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Feste in Twelfth Night The Elusive and Mystical Fool in Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy © Jem Bloomfield Sep 2, 2007 Feste in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, is an fascinating character: a fool who seems to know more than most of the people around him.
Feste, the Fool in Twelfth Night, is a very different character from the Fools in other comedies such as Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Merchant of Venice. Launce and Speed (from Two Gentlemen) and Launcelot Gobbo (from The Merchant of Venice) are fairly straightforward comedy turns, sent on to crack jokes, give high-speed monologues and mix things up.Indeed, Trevor Nunn’s TV production of The Merchant of Venice made Launcelot Gobbo’s monologue into a stand-up routine, delivered under a spotlight in a Venetian cafe. Feste, by contrast, doesn’t make lame puns, or bring on a comedy dog. His first foolings are a barrage of mock-learning to Olivia, “For what says Quinalpus? ‘Better a witty fool than a foolish wit. ’”, “virtue that transgresses is but patch’d with sin, and sin that amends is but patch’d with virtue” (I. 5) When he does get down to cracking jokes, they are on decidedly unusual topics.
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He draws Olivia into a comic “catechism” which comes dangerously close to mocking her grief: Feste: Good madonna, why mourn’st thou? Olivia: Good fool, for my brother’s death. Feste: I think his soul is in hell, madonna. Ads by Google Keep Bedwetting Private Disposable Pants for Bedwetting. Get Your Child a Free Sample Now! www.
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amidsummer. com Olivia: I know his soul is in heaven, fool. Feste: The more fool, madonna, to mourn for your brother’s being in heaven.Dealing with life and death in his foolery, Feste seems closer to the namelesss Fool in King Lear than to Launce and Lancelot. He has an air of mystery all the way through Twelfth Night; his first appearance is unexplained, and though Maria demands “tell me where thou hast been”, threatening “my lady will hang thee for thy absence.
”, he refuses to tell. In II. 4, he has apparently been at the Orsino’s court since the previous night: how much about the negotiations and intrigues between Viola, Orsino and Olivia does he know?Studying Feste raises more questions that it solves: is his suggestion to Maria that Sir Toby would be a good match for her a prediction, or a hint that he intends to make the match? When Feste does not involve himself with the invention or execution of the original trap for Malvolio, why does he repeat the “barren rascal” taunt to him in the last scene when the steward asks why he has been tormented? (V. 1) When he refers to the “whirligig” of time which “brings in its revenges”, is he speaking in a general sense, or hinting that he somehow directed events from behind the scenes?One set of answers to these questions can be seen in Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of Feste in Trevor Nunn’s film of Twelfth Night. The copyright of the article Feste in Twelfth Night in Shakespeare Comedies is owned by Jem Bloomfield. Permission to republish Feste in Twelfth Night in print or online must be granted by the author in writing. Read more: http://shakespeare-comedies.
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