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Twelfth Night

Fools Tell All They Know or The Wisdom of Feste in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

Fools Tell All They Know or The Wisdom of Feste in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
Almost all of Shakespeare’s plays have a clown character. Clowns were popular and amusing, and were simple characters that the lower class audience members could relate to, amidst all the royal people plays were populated with. But the clowns in Shakespeare’s plays served a dual purpose. Not only were they sources of comedy, but also sources of truth. Wisdom and advice are imparted through the lines of these figures of fun. The clowns reflected the true nature or intentions of the other, more “noble characters. They also foreshadow coming events. One of the most striking examples of this type of clown is the character of Feste in Twelfth Night. Feste dispenses advice and exposes truths to most of the major characters of the play. Though he is only a fool, he seems to be the only character in the play that truly has his wits about him.
Feste mirrors each of the main characters, revealing facets of their respective dispositions. He often shares knowledge about other characters of which they were not aware. For example, Feste is most closely related to Olivia. She is his patron and calls upon him to amuse her. But Feste does not entertain in the standard way of a clown. He realizes that Olivia is not in control of her emotions when it comes to love, and that she lacks control over her subordinates. He says, in an aside,
“Wit, an’t be thy will, put me into good fooling!

Those wits that think they have thee do very oft prove fools
And I that am sure I lack thee may pass for a wise man.
For what say Quinapalus? -‘Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.”’ (1.5.29-31)
Feste knows what is going on with Olivia’s predicament with Orsino, but still plays the fool. He expresses his feelings of apprehension for Olivia and her supposed wisdom. Feste thinks Olivia’s actions are silly, and is not afraid to tell her so in indirect ways. When Olivia gets tired of Feste’s obscure advice, she tells her attendants to take away the fool, and Feste returns, “The lady bade take the fool away, therefore I say again/take her away . . . I wear not motley in my brain/good madonna give me leave to prove you a fool” (1.5.45-6, 49-51). He continues by asking Olivia why she mourns for the loss of her brother. If she believes his souls to be in heaven, as she does, then there is no reason for sorrow. Feste uses a sort of quirky pragmatism to try and show Olivia how silly she is being, but is does not work, because Olivia refuses to think of his advice as anything but the ramblings of a fool. Though Feste does seem, in some ways, to be very educated no one takes his suggestions seriously.
Feste is the only character in the play that crosses into every world. He is privy to the secrets of Countess Olivia, he sings to and foretells the fate of Orsino, he guides Viola and Sebastian, Feste also ventures into the tavern world of Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, Fabian and Maria. Olivia bids him to enter this world by asking him to look after her kinsman, Sir Toby, who is a “drowned man,” that is to say, drowned with drink. Feste takes a lighter view of Sir Toby stat of mind by saying he is mad with drink claiming, “He is but mad yet, Madonna, and the fool shall look to the madman. In the context of the play, Sir Toby plays more the part of the classic fool than Feste. He is merely a comic figure with no more depth to him than that of the stock drunkard. Feste is the genius of the play, but is not noble, and so does not really fit in anywhere. Sir Toby and Sir Andrew treat Feste as both a friend and a servant, paying him to sing, but requesting his company and help in their practical jokes. Feste reveals his foreknowledge about events to come in his song to Sir Toby,
O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O stay and hear, your true love’s coming
That can sing both high and low
Trip no further pretty sweeting
Journey’s end in Lover’s meeting
Every wise man’s son doth know.” (2.3.36-40)
Feste reveals to these two drunkards the plot of the entire play. Of course, they do not understand and simply praise Feste’s singing ability, but, nevertheless, he has revealed his wisdom and knowledge about the other characters. Later in the play, they request that Feste dress up as a wise man to fool Malvolio into thinking he has lost his wits. Feste humbly obliges and does so, playing the part willingly and well. Shakespeare’s characters love to disguise themselves; this theme is often important to the plot of his comedies, but in this case, the disguise takes an ironic turn. Feste, in dressing up as a wise man, reveals his true nature instead of concealing it. Though this scene is meant to be played for bald comedic value, the audience gets a glimpse of the true nature of the clown. Truly, though, Feste does not seem very interested in the torment of Malvolio, and ultimately provides him with means to resolve his unfair predicament. “Look then to be well edified when the fool delivers the madman,” Feste says as he reads the letter that leads to Malvolio’s release from captivity.
Feste is also aware of the fate that will befall Orsino. He is welcome3d to the music-loving court at Orsino’s home, perhaps because he belongs to Olivia, and in this way, at least, Orsino can feel he has some sort of relationship with her. Feste quickly sees through Orsino’s melancholy and wishes,
Now the melancholy god protect thee, and the tailor
make thy doublet of changeable taffeta, for thy mind is a very
opal. I would have men of such constancy put to sea, that their
business might be everything, and their intent everywhere, for
that’s it that always makes a good voyage of nothing.” (2.4.72-6)
Feste knows exactly what Orsino is feeling, how his relationship with Olivia is shaping up, and what his final result will be. Orsino is fickle and shallow and Feste knows it. When Orsino and Feste meet again later in the play, Feste is resentful of his patronage, wishing “the worse for his friends,” then calling Orsino his friend (5.1.10,22). Clearly, like the audience, Feste does not care for the Duke Orsino.
Feste reveals his wisdom most clearly in his conversations with Viola. Though he refers to her as “sir,” he does so in a sarcastic way, as if he knows her secret. Viola also forces Feste to consider his own circumstances, and he meditates, “A sentence is but a chev’ril glove to a good wit-how quickly the wrong side may be turned outward,” and Viola counters with, “Nay, that’s certain. They that dally nicely with words may quickly make them wanton,” (3.1.10-14).
Since Feste is an actor, Shakespeare is playing with the meaning of these lines in one of his favorite ways, by reminding the audience they are watching a play. These two are certainly the most charming characters of the play and their dialogue reveals as much. Both know a little about the other’s true nature, and are not afraid to share their knowledge with each other. Feste prefers Viola (as Cesario) to Orsino as a suitor for his mistress, and so tries to help win her, and mistakenly, Sebastian, to Olivia’s favor.
Feste seems to grow tired of his fool’s role in the play. By Act three he declares, “Words are grown so false, I am lost to make reason with them,” (3.1.22-3). He has an air of resignation in his lines towards the end of the play, ultimately leading up to his final epilogue. This song chronicles his life, in a melancholy way, ending with, ” But that’s all one, our play is done/ And we’ll strive to please you every day.” Feste’s final words are riddled with melancholy; he is doomed to always play the fool, to never be free of the constraints of the play.
As a fool, Feste has all the necessary qualities: singing, impersonation, joke-telling. But, as a character, he is much more than a jester. He is the key to Twelfth Night. He gives the play depth and substance that other comedies do not contain. He weaves all the worlds of the play together with witty words and melancholy ballads. Feste is the binding element in an otherwise contrived and ordinary play.

