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Twelfth Night

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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.

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