FESTE & VIOLA in TWELFTH NIGHT
Feste is a domestic fool, which entitles him to more license in speaking his mind. He is the servant to one Countess Olivia, who does not fool him one bit with her sophisticated deceptions regarding the Duke's love
suit. (Instead of an honest declaration, she stalls him with some pretense about mourning for seven years for a brother's death, but like Isabella, M/M, she suddenly rejects her vows when she falls in love and pursues the Duke's page who is really Viola in disguise.)
Feste is nobody's fool. He is a perceptive observer and commentator of those around him. No one, regardless of their rank, is exempted from his good-natured digs. When the Countess calls him a fool he says:
"I wear not motley in my brain."and tosses the epitaph back at her, intimating as well that she is a hypocrite. As for her drunken uncle, Sir Toby Belch, he declares!"
"One of thy kin has a most weak pia mater."He pegs the stupid Sir Andrew as a knave: he tells the Duke himself "thy mind is a very opal." (changeable, fickle). He even exposes the treachery of words:
Feste: "..words are grown so false, I am loathe to prove reason with them."Feste has met his match, for Viola will not take his criticisms of her meekly. At the same time. she expresses a healthy respect for his talent in sorting out the truth and his courage to speak it out.
She says of him:
"This fellow is wise enough to play the fool;In Feste's own words: "Better a witty fool than a foolish wit."
As for Viola, she too is a truth-teller though she is not so quick and ready as Feste to give it voice.
In her disguise as a page, the Duke has sent her to press his love suit to Olivia (another wealthy heiress, like Portia, M.V.) Olivia is haughty in receiving her, almost to the point of abuse. When she removes her face-veil, at Viola's request, she asks in immodest self-conceit "..is't not well done?". To which Viola wryly remarks "Excellently done, if God did all."
Her pedestal shaken, Olivia snaps back "'Tis in the grain, sir,°twill endure wind and weather."
Viola is impressed and this somewhat restores Olivia's balance and former arrogant posture. But Viola gives her another jolt with " I see what you are, you are too proud, but if you were the devil, you are fair."
Olivia: "I prithee, tell me what you think'st of me?"Olivia, unaccustomed as she is to outspoken candor, is stimulated by the experience which she fashions into an infatuation for Viola, thinking her a man. Unable to restrain herself, she confesses her 'love', and honest Viola replies:
"By innocence I swear, and by my youth,In the confusion of mistaken identities (being taken for her twin brother who she assumes lost in a shipwreck but who has newly arrived in the city,) she is accused of betrayal and thus defends her honesty and principles:
"I hate ingratitude more in a manThat's a well-honed declaration and shows more courage than engaging in idle sword play. Her plain-speaking, true-dealing earns her a place in this group.