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Twelfth Night | Shakespeare and comedy | Birmingham City Council

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Twelfth Night

As a ‘corrupter of words’ Feste (Twelfth Night) uses his wit to create wordplays and puns that strike a deep meaning, whether it is about love or lust or money – ‘Youth’s a stuff will not endure….’’.

For all the foolery, however, the clown always knows where to draw the line and the limitations of his freedom:

I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are;
They’ll have me whipped for speaking true,
thou’lt have me whipped for lying;
And sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace.

Shakespeare departs further from the comic convention with Feste in Twelfth Night. Despite his job as the court entertainer, in reality Feste is neither funny, nor festive. He often thinks of death and his mood is melancholic (‘Youth’s a stuff will not endure’ or ‘ Come away, come away death’). A mood induced perhaps by his disillusion with court life full of hypocrisy and out of touch with reality (‘Nothing that is so is so’). A kind of disillusionment that gets expressed right until the end of the play: ‘But that’s all one, our play is done’.