The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0488 Thursday, 18 March 1999.
From: Pete McCluskey <
Date: Wednesday, 17 Mar 1999 20:04:26 -0600 (CST)
Subject: What did Feste Know, and when did he know it?
In 3.1 of Twelfth Night, Feste and Viola-as-Cesario converse briefly,
culminating in Viola's "Wise enough to play the fool" speech. Although
I have seen the play twice, studied it in three different classes, and
taught it several times myself, I have not encountered the suggestion
that Feste, in fact, recognizes Cesario as a woman. After rereading the
scene with this notion in mind, I was struck by the ironic possibilities
underlying their exchange (most notably Feste's begging a second coin by
promising to "play Lord Pandarus"). Do any list members know if this
suggestion has been made? And if it hasn't, is there anything to it?
(Take a close look at the scene before replying-much of it deals with
role reversal, inversion, fooling (role-playing?), and, of course,
gender ("now Jove, in his next commodity of hair, send thee a beard").
Feste, of course, knows quite a bit about fooling people while
concealing his own nature; perhaps Viola's "Wise enough" speech is her
acknowledgment that he has recognized her own charade.
After too many cakes and ale,