...read more.

Middle

The clown sings no fewer than seven songs throughout the play, and although the other characters see them as nothing more than a convenient source of entertainment, many have an underlying foresight far beyond the grasp of a mere jester. Feste sings his first song upon Sir Toby and Sir Andrews requests for a love song. The first verse appears to be about Olivia, and demonstrates Feste`s keen perception of the other characters and his uncanny knowledge of future events, 'O mistress mine, where are you roaming?' This shows Feste`s knowledge of Olivia's roaming heart, searching for its true love. 'O stay and hear, your true loves coming.' This line perfectly foreshadows future events, as Olivia finds love not whilst searching for it, but by it finding her in the form of Sebastian. Feste then proceeds to encapsulate the plays plot within one line of his song, 'Journeys end in lovers meeting.' This suggests that he may be ubiquitous, as his knowledge is not only of the future, but of the past events as well. It could however just be referring to the metaphorical journeys the characters have been on in their search for love, not the literal journey Viola and Sebastian have undertaken to Illyria. The second verse of his song appears to be addressed to Sir Toby, regarding his thus far secret love for Maria. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is for this reason Feste`s superior attitude and actions towards him are understandable, and instead of serving to make the reader dislike Feste, it causes them to empathise with him as it shows his more human side that had previously been hidden beneath his sharp wit. In the style of a true narrator the last word (or indeed words) of Twelfth Night belong to Feste, who merges his dual roles, and delivers them in song format. It appears to be a rather dismal song for a clown, as it suggests that every day brings misery, 'For the rain it raineth every day.' This may be because 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 plagued with misery, therefore, like the characters in Twelfth Night, you should embrace happiness in whatever form it takes because it may not last. Shakespeare presents the role of Feste as a paradox: the wisest character of the play is the paid fool. Throughout Twelfth Night Feste directs, entertains and criticizes the other characters through his revealing songs and witty wordplay, and at the same time makes them reflect on their current circumstances. This is a similar relationship that Shakespeare, as a playwright, would have had with his audience, and it creates a parallel between the writer and his creation. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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