The Fool as a Playwright in Twelfth Night

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Feste, the fool character in Twelfth Night, in many ways represents a playwright figure, and embodies the reach and tools of the theater. He criticizes, manipulates and entertains the other characters while causing them to reflect on their life situations, which is similar to the way a playwright such as Shakespeare interacts with his audience. Furthermore, more so than the other characters in the play he accomplishes this in a highly performative way, involving song and clever wordplay that must be decoded, and is thus particularly reflective of the mechanisms at the command of the playwright. Feste is a representation of the medieval fool figure, who is empowered by his low status and able to speak the truth of the kingdom. A playwright speaks the truth by using actors and fictional characters, who are in a parallel low status in comparison to the audience, as they lack the dimensionality of real people. Thus, the role Feste plays in the lives of the characters in the play resembles the role the play itself plays in the lives of the audience watching the performance. This essay will explore this comparison first by analyzing similarities between the way in which Feste interacts with other characters and the way the playwright interact with the audience, and then focus on the similarities between the aims and content of these interactions.

Perhaps the most straightforward aspect of the way Feste communicates with other characters that resembles the communication of theater itself is the overtly performative nature of his character. A clown, Feste is often portrayed in productions caked in elaborate makeup or in a fancy jester costume. In this sense, he is almost a caricature of the way actors don new ident...

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