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Feste, The Decisive Fool Of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

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A fool can be defined in many meanings. The word could mean "a silly person", or "one who professionally counterfeits folly for the entertainment of others, a jester, clown" or "one who has little or no reason or intellect" or "one who is made to appear to be a fool" according to dictionary definition. In William Shakespeare's comedy, Twelfth Night, Feste the clown is not the only fool who is subject to foolery as unconventional fools dominate the play. He and many other characters combine their uncommon actions and wit to provoke other characters that has largely withdrawn into their own form of foolery.

In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Feste's role in this Illyrian comedy is significant because in Illyria, the fool is not so much a critic of his environment as a ringleader, capable of transcending the traditional hierarchy of the classes and to lead them on as he sees fit. His ability to interact with common and noble with equal ease makes Feste significant as a character. As a clown employed by Olivia’s late father, Feste is "an allowed fool"(Act I. Scene v) meaning he is granted the means to speak the truth of the people around him.

In one of the humorous scenes, and the best situation of Feste as a traditional fool, he dresses up as Sir Topaz, the curate and visits the imprisoned Malvolio with the other fools, Maria and Sir Toby. There he uses his humor to abuse Malvolio who is still unaware that he is actually talking to the clown than to the real Sir Topas. Feste, while disguised as Sir Topaz, calls Malvolio a "lunatic", and "satan"(Act IV. scene ii) and confuses him by wittingly making him a fool. Throughout the play, Malvolio has always been the person who intentionally spoils the pleasure of other people. This allows the audience to accept such behavior as just and acceptable despite in most circumstances such actions would be condemnable.

One of the major contrasts between the film version created in 1998 was its treatment of this scene. While keeping the language intact, the scene is treated in a serious and dark fashion, but still with the same outcome of breaking Malvolio’s dignity to an extent as well as to expose his own foolishness. It is a different and more harsh response considering the fact that the play is unabashedly a comedy, yet the effect is similar when compared to the film version.

Feste, however, is primarily known as not only a comedian, but rather bearer of truth in the comedy. Although he does not make any profound remarks, he seems to be the wisest person within all the characters in the comedy. Viola

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