Fools in Shakespeare’s plays appear often. In Othello, the Tempest, Macbeth and many others, the buffoon is represented as an eclectic person paid to say the truth in a comic manner through songs and jokes. Even though Feste in Twelth Night does not speak frequently in the first and second acts, he says enough for us to see that he is an observant and clever man.
Firstly, well associated with the spirit of the twelfth night, the night where society reverses roles, Feste reflects joy. His name is a great example of the happiness he expresses. Feste sounds a lot like the French word «fête», which means party. In every scene he plays in the second act, he starts to sing. He says to Orsino that he takes «pleasure in singing» which truly proves his delight in what he does. In other words, he is a man that likes his job. But the name Feste associates with the twelfth night in a traditional way too. He is allowed to say whatever he wishes because he is a licensed fool, as we found out when Olivia referred to him as «an allowed fool». This freedom of speech fits in well with the reversal of roles involved in the 12th night ritual. When Olivia orders «take away the fool», he answers «take away the lady». This disrespectful answer would have ended the employment of any of the other servants of the lady. But, even considering the fixed hierarchical structure of society at the time, Feste can say whatever he thinks as long as he says it in song or in a comic manner.
Moreover, Feste’s job contrasts with his abilities. Since he is a fool, we expect him to be illiterate, certainly not very perspicacious, but on the contrary, he turns out to be the most intelligent character of the play. This is shown by his developed sense of repartee hidden through his role of jester. For example, in the last scene of the first Act, Maria criticizes Feste of having no real bravery, as he pretends to have, compared with soldiers. He answers that everyone should do what he is good at («And...
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