The Dramatic Significance of Feste in Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

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The Dramatic Significance of Feste in Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Feste is presented as the fool or jester as hired by Olivia to

entertain. He is an ‘allowed fool’. However many of the other

characters are the ‘real fools’ such as sir Toby belch-an ironic

surname due to his tendency to drink heavily or Malvolio who Feste

convinces is mad when he masquerades as Sir Topaz. Feste almost

reverses the roles talking down to Olivia and making her out to be the

fool “do you not hear fellows? Take away the lady”.Other characters

can not talk to Olivia in the same way as Feste, as she is someone

looked up to and respected. This could be due to the Twelfth night

celebrations being able to speak his mind-being the fool. Feste is

actually a clever and witty character and he shows and presents this

through his use of language, quick wit, word play and punning. In

scene 5 Feste begins with a pun “he that is well hanged in this world

needs to fear no colours” The Elizabethans enjoyed such punning jokes

in which the word was pronounced giving two meanings. Maria and Feste

are like a comedy duo participating in quick fire exchanges, scoring

points off each other and in act 1 scene 5 he hints at her

relationship with sir Toby Belch.

Shakespeare’s characters love to disguise themselves, this theme is

often illustrated and important to the plot of his comedies, but in

this case, the disguise takes an ironic turn. Feste, in dressing as a

wise man reveals his true nature instead of concealing it. This scene

is meant to be played for comedic value; the audience gets a glimpse

of the true nature of the clown. This is a key element in the play as

other people are in disguise for example viola masks as Cesario. The

title of this Shakespeare play is ‘Twelfth Night or what you will’.

This is an immediate indication that people are pretending to be

people they are not and acting as they wish.
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