Question: Explore and debate the function of the Fool Feste within this dramatic comedy. To what extent does he offer honest insight to both the characters and the audience?
Feste does offer honest insight to both the characters and the audience because he is a very perceptive character who can see people for who they really are. In Act One, Scene Five, Feste gives an insight to what is happening between Sir Toby and Maria; “if Sir Toby would leave drinking, thou wert as witty as a piece of Eve’s flesh as any in Illyria.” He suggests that there is something going on between them but he thinks that Sir Toby’s alcoholism is preventing their relationship from going any further. He is also shown as a perceptive character in Act Three, Scene one when he is talking to Viola dressed as Cesario, he says “Now, Jove, in his next commodity of hair, send thee a beard!” He might be implying that he has seen through Viola’s disguise and knows that she is truly a woman. The fact that he says “send thee a beard” could suggest that he might want to aid Viola in her disguise so she would not be found out. In addition, his ‘foolery’ in this first scene manages to suggest the illogicality and implausibility of Olivia’s continued mourning of her brother. Feste has a multitude of functions within the play. For example, Shakespeare uses him to add a ‘darker’ element to the comedy. He dresses as Sir Topas to get his revenge on Malvolio. He tries to convince Malvolio that he is insane by telling him that the room that Malvolio is in has “bay windows transparent as barricadoes” (telling him it is very bright in there whereas Malvolio sees the opposite (the real thing) which is “hideous darkness”). Some audiences may consider this tormenting excessive; surely Malvolio has suffered enough humiliation for his folly? Another way that a ‘darker’ element is added through Feste’s disguise as Sir Topas is when he calls Malvolio a “dishonest Satan”. This is comparing Malvolio to the Devil...
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