Feste is a fool in William Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night. Shakespeare in the Twelfth Night or What You Will, has chosen Feste as a stock character to emphasize and bring out the romantic issues in the comedy and the spirit of Twelfth Night festivities they took place in Illyria. Feste is a jester employed by Olivia, a wealthy lady. His primary job is to make her laugh while Feste’s skills include singing and dancing. Although the main part of the play deals with the numerous love affairs that are going on in the play yet Feste is fairly a central character.
The Shakespearean fool is identifies as a recurring character type in Shakespearean dramas. William Shakespeare generally portrays his fools as usually being quite clever peasants or commoner who usually use their wits to outdo other people who might be even higher in their social ranking. Fools have entertained a varied public from Roman through Medieval times. The fool perhaps reached its pre-Shakespearean heights as the jester in aristocratic courts across Europe. Jesters since then have played a very dynamic and vital role in entertaining aristocratic households using wide variety of techniques. One of the primary reasons that Shakespeare always focuses on creating and portraying fools with much details and creativity is because fools tend to add the necessary light and colour in the play and actually helps the people, the readers, the observes gain a different perspective about things that usually happen in their mundane life. They actually help to bring a gust of fresh air amidst the whole plot of the play. Shakespeare not only borrowed from this multi-talented jester tradition, but contributed significantly to its rethinking. Whereas the court jester often regaled his audience with various skills aimed to amuse, Shakespeare's fool, consistent with Shakespeare's revolutionary ideas about theatre, became a complex character who could highlight more important issues. Like Shakespeare's other characters, the fool began to speak outside of the narrow confines of exemplary morality. Shakespeare's fools address themes of love, psychic turmoil, personal identity, and many other innumerable themes that arise in Shakespeare, and in modern theatre. The costumes which these fools were are fairly standardised at the Globe Theatre. Actors wore a ragged or patchwork coat. Often, bells hung along the skirt and on the elbows. They wore closed breeches with tights, with each leg a different colour. A monk-like hood covering the entire head was positioned as a cape, covering the shoulders and part of the chest. This hood was decorated with animal body parts, such as donkey's ears or the neck and head of a rooster. The animal theme was continued in the crest, which was worn as well.
Though the word fool today represents a foolish person but in Elizabethan drama fool is a man who is known to do funny things to specifically make people laugh. Fools are also portrayed as very witty, observant and a wise person who has great sense of time and intellect. A fool should not be confused with a clown. The word ‘clown’ has changed. In Shakespeare’s time a clown was a simple rural man – a country bumpkin, a yokel. Shakespeare has created a detailed characterisation that definitely goes beyond being just a fool. Feste in Twelfth Night is an individual who defies being put in the same category like any other person. He is present throughout the play in some undefined way, outside of the frame, outside of the boundaries, of the idyllic Illyria, entering scenes to observe and interact and comment on those other inhabitants of the play, but he ultimately is the only one who is untouched by the play’s “happy ending,” . Thus as a part of his function as an allowed Fool, Feste is allowed with a greater freedom than virtually any other servant and is given greater freedom than any other fool and also holds the wit and charm to entertain. Feste throughout the play helps the readers give a detailed observant view of human relations which is does through his songs which are based on emotions. Thus when singing and playing music (like his song to Orsino), he reveals information about the character to the audience, making him important as he provides insight that, when interpreted, can unveil hidden truths. Feste is also identified as a stock character as it does not undergo any kind of major development throughout the play and whose presence is quite patent in the play. Feste is identified as one of the most famous and well known amongst all the Shakespearean fools. He has licence to speak truth to power with no holds barred – in a context where no-one else dare do that, for fear of their lives – and he acts like the chorus in Greek drama – commenting on the characters and the action for the benefit of the audience. His commentary on the other characters runs continuously throughout the play. He is quite sceptical and his comments on the characters are often quite caustic. He is notable for his facility with language; he can twist any argument and he loves to take apart about everything. He is full of wise sayings and frequently talks about the wisdom of foolishness.
One of the primary reasons that Shakespeare always focuses on creating and portraying fools with much details and creativity is because fools tend to add the necessary light and colour in the play and actually helps the people, the readers, the observes gain a different perspective about things that usually happen in their mundane life. They actually help to bring a gust of fresh air amidst the whole plot of the play. In this play Feste holds a very central approach to the whole plot where is opinion is constantly been assessed. He is highly intelligent with an extraordinary command of language. Olivia constantly asks his opinion. He is interesting, also, in that apart from his gesturing activities he plays a major dramatic role in the play. With that role, and his conventional fool role, where he looks in at the action, he is both inside and outside the play, which makes him an almost postmodern character. Shakespeare utilizes these characters of fools, also sometimes equated with the word 'clown', throughout his plays to a variety of differing ends, but in general terms he most often portrays two distinct types of fool: those that were wise and intelligent, and those that were 'natural fools. Sometimes this line of differentiation is blurred but while drawing the character of fools it is very important to focus on these characters clearly. These characters not only bring a comic relief in the plot but are equally capable of engaging the audiences. Altogether the present of Fools in Shakespearean dramas have been one of the most interesting aspects of these plays as people could definitely connect well with these plots because it included such powerful characters like Feste that could actually bring the necessary human angel in the play and create better connection with the audience. The most astonishing fact about Shakespearean fools is that they tend to talk about the most complex matters of life in the simple way. This simplistic appeal is exactly what creates a better sense of connection between all the audience and the character as the audience feel that it is their words and their thoughts which are been reciprocated by the fool. This is exactly the reason that although the main part of the play deals with the numerous love affairs that are going on in the play yet Feste is fairly a central character.
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