Fools Tell All They Know or The Wisdom of Feste in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

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Twelfth Night

In the play Twelfth Night Shakespeare bases the plot around a variety of different themes

In the play Twelfth Night Shakespeare bases the plot around a variety of different themes.
In the play ‘Twelfth Night’, Shakespeare bases the plot around a variety of different themes. The themes of disguise, music, loss and death are subtly introduced, however, the main theme of love is dramatically introduced by Orsino’s first line;
‘If music be the food of love play on’.
As well as using a variety of themes, ‘Twelfth Night’ incorporates the different kinds of love that can have an effect on people. These types of love range from brotherly love to instantaneous love and from unrequited love to impossible love. The use of the theme of love enables almost everybody to relate to events in the play. Love evokes a number of emotions and is a main ingredient, which brings comedy into the play.

In Act 1:1 we see Olivia’s reaction to the death of her brother. Olivia takes grieving very seriously;
‘…she hath abjured herself from the sight and company of men’,
and takes a vow of chastity. She plans to mourn her brother for seven years and she hides herself from the world;
‘But like a cloisters she will veil�d walk’.
Olivia chooses to dwell on her loss and her strict mourning period could be seen as selfish as life must go on. However, Olivia uses her brother’s death to shut herself away from life.
In Act 1:5 Feste tries to prove Olivia a fool for taking her mourning period to such an extent. Feste cleverly tells Olivia that her brother’s soul is in hell. She protests and insists that his soul is in heaven; Feste then uses his quick-witted nature and says; ‘The more fool madonna, to mourn for your brother’s soul being in heaven…’
Another example of brotherly love is shown when we meet Viola after the shipwreck in Act 1:2. She too ‘suffers the loss’ of a beloved brother but unlike Olivia, Viola takes decisive action following his apparent death. She reacts sensibly and practically to a traumatic situation.
She desperately wants her brother to be alive;
‘O my poor brother! And so perchance may he be!’.
However she realises that she must react calmly and productively to get by in life; ‘I’ll serve this Duke….’. Viola’s love for Sebastian makes her determined and persistent to carry on.
In Act 2:1 we see Sebastian’s caring nature and his mourning for his sister; ‘She is drown�d already, sir, with salt water though I seem to drown her remembrance again with more’.
Sebastian shows intense feelings of love and the desire to be reunited with his sister. When he sees Viola dressed as Cesario, he says if she were a woman;
‘I should let tears fall upon your cheek, And say, ‘Thrice welcome, drown�d Viola’.
Viola’s determination and Sebastian’s deeply affectionate feelings towards his sister depict the closeness between he siblings.
Instantaneous love is the most frequent type of love experienced by the characters throughout the play.
In Act 1:1 we learn how Orsino fell in love with Olivia from a distance; ‘When mine eyes did first see Olivia first, me thought she purged the air of pestilence’.
This sighting of Olivia puts Orsino in a melodramatic, melancholy, lovesick mood. These feelings, however, start to eat away at him. Here he uses food imagery,
‘If music be the food of love play on’
and also shows his changeable fickle character when he says,
‘Enough; no more. ‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before.’
This could also mean that if he has too much of a good thing, i.e. love, he will become sick of it and stop loving Olivia.
Orsino can’t express his feelings for Olivia and it is not long before we find that Olivia is actually in love with Viola/Cesario. We know that this is instantaneous love because Viola is dressed as a man, and she has fallen for his appearance.
It is evident that Olivia likes Viola/Cesario because she takes off her veil, ‘…in the sight and company’ of a ‘man’, when he/she comes to woo her for Orsino. She tells Viola/Cesario that she cannot love Orsino and says,
‘Let him no more-unless you come to me again.’
Here she tells Orsino to stop wooing her, unless he is to send Viola/Cesario to do so.
Olivia does not comprehend how it is possible to fall in love so quickly;
‘Even so quickly may one catch the plague?’.
‘To creep in at mine eyes’ could also indicate love at first sight.
Desperate to see Viola/Cesario again, Olivia sends Malvolio after the youth, telling him;
‘He left this ring behind him’.
It is in Act 2:2when Malvolio confronts Viola with the ring, Viola realises that Olivia loves her;
‘She loves me sure; the cunning of her passion, Invites me in this churlish messenger.’
Instantaneous love is also introduced when Olivia and Sebastian meet, when she tries to prevent Sir Toby from drawing sword on whom she believes to be Cesario. Sebastian immediately falls in love with Olivia;
‘If it be thus a dream, still let me sleep!’
and despite her calling him Cesario, agrees to marry her.
