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Twelfth Night-An Analysis Of Feste And The Book Of The Courtier

Updated on December 8, 2012
A scene from Twelfth Night by William Hamilton
A scene from Twelfth Night by William Hamilton

The character in Twelfth Night that best follows the rules of a courtier is Feste. Although Feste’s occupation as a fool make him far from being a courtier, every characters in Twelfth Night is some kind of a fool. Feste just happen to act one but his wit and skills make him the closest to that of a courtier.

By the dictionary, a courtier is “a person who is often in attendance at the court of a king or other royal personage; person who seeks favor by flattery, charm.” By this definition a courtier is someone who is good at talking but that is incorrect. A courtier is a gentleman (in this case) who is smart and witty and is skillful at everything; from sports to languages. They are honest and good and they make it all so effortlessly.

Although no one characters in Twelfth Night fit all of this descriptions, Feste fit it the best. Feste just happen to play the fool but he is no fool. “This fellow is wise enough to play the fool, And to do that well craves a kind of wit. He must observe their mood on whom he jests, the quality of persons, and the time, And like, the haggard, check at every feather That comes before his eye. This is a practice As full of labor as a wise man’s art; for folly that he wisely shows I fit”(Twelfth Night), shows that it takes much skills to simply play a fool. He does it so well that it seems natural which fit one of the rules of the courtier: “To do his feates with a slight, as though they were rather naturally in him, then learned with studye: and use a Reckelesness to cover art, without minding greatly what he hath in hand, to a mans seeminge. “(Courtier)

Feste must also observe the situation and make jokes accordingly. His jokes point out the folly of the other characters but are also funny. This shows that he is a master of the language. “Not so, sir, I do care for something; but in my conscience, sir, I do not care for you. If that be to care for nothing, sir, I would it would make you invisible” (Twelfth Night). He is making fun of viola but the way he words it, it does not feel like he is insulting her. This fit in with two other rules a courtier must follow: “Not to be overseene in speaking wordes otherwhile that may offende where he ment it not” and “To be well spoken and faire languaged. “ (Courtier)

A courtier must be able to sing and dance, which Feste does. A courtier is also the life of the party, which is what Feste embodied. He is the center of attention in Twelve Night. He is the only characters in the book that can openly mock every character and get away with it.

Although Feste do lack a lot of the qualities of a courtier and does not always follow the conditions of a courtier, he is still the closest to a courtier compare to the rest of the characters in Twelfth Night. Orsino is the ruler of Illyria and he is lovesick with Olivia. He tries to woo her by sending his servants. Not once in the entire play does he actually take actions himself. A courtier can be of noble birth but they generally do thing themselves. They do not use their servants to accomplish their tasks; they do the tasks and make it look easy.

Malvolio courts Olivia while Maria cover her amusement by Daniel Maclise
Malvolio courts Olivia while Maria cover her amusement by Daniel Maclise

Viola is a shipwreck woman who disguises herself as a man. There she is employ by Orsino to woo Olivia. If she was a male Courtier, she would follow the rules of a courtier quite well. She is smart and witty. But as a woman, she does not follow those rules very well. As a woman she woos another woman to liking her. She tricks the man she likes.

Sebestian is Viola’s non-identical twin who happens to look a lot like Viola. He married Olivia when she proposed despite not knowing who she was. Sebestian is an idiot. He is one of the farthest characters from being a courtier.

Olivia is a noblewoman who somewhat adheres by the rules of courtier. She is not as smart and witty as Viola or Feste but she does act like a lady. She has many men after her. If she was not so excess in her doing, I would say she would be a good courtier. She mourns the death of her brother for seven years. A courtier is supposed to be happy and joyful, someone who talks with everyone. Olivia locks herself up and surrounds herself with only her servant and family.

Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Maria are simply side characters in the story. They are not as witty and smart as Feste but they are just as childish. They do not have the same mastery of the language as Feste nor do they have his insight.

Mavolio is a servant of Olivia and is the constant target of jokes from Feste, Toby, Andrew, and Maria. He is good at his job but does not joke or make conversation. A courtier is someone who talks with everyone and is the life of the party. Mavolio is not the life of the party.

Feste is perfect. He is mean spirit but it is his wits and intelligence that makes him closest to being a courtier. A courtier is incredible intelligent in order to do what they do. He is also very jolly and is the life of the party; he seems to have a song for every occasion. No one person in Twelfth Night follows even a third of the rules of a courtier but it is Feste who best fits what a courtier is when compare to the rest of the characters.


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    • avan989 profile image

      avan989 5 years ago from maryland

      wow thx, i didn't even know i was nominated. lol :) I guess I need to read my email more

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hmmmm it would be nice to meet a courtier someday. :)

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! To view the hubnuggets for this week click here Cheers!