Monday, March 7, 2016
Only Fools Rush In
The term fool is frequently bandied about in Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night." However, the reader, or viewer, of the play is able to see that Feste, the only clown in the text, is less a fool than the knights and ladies that pay him for his witticisms. Feste serves as the first character in the play to initiate bringing Lady Olivia out of her mourning. He confronts the lady claiming her deceased brother's soul resides in hell. However, she rebukes him claiming that without doubt she knows her brother's soul dwells in heaven. He turns the tables on her stating that, "The more fool, madonna, to mourn for your brother's soul being in heaven. Take away the fool, gentlemen" (I.V. 58-59). Malvolio seems incapable of swaying the mood of Olivia and he marvels at the "delight"(I.V.67) that Olivia gets from the jibes of the "allowed fool" (I.V.76). Feste is even wise enough to point out the folly of Olivia to sacrifice her best years, seven of them at that, over mourning for her lost brother since "beauty's a flower" (I.V.42) which necessitates that it bloom to it's fullest then too fade and whither away. He even avoids what should have been a certain execution for his long absence through this scene of wit and joviality. In comparison to characters such as Sir Toby, whose "quaffing and drinking will undo" (I.III.11) him, Feste seems to be of sound mind and wit. Similarly, Sir Andrew is thought of as a "very fool and a prodigal" (I.III.19-20) wasting away his notable inheritance of "three thousand ducats a year" (1.III.18) getting "drunk nightly in [Sir Toby's] company" (I.III.30). Feste is even removed from the primary scene of low comedy in which Malvolio is given the false love letter and only later aids in the plot due his skill at switching voices and disguise. Though considered mad by the rest of the court due to the false letter, Malvolio's actions were in accordance with what he assumed to be a true message from Olivia. In his state of perturbance and confusion, he suggests that he and Feste are even equals of intellect saying, "I am as well in my wits, fool, as thou art" (IV.II.73-74). Though Feste is removed from any romantic inclinations throughout the play, he plays a vital role in working to pass communications betwen Orsinio and Olivia and even receives gold and payment for such actions. Though a fool like Feste may not find love in the Shakespearian play, from the audience's perspective he seems to be better off than the rest of the alcoholic, cross-dressing, deceived, and youth wasting characters around him.