Jesters, Jokers, Buffons, In Twelf Night Essay, Research Paper
Jester, Clowns, Buffons, in Twelfh Night 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. A clown for example, “was understood to be a countrybumpkin 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 thepeople 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?
“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 SirTopaz, the curate and visits the imprisoned Malvolio with Mariaand Sir Toby. There he uses his humor to abuse Malvoliowho is still unaware that he is actually talking to the clownthan to the real Sir Topas. Feste (disguised as Sir Topaz)calls Malvolio a “lunatic” (IV.ii.23), “satan”(IV.ii.32) andconfuses him by wittingly making him a fool. Throughout the play, Malvolio has always been the person whointentionally spoils the pleasure of other people(killjoy). Heis Feste’s worst nightmare in the play, but in the end istriumphed over by Feste completely and is the only character toshow a negative attitude and a dignity reversed. “MALVOLIO: I’ll be revenged on the whole pack ofyou!” (V.i.378) At the end of the comedy, Feste, “is given thelast word and is left in possession of the stage”. Maria, Olivia’s companion is another person who seemsenthusiastic in playing pranks on other people. In TwelfthNight, she plays the unsuspecting role of a behind the scenefool who gives ideas to Feste, Sir Andrew & Sir Toby toassist her in her plans. In two incidents, she remains quietwhile her plans are carried out by either the Knights or theClown. Part of the humor that lies in this comedy is that Maria’spranks are harsh & cruel, using love and power (status of Olivia)to attack Malvolio, steward of Olivia, who is “….sick of selflove”(I.v.90). For this, Malvolio’s greed for power endshimself locked up in a dark cell and is accused of being mad. She also prepares Feste to disguise as Sir Topaz. This is seenin 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”. Alwaysconvincing & encouraging the rich Sir Andrew Aguecheek that hehas a chance of winning Lady Olivia’s love. He is similar toFeste, except he plays the role of a knight and is Olivia’skinsman. His role is similar to a fool because he depicts manypranks of a fool. For example in Act II scene iii, while he wasdrunk he sings along with Feste when Malvolio barges in to shutthem up. Whenever there is a prank, Maria invites Sir Toby toparticipate. One such prank was to assist Maria’s fakeletter to make Malvolio think Olivia is in love withhim. Sir Toby’s make-believe scheme works convincingly onMalvolio. 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 realSir Topaz is visiting him. Yet it is another make-believe schemeof Sir Toby. In Twelfth Night, the fools are the ones that control thecomedy and humor in the play. They assist in the make believegame and fool around with characters who “evade reality or ratherrealize a dream”. In Twelfth Night, Feste, Maria and Sir Tobyare the fools that make the comedy work in many senses. Theycreate the confusion through humor and it all works out in theend to make William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night a really funnyElizabethan play. ————————————————————–