The Influence Of Feste In William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

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Women dressing as men, hilarious drunken revelries, and an impressive lineup of shenanigans are all elements that make William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night a wildly entertaining work. However, tucked behind each outrageous trick and mix-up are peeks into the past and lessons to be learned, all at the hands of one unlikely character. Shakespeare utilizes Feste, the court jester, as a means of providing more than just witty remarks and comic relief. In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare relies on Feste’s interactions with the upper class to offer insight into Elizabethan society and to expose the privileged upper class’s follies. Influences from Elizabethan society are prevalent throughout Twelfth Night, and Feste’s encounters with the upper class illustrate…show more content…
As a result, individuals believed the fate of the commonwealth would be compromised. At the same time, The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare states that “people did not easily move from one class to another,” partly due to the rigid order put into place (McDonald 274). To illustrate these Elizabethan ideals, Shakespeare relies on Feste’s interaction with Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek. As Sir Toby and Sir Andrew participate in their nightly drinking ritual, Feste enters the scene and begins to entertain the men. After Feste sings for his drunken audience, Sir Andrew and Sir Toby persuade Feste to take part in their banter. In response, Feste states, “Hold thy peace, thou knave,” knight? I shall be constrained in’t to call thee knave, knight” (II.iii 65-66). In this scene, Feste recognizes that Sir Andrew and Sir Toby are of a higher rank than he. Therefore, to take part and to intermingle with a higher social class would be considered unacceptable, according to strict…show more content…
As a member of Countess Olivia’s court, Feste spends ample time around the upper class and members of their households. In turn, he witnesses firsthand the hostile attitudes that would have been prevalent during the Elizabethan age. Russ McDonald writes, “It is not surprising that the class system, despite its long history and the conditioning that helped to enforce it, was the source of tension and resentment” (275). During the Elizabethan period, tensions ran high as the lower classes struggled under the oppression of the upper classes. With such huge gaps separating classes during this time, it is no surprise that this division led to bitter attitudes toward both inferiors and superiors. While members of the upper class scorned the lower class for being of lesser influence, members of the lower class harbored hatred toward the upper class for denouncing their lower rank and for viewing the lower class members as scalawags. As an example of hostile sentiment toward one another, Shakespeare utilizes Malvolio’s brush with Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Feste during a drunken evening. In the midst of their revelries and disruptive behavior, Malvolio enters angrily to scold the men for being obnoxious while Olivia tries to sleep. Malvolio

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