Twelfth Night, Act IV, Scene II
Feste, the Fool, disguises himself as Sir Topas, a priest, and visits Malvolio in his imprisonment, under direction of Maria and Sir Toby. Malvolio is relieved to hear the voice of the priest and believes the priest might release him from his prison. Malvolio makes the claim that he is not insane and is wrongly imprisoned in darkness. Feste tells Malvolio that he is in a well-lit room and that the darkness is simply ignorance. Sir Toby becomes afraid that if this jest goes on for any longer, Olivia, his niece might kick him out of her house. Sir Toby urges Feste to talk to Malvolio as himself. Feste, however, is having a bit of fun with his new alter ego. Feste begins talking to Malvolio as himself, but he begins using both personas in the conversation. Malvolio still urges Feste that he is sane and asks Feste to bring him a pen, some paper and a light. Feste offers to retrieve the requested items. 3.
This scene deals directly with the ideas of identity and insanity found throughout the play. Feste dresses like a priest in order to assume the identity of Sir Topas. However, Malvolio is in darkness and is incapable of seeing Feste. The disguise is not needed, but the usage of the disguise points to identity being a direct result of personal appearance. Feste must dress as a priest in order to act like a priest. Previously, Malvolio dressed rather absurdly and was, by the same logic inherent in Feste’s costuming, insane.
The scene also changes the audience’s perception of Malvolio. Earlier in the play, Malvolio’s character is a boring burden of sobriety on the community. As such a character, his humiliation seems warranted. In this scene, however, he is helpless. Feste treats Malvolio like a toy and attempts to convince him that he is truly insane. 4.
The scene’s location in the play breaks up the action involving Sebastian in the first and third scenes of Act IV. This scene’s tone is...
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