Feste (or the Clown) is introduced in this scene in his conversation with Maria at Olivia’s home. Maria is chastising Feste for being gone so long and not telling anyone where he went. Feste refuses to give her any information about his whereabouts. Lady Olivia and Malvolio enter. Olivia is not pleased to see Feste and orders that he be removed from the house. Feste is able to lighten Olivia’s mourning mood. Malvolio on the other hand is not impressed. He thinks Feste is useless and bothersome. Olivia reproves Malvolio for being so serious and distempered. Maria arrives with news that there is a young man at the house gate to see Olivia. (It is Viola dressed as Cesario delivering the message from Orsino.) Olivia sends Malvolio out to see what this man wants. Sir Toby comes stumbling in obviously intoxicated. Olivia reproves Toby for drinking and sends Feste off to take care of him. Malvolio returns from speaking with the young man, telling Olivia that he refuses to leave. Olivia is curious about this man and asks Malvolio what he looks like. Malvolio tells her that the man is youthful and good looking. Olivia is curious to see him and allows him to enter. She calls for Maria to bring her a veil to cover her face for remember she is supposedly still in mourning over her brother’s death. Viola, dressed as Cesario, enters and begins to recite Orsiono’s speech from memory. Olivia removers her veil and asks the young man if he thinks she is pretty. Cesario compliments her beauty. Olivia turns the questions to Cesario and seems to be much more interested in him than the Duke. Olivia sends Cesario back to Orsino with the news that she does not love him and never will. Yet, she invites Cesario to return. When Cesario leaves, Olivia calls for Malvolio asking him to chase after Cesario and give him a ring, pretending that he left it behind but meaning it as a token of her affection. Olivia finds herself hopelessly in love with Cesario.
Close Reading Analysis:
- Discussion Points:
1. Feste is titled the “clown” in this play, but is he really the fool? What “foolish” characteristics does each of the characters possess? In Line 56, Feste asks to prove to Olivia that she is also “foolish.”
2. In Lines 9 and 20, Shakespeare establishes time by referring to Lenten and let summer bear it out. This use of Spring presents the idea of “new life” and “new possibilities.” For these characters, it is almost a “mating season.”
3. Feste says, Better a witty fool than a foolish wit (Line 35). This reinforces the theme of Ability to See Your Folly. Feste has a very logical and sensible way of seeing the world. He speaks here to the fact that we all need the ability to laugh at oneself rather than fostering an unbearable pride—hubris.
4. It is important for Viola to see Olivia’s face. Why? What does this suggest about Viola and her feelings towards Orsino?
- Vocabulary and Literary Devices:
The discussion between Olivia and Malvolio (regarding Viola/Cesario) in Lines 149-155 is riddled with puns.
Later, in Line 243, there is another pun in the discussion between Olivia and Viola/Cesario.
1. In Line 69, Feste tells Olivia The more fool, Madonna, to mourn for your brother’s soul, being in heaven. Take away the fool, gentlemen. Which person should be taken away? Who is foolish, sensible, and why?
2. Orsino has been trying desperately to win the affection of Olivia, yet Cesario unwittingly wins her regard in their very first meeting. What qualities does Cesario possess that Orsino lacks, or what other factors make the situation different?
Shakespeare’s plays do not include stage directions, allowing the actors the freedom to determine how best to move within the scene to communicate the appropriate messages.
Create a Prompt Book
1. Make enough copies of the scene for individuals or partner groups to use within your class.
2. Ask the students to annotate the entire scene:
noting in the margins, throughout the lines, and with specific words what emotions the actors should be expressing with their posture and tone of voice.
noting how the actors should gesture and move about the stage throughout the scene.
noting to whom the actors are saying their lines.
At this point, you could ask the students to perform the scene, discuss the scene with other groups, or have a full group discussion to compare how everyone would stage the action.
Shakespeare’s plays often have a clown or fool. What purpose did this role play within the plot. What popular actors of Shakespeare’s Day inspired him to create this part? How did Shakespeare represent the common people with this character?