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"Ö"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. Feste is also able to recognize that self-proclaimed wits are...

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