Although Orsino loves Olivia for her outward appearance he also falls for Cesario’s inner character. He appreciates Viola/Cersario’s trustworthy character and after only a short period of time a strong bond ahs between the two;
‘I have unclasped to thee my secret soul’.
In Act 1:5 Orsino comments on Viola’s womanly attributes and nature; ‘Diana’s lip is not more smooth and rubious; thy small pipe is as the maiden’s organ shrill and sound’.
This is a good example of irony as Orsino is not yet aware that Viola/Cesario is actually a woman.
After spending much time alone with Orsino, Viola falls in love. Her feelings start to fester, as she can’t express her love due to her disguise;
‘But let concealment like a worm i’th’ bud Feed on her damask cheek’.
Viola is very subtle about her feelings towards Orsino yet she cleverly and indirectly tells him that she loves him;
‘As it may be perhaps, were I a woman, I should your lordship.’
It is in Act 5:1 that Viola openly declares her love for Orsino. Orsino angrily leaves and Viola follows telling Olivia that she is going;
‘After him I love, more than I love these eyes, more than my life. ‘
This explicit declaration of love comes despite Viola being disguised as a man. She also declares her love implicitly in the ‘willow cabin’ speech in Act 1:5 during, which she expresses the passion and rawness in the love that she has for Orsino.
Impossible/forbidden love is also featured in the play. In Act 1:3 Sir Andrew tells of how he plans to woo Olivia but worries;
‘Your niece will not be seen, or if she be, it’s four to one, she’ll none of me’.
Sir Toby, then, misleadingly says to Sir Andrew;
‘Tut there’s life in’t man.’
Here Sit Toby is telling Sir Andrew where there is life there is hope. Sir Andrew does not realise when people are taking advantage of his gullibility to make him the butt of their jokes.
In Act 3:2 Sir Toby persuades Sir Andrew to challenge Viols/Cesario to a duel in order to impress Olivia;
‘there is no love-broker in the world can more prevail in mans commendation with woman that report valour.’
In a final attempt to woo Olivia Sir Andrew agrees to the duel with Cesario. This is an example of irony, as we know his attempts will not be triumphant as Olivia is in love with Cesario.
Malvolio also has feelings for Olivia but his feelings are for selfish motives; ‘To be count Malvolio!’
Here Malvolio dreams of marrying Olivia even though he is merely a steward. He then says ;’There is example for it: the Lady of the Strachy married the yeoman of the wardrobe.’
He says this to justify his dreams and to make himself believe that he will have a chance of ‘love’ with Olivia.
He is gulled into feeling that he in fact does have a chance with Olivia when Maria leaves a fraudulent letter ‘from Olivia’. Malvolio’s self-love allows him to assure himself that Olivia did in fact write the letter and that she does love him.
Malvolio doesn’t need much persuading and he immediately sets about following the letters instructions;
‘He’s in yellow stockings’ which are ‘most villainously cross gartered.’
It seems that Malvolio ‘does obey every point of the letter’, showing his foolish, self-absorbed nature.
We, again, know that Malvolio doesn’t have a chance of happiness with Olivia, not only because she is in love with Cesario but also because he is ‘merely a steward’.
One of the more successful relationships that develops from friendship to love is that between Sir Toby and Maria. In the earlier scenes of the play we see the flourishing relationship between the two. They subtly show their feelings to one another throughout the play. This is evident whilst they indulge in verbal banter. Maria makes their early friendship obvious when she tells how she worries about Toby’s luxurious lifestyle;
‘That drinking and quaffing will undo you’.
Toby, however, expresses his feelings in a more crude way;
‘board her, woe her, assail her’.
The formulating plan to ‘gull’ Malvolio strengthens Maria and Toby’s relationship;
‘I could marry that wench for this device’.
Toby refers to Maria using comic comparisons, ‘she is a beagle true bred’ and ‘good night Penthesila’, commenting on her diminutive size.
In Act 2:5 Toby greet Maria with;
‘How now, my metal of India?’
proving that he thinks highly of her, comparing her to pure gold. We see how far their relationship has progressed when in Act 5:1 Fabian informs the characters; ‘Maria writ the letter, at Sir Toby’s great importance, In recompense whereof he hath married her’.
The most memorable example of love in the play is that of Orsino’s for Viola. Not only does the idea of a man falling for ‘another man’ add comedy value to the play, it also provides some touching heart rendering scenes. Many of these scenes evoke sympathy towards Viola as she can’t express her returned feeling for Orsino due to her disguise;
‘my father had a daughter loved a man as it might be perhaps, where I a woman I should your lordship’.
In Twelfth Night the theme of love brings comedy to the play and evokes a number of feelings such a sympathy, wonder, confusion and of course laughter. It also confronts issues, which many people can relate to, making Twelfth Night a fun and memorable play.

