A fool can be defined in many meanings according to theOxford English Dictionary On Historical Principles. The wordcould mean “a silly person”, or “one who professionallycounterfeits 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” (word originated fromNorth Frisian). In english literature, the two main ways whichthe fool could enter imaginative literature is that “He couldprovide a topic, a theme for mediation, or he could turn into astock character on the stage, a stylized comic figure”.
InWilliam Shakespeare’s comedy, Twelfth Night, Feste the clown isnot the only fool who is subject to foolery. He and many othercharacters combine their silly acts and wits to invade othercharacters that “evade reality or rather realize a dream”, while”our sympathies go out to those”. “It is natural that the foolshould be a prominent & attractive figure and make an importantcontribution to the action” in forming the confusion and thehumor in an Elizabethan drama. In Twelfth Night, the clown andthe fools are the ones who combine humor ; wit to make the comedywork. Clowns, jesters, and Buffoons are usually regarded as fools. Their differences could be of how they dress, act or portrayed insociety.Order now
A clown for example, “was understood to be a country bumpkin or ‘cloun'”. In Elizabethan usage, the word ‘clown’ isambiguous “meaning both countryman and principal comedian”. Another meaning given to it in the 1600 is “a fool or jester”. As for a buffoon, it is defined as “a man whose profession is tomake low jests and antics postures; a clown, jester, fool”. The buffoon is a fool because “although he exploits his ownweaknesses instead of being exploited by others. .
. . he resemblesother comic fools”. This is similar to the definition of a’Jester’ who is also known as a “buffoon, or a merry andrew. Onemaintained in a prince’s court or nobleman’s household”.
Asyou can see, the buffoon, jester and the clown are all depictedas fools and are related ; tied to each other in some sort ofway. They relatively have the same objectives in their roles butin appearance wise (clothes, physical features) they may bedifferent. In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Feste’s role in thisIllyrian comedy is significant because “Illyria is a countrypermeated with the spirit of the Feast of Fools, where identitiesare confused, ‘uncivil rule’ applauded. . .
and no harm is done”. “In Illyria therefore the fool is not so much a critic of hisenvironment as a ringleader, a merry-companion, a Lord ofMisrule. Being equally welcome above and below stairs. .
” makesFeste significant as a character. In Twelfth Night, Feste playsthe role of a humble clown employed by Olivia’s father playingthe licensed fool of their household. We learn this in Olivia’sstatement stating that Feste is “an allowed fool”(I. v. 93) meaninghe is licensed, privileged critic to speak the truth of the people around him. We also learn in a statement by Curio to theDuke that Feste is employed by Olivia’s father.
“Feste thejester. . . a fool that the Lady Olivia’s father took much pleasurein”(II. iv. 11).
Feste is more of the comic truth of the comedy. Although hedoes not make any profound remarks, he seems to be the wisestperson within all the characters in the comedy. Viola remarksthis by saying “This fellow’s wise enough to play thefool”(III. i. 61). Since Feste is a licensed fool, his main rolein Twelfth Night is to speak the truth.
This is where the humorlies, his truthfulness. In one example he proves Olivia to be atrue fool by asking her what she was mourning about. The pointFeste tried to make was why was Olivia mourning for a personwho’s soul is in heaven? “CLOWNGood madonna, why mourn’st thou?OLIVIA Good Fool, for my brother’s death. CLOWNI think his soul is in hell, madonna. OLIVIA I know his soul is in heaven, fool. CLOWNThe more fool, madonna, to mourn for yourbrother’s soul, being in heaven.
Take away the fool,gentlemen. Adding to the humor of the comedy, Feste, dresses up as Sir Topaz, the curate and visits the imprisoned Malvolio with 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 (disguised as Sir Topaz) calls Malvolio a “lunatic” (IV.
ii. 23), “satan”(IV. ii. 32) and confuses him by wittingly making him a fool. Throughout the play, Malvolio has always been the person whointentionally spoils the pleasure of other people(killjoy). He is Feste’s worst nightmare in the play, but in the end is triumphed over by Feste completely and is the only character to show a negative attitude and a dignity reversed.
“MALVOLIO: I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you!” (V. i. 378) At the end of the comedy, Feste, “is given the last word and is left in possession of the stage”. Maria, Olivia’s companion is another person who seems enthusiastic in playing pranks on other people. In Twelfth Night, she plays the unsuspecting role of a behind the scene fool who gives ideas to Feste, Sir Andrew ; Sir Toby to assist her in her plans.
In two incidents, she remains quiet while her plans are carried out by either the Knights or the Clown. Part of the humor that lies in this comedy is that Maria’s pranks are harsh & cruel, using love and power (status of Olivia)to attack Malvolio, steward of Olivia, who is “. . . . sick of self love”(I.
v. 90). For this, Malvolio’s greed for power ends himself locked up in a dark cell and is accused of being mad. She also prepares Feste to disguise as Sir Topaz. This is seen in the quote: “Nay,I prithee put on this gown and this beard; make him believe thou are Sir Topas the curate; do it quickly. I’ll call Sir Toby the whilst.
” (IV. ii. 1,2,3) Combined with otherfools, Maria helps make Twelfth Night a hilariously funny comedy. Lastly, Sir Toby Belch is another fool in Twelfth Night.
His role is helping “on the game of make-believe”. Always convincing ; encouraging the rich Sir Andrew Aguecheek that he has a chance of winning Lady Olivia’s love. He is similar to Feste, except he plays the role of a knight and is Olivia’s kinsman. His role is similar to a fool because he depicts many pranks of a fool. For example in Act II scene iii, while he was drunk he sings along with Feste when Malvolio barges in to shut them up. Whenever there is a prank, Maria invites Sir Toby toparticipate.
One such prank was to assist Maria’s fake letter to make Malvolio think Olivia is in love with him. Sir Toby’s make-believe scheme works convincingly on Malvolio. Another prank was to accompany the disguised Feste (Sir Topaz) into the dark cell where Malvolio was imprisoned. This accompaniment was probably to assure Malvolio that the real Sir Topaz is visiting him. Yet it is another make-believe schemeof Sir Toby. In Twelfth Night, the fools are the ones that control the comedy and humor in the play.
They assist in the make believe game and fool around with characters who “evade reality or ratherrealize a dream”. In Twelfth Night, Feste, Maria and Sir Toby are the fools that make the comedy work in many senses. They create the confusion through humor and it all works out in the end to make William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night a really funny Elizabethan play.