How does the dramatic device of the fool contribute to the comedy in Twelfth Night?
Feste is Shakespeare’s comedic tool in Twelfth Night. He uses puns and a mix of prose and iambic pentameter to titillate the audience. However, in a different manner, Malvolio is also presented as a fool, but in the sense that he is at the end of the jests of others, which amuses us due to how Shakespeare has made the audience dislike him. Typically, in Shakespeare’s comedies such as As you like it, the fool is presented as a citizen of average rank. This means that these characters are relatable to the majority of the audience in the groundlings of the theatre. In many of Shakespeare’s comedy acts, the fool would be a clever character in more than one way. Intelligence is an important feature of the typical Shakespearean fool. They tend to use it to trick or undermine members of higher rank than their own, as they are typically of a working position themselves; which appeals to the humours of both high and low class themselves, especially the lower ranking members of the audience, in the groundlings of the theatre. (4) Even though Feste, and other fools such as Touchstone, are presented as from a lower rank, they are clever with words, twisting them into puns that are both intelligent and amusing, but that also belittled the hierarchy (3,4) An example of the fool mocking these ranks is in the following scene, where Feste is arguing with Olivia about who the true fool is out of the two of them, asking why “mourn’st thou?” to which she replied that she does so for her dead brother. Feste tells her he thinks “his soul is in hell”, but Olivia disagrees, and claims to know“his soul is in heaven”. But Feste twists her reply, and comments that she is “more fool” “to mourn for your brother’s being in heaven.” The comedy created by this extract, would be noticed by the higher ranking people in the theatre. A more complex of comedy is presented here with the flip from poetry to...
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