• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Twelfth Night

Extracts from this document...


Twelfth Night The Role of the Fool: Feste's Significance In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, the Feste's role might originally appear to be as a minor character, but in actuality his role is of principal significance. Because the action of the play occurs during the revelry of the holiday season, the clown is used as a self-contained commentator on the actions of the other characters. Shakespeare's contrast of Feste's true wit (used to act foolish) with the true and unconscious foolishness of others is central to his role's contribution to the play through true insight. Feste's appearance in the play is held off until the fifth scene of act I. In this scene the reader is introduced to the clown through a conversation with Maria. It is in this scene that his contribution to the play is revealed through and aside: "Wit, an't be thy will, put me in good fooling! Those wits that think they have thee, do very oft prove fools, and I that am sure lack thee may pass for a wise man"�"Better a witty fool than a foolish wit" (1.5:29-33). These lines indicate that Feste's presence is not merely comic relief through inane acts and show that the role of the fool requires much intelligence. ...read more.


In Twelfth Night it is essentially the unknowing fools that provide the actual comedy, while the wise Feste adds insight to greater meaning of the play. It is by his acting like a fool that Feste gains the privilege to speak the truth of the people around him. Through these truths, which are directed jokingly at another, Feste's keen perception of others is disclosed. Feste's intuition is comparable only to the perception of Viola. Because both characters are the only ones who are involved in both houses, Orsino's and Olivia's, they rival each other in their respective knowledge of the events that are taking place at the two settings. Apparently, Viola is the only character who recognizes Feste's true intelligence: "This fellow is wise enough to play the fool, and to do that craves a kind of wit. He must observe their mood on whom he jests, the quality of persons, and the time, and, like the haggard, check at every feather that comes before his eye. This is a practice as full of labor as a wise man's art, for that he wisely shows is fit, but wise men, folly-fall'n, quite taint their wit" (3.1:59-67). ...read more.


The refrain of this song, which states "the rain it raineth every day," insinuates that at any time the happiness that now occupies the characters in Illyria could at any time be swept away. The song as a whole seems to show maturation from innocence to experience and through this development was a continuum of "the wind and the rain." With this song, Feste seems to suggest that even as a person goes through life, with its ups and downs, he or she must remember that at any time one can end up in an unfamiliar place with a completely different life. Feste's role as a fool, in both Olivia and Orsino's houses, makes him accessible to all character's in the play. But it is his ability to avoid attachment to other characters and his licensed foolery that enables him to become a commentator on the actions of others and allows his character to thrive. It is through this commentary that Feste can assert his true wit over the true foolishness of the other characters. His insightful dialogue provides criticism and interpretation of the central events of the comedy. While Feste's role as the fool should imply a lack of intelligence, it is exactly the opposite, leaving the foolishness to other characters. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Twelfth Night section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Twelfth Night essays

  1. Cruelty in "Twelfth Night" - an examination of Shakespeare's comedy's darker side.

    One of the later added scenes at the beginning is of Viola's transformation into a boy. In another there is mention of a war being waged between Illyria and the twins' home country. This may be a reason for Viola's disguise.

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

    It may be because he not only accepts his role as a fool but uses it to his advantage, accordingly gaining perspective from this self knowledge, that he can differ from the other characters and deceive others instead of himself.

  1. Discuss the different types of love presented in Twelfth Night

    This happens in Act three Scene two, even though Sir Andrew is not a good swordsman and he does not know it. However, Sir Andrew appreciates Sir Toby's company as Sir Toby always lifts up his spirits whenever he is "put down" and makes him feel like a "true knight".

  2. Twelfth Night is a feminist play. Discuss.

    In comparison, as mentioned before, Viola is a rational woman, whom when she first reaches a foreign land, does not whine or complain, but thinks ahead, and the first thing she asks is logical, "What country, friends, is this?" This, in comparison, is also coincidentally running concurrently with the traditional ideas of the male.

  1. How Does Shakespeare Present Aspects of Folly in Twelfth Night

    Feste in Act 1 says: 'Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.' There are many other examples of role swapping and disguises that also add to the humour of the play. It also makes characters look foolish and humiliates them.

  2. Examine the ways in which Shakespeare uses structure and language to dramatise the comparisons ...

    claiming that she has married Cesario, which Viola genuinely knows nothing about, this situation is humorous and ironic. Shakespeare had mixed the elements of a tragedy and comedy. Shakespeare also used this situation, in order to illustrate the powerful feelings felt by the characters.

  1. Discuss the dramatic significance of Feste in TwelfthNight.

    For example, in Act ii: iv, he point blank tells Orsino what he thinks of him, saying his 'mind is very opal' and 'the tailor make thy doublet of changeable taffeta' (a silk which changes colour). The joke here is Feste telling Orsino that he is very fickle and has

  2. Discuss the dramatic significance of Feste in Twelfth Night.

    He masquerades as Sir topaz here to offer comedy at this point this is important because he is proving someone else a fool other than himself and he is able to do this. Feste quotes that "nothing that is so is so" this is one of the mottos of the

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work