In the play Twelfth Night Shakespeare bases the plot around a variety of different themes

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Twelfth Night

How Does Shakespeare Present Aspects of Folly in Twelfth Night?

How Does Shakespeare Present Aspects of Folly in Twelfth Night?.
All or most of Shakespeare’s plays contain playfulness and foolishness and within ‘Twelfth Night’ there are many examples of this. All these examples of folly add to the overall humour of the play. Throughout ‘Twelfth Night’ the theme of foolishness links the plot, characters and scenes in the play. In Shakespeare’s day, people wanted to go to the theatre and be able to laugh. They loved all plays with an element of comedy, even Shakepeare’s tragedies have elements of comedy in them. In Romeo and Juliet there are characters seen as crazy or foolish such as Mercutio.
First of all there’s Malvolio, one of the main characters. Proud and pompous, he is easily ridiculed as he is lead into dreadful humiliation at the hands of Fabian, Maria, Sir Toby, Feste and Sir Andrew. All the formentioned people make Malvolio look foolish when Maria writes a letter to Malvolio expressing her love for him and signing it from Olivia. Malvolio falls into the trap and begins to believe that Olivia is madly in love with him. The letter says: ‘Remember who commanded thy yellow stockings and wished to see thee ever cross gartered.’ This causes Malvolio to dress in yellow stockings and cross garters to impress and try to woo his lady. On stage this is a very amusing scene to watch as Malvolio comes on wearing this ridiculous outfit — very memorable.
The letter also says: ‘If thou entertain’st my love, let it appear in thy smiling thy smiles become thee well. Therefore in my presence still smile, dear my sweet I prithee.’ This causes Malvolio to keep a smile on his face constantly. Not only has Malvolio a rather unattractive smile but since Olivia’s brother had recently died, Olivia wants everyone to act mournful around her. She insists on wearing black with a veil over her face. When Malvolio appears with yellow clothing and a huge smile on his face he inevitably looks foolish. Olivia supposes that Malvolio is mad, subject to the heat affecting the brain – ‘Midsummer Madness.’ Malvolio would not have looked so foolish if he had not had certain qualities. His over sensitive nature, pretentiousness, self-centred character and self importance make it simple for the servants and the others involved in the trick to take advantage of these faults and cut Malvolio down to size.

