Twelfth Night - Analysis of Fools

A fool can be defined in many meanings according to the

Oxford English Dictionary On Historical Principles. 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" (word originated from

North Frisian). In english literature, the two main ways which
the fool could enter imaginative literature is that "He could
provide a topic, a theme for mediation, or he could turn into a
stock character on the stage, a stylized comic figure". In

William Shakespeare\'s comedy, Twelfth Night, Feste the clown is
not the only fool who is subject to foolery. He and many other
characters combine their silly acts and wits to invade other
characters that "evade reality or rather realize a dream", while"our sympathies go out to those". "It is natural that the fool
should be a prominent & attractive figure and make an important
contribution to the action" in forming the confusion and the
humor in an Elizabethan drama. In Twelfth Night, the clown and
the fools are the ones who combine humor & wit to make the comedy
work.

Clowns, jesters, and Buffoons are usually regarded as fools.

Their differences could be of how they dress, act or portrayed in
society. A clown for example, "was understood to be a country
bumpkin or \'cloun\'". In Elizabethan usage, the word \'clown\' is
ambiguous "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 to
make low jests and antics postures; a clown, jester, fool".

The buffoon is a fool because "although he exploits his own
weaknesses instead of being exploited by others....he resembles
other comic fools". This is similar to the definition of a

\'Jester\' who is also known as a "buffoon, or a merry andrew. One
maintained in a prince\'s court or nobleman\'s household". As
you can see, the buffoon, jester and the clown are all depicted
as fools and are related & tied to each other in some sort of
way. They relatively have the same objectives in their roles but
in appearance wise (clothes, physical features) they may be
different. In Shakespeare\'s Twelfth Night, Feste\'s role in this

Illyrian comedy is significant because "Illyria is a country
permeated with the spirit of the Feast of Fools, where identities
are confused, \'uncivil rule\' applauded...and no harm is done".

"In Illyria therefore the fool is not so much a critic of his
environment as a ringleader, a merry-companion, a Lord of

Misrule. Being equally welcome above and below stairs.." makes

Feste significant as a character. In Twelfth Night, Feste plays
the role of a humble clown employed by Olivia\'s father playing
the licensed fool of their household. We learn this in Olivia\'s
statement stating that Feste is "an allowed fool"(I.v.93) meaning
he is licensed, privileged critic to speak the truth of the
people around him. We also learn in a statement by Curio to the

Duke that Feste is employed by Olivia\'s father. "Feste the
jester... a fool that the Lady Olivia\'s father took much pleasure
in"(II.iv.11).

Feste is more of the comic truth of 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 remarks
this by saying "This fellow\'s wise enough to play the
fool"(III.i.61). Since Feste is a licensed fool, his main role
in Twelfth Night is to speak the truth. This is where the humor
lies, his truthfulness. In one example he proves Olivia to be a
true fool by asking her what she was mourning about. The point

Feste tried to make was why was Olivia mourning for a person
who\'s soul is in heaven?

"CLOWN Good madonna, why mourn\'st thou?

OLIVIA Good Fool, for my brother\'s death.

CLOWN I think his soul is in hell, madonna.

OLIVIA I know his soul is in heaven, fool.

CLOWN The more fool, madonna, to mourn for your
brother\'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