The difference in class between Olivia and Malvolio also adds to the humour and the foolery because in Shakepeare’s day there would be no possibility of any sort of romance between Malvolio and Olivia, Malvolio being a mere steward and Olivia being a wealthy countess, the status contrast is simply too immense. When Malvolio reads the letter, Malvolio begins to fall in love with the idea of being in love .
Another character within Twelfth Night who adds to the theme of foolishness is obviously the fool – a professional jester. Feste has a very important role. He is constantly acting foolishly as his job is to solace and entertain his fellowmates. Although he acts like a clown through most of the play, he is probably one of the most sensible and wise characters in the play. In Act 3, Viola says: ‘This fellow is wise enough to play the fool and to do that well, craves a kind of wit.’ This is an accurate depiction on Feste. He often outsmarts the other characters in the play using his quickwits most of all Malvolio and Olivia. Many other characters are the ‘real fools’ such as Sir Toby Belch — an ironic surname due to his tendency to drink heavily, Sebastian for marrying Olivia when he barely knew her.
Overall, Viola is quite sensible. Although dressed like a man, in those days there would be no way that she would be able to obtain service with Orsino as a woman, so her disguise was quite an ingenious idea. When talking to higher status characters, especially Olivia, Feste almost reverses the roles talking down to Olivia as shown in a conversation on page 17. Other characters cannot talk to Olivia in the same way as Feste, as everyone must look up to her and respect her. Olivia tells Malvolio to ‘Take the fool away’ and Feste answers ‘Do you not hear fellows? Take away the lady.’ Feste also often mocks Olivia as he is the only character who can do so. The first example of this is Feste telling Olivia she is being foolish, her brother has died and she is in mourning this is the first mention of foolishness in the play:
Feste: Good Madonna, why mourn’st thou?
Olivia: Good Fool, for my brother’s death
Feste: I think his soul is in hell, Madonna.
Olivia: I know his soul is in heaven, fool
Feste: The more fool, Madonna, to mourn for your brother’s soul, being in heaven.
There are many other times during the play when aspects of folly come into the characters’ speeches. 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. The prime example of role swapping is Viola dressing as a man and changing her identity to become a man called Caesario. This causes much confusion leading to characters being foiled and being made to look foolish. Not only did everyone believe that Viola was in fact a man but Olivia actually falls in love with her and not surprisingly feels humiliated and foolish when she discovers that Caesario is actually a woman. Olivia does look foolish although no-one can mock her due to her high status and most people look up to her with respect.
The language used in the play is not strictly foolish although many of the names are ‘fooled with’ as Viola, Olivia and Malvolio, the main characters, all have names containing the same letters (v,o,l,a and i). Malvolio means ‘ill wishing’ very fitting to his character. There are other character’s names which are amusing such as Sir Toby Belch – ironic as he is a heavy drinker. Aguecheek is a ridiculous name…. And Orsino is named so because Don Virgino Orsino – an Italian Nobleman was the guest of honour at the opening night of Twelfth Night so Shakespeare named the Duke in his play after him.
Twelfth Night was once a day of great merrymaking 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. Although written all those years ago, Twelfth Night is still relevant today. A twentieth century audience still enjoy this play today as people still love to laugh and have a good time some of the jokes, although obscure are still found amusing 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.

How Does Shakespeare Present Aspects of Folly in Twelfth Night?

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