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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: What did Feste know?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0490  Friday, 19 March 1999.

[1]     From:   Stevie Simkin <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Mar 1999 15:25:29 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0488 What did Feste Know, and when did he know it?

[2]     From:   Pete McCluskey <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Mar 1999 09:36:01 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   What did Feste know?

[3]     From:   Lawrence Manley <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Mar 1999 10:52:10 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0488 What did Feste Know, and when did he know it?

[4]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Mar 1999 11:28:34 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0488 What did Feste Know, and when did he know it?

[5]     From:   William Taylor <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Mar 99 13:15:02 PST
        Subj:   Re: [SHK 10.0488 What did Feste Know, and when did he know it?

[6]     From:   Werner Bronnimann <
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        Date:   Fri, 19 Mar 1999 08:58:11 +0000
        Subj:   SHK 10.0488 What did Feste know?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stevie Simkin <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Mar 1999 15:25:29 +0000
Subject: 10.0488 What did Feste Know, and when did he know it?
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0488 What did Feste Know, and when did he know it?

Pete McCluskey wrote:

>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.

For what it's worth, when I directed Twelfth Night about 7 years ago, we
played it as if Feste knew exactly what Viola was up to by this stage in
the game.  On the line "who you are" (...."and what you would are out my
welkin") (3.1.58-9), Feste snatched Viola's hat from her head to reveal
her long hair.  It adds a certain something to Viola's next line "This
fellow is wise enough to play the fool", and makes Viola's situation
seem more vulnerable and precarious.

Stevie Simkin

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pete McCluskey <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Mar 1999 09:36:01 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        What did Feste know?

In my initial post asking whether Feste sees through Viola's disguise, I
failed to follow my own suggestion to take a look at the play before
responding.  This morning I did just that, groaning loudly when I got to
4.1, the scene in which Feste encounters Sebastian.  This scene can be
taken as proof that Feste has not penetrated the disguise, although the
possibility remains attractive to me for several reasons.  Certainly
Feste's line, "ungird thy strangeness" (14) can be taken as an ironic
acknowledgement of the disguise, while his observation after seeing
Sebastian strike Toby and Andrew ("I would not be in some of your coats
for two-pence") suggests that Toby and Andrew will not only be punished
by Olivia for challenging her beloved Cesario but also that they will
later be shamed when the truth is revealed that they have been beaten by
a girl.  The crux, of course, is why Feste would conceal Viola's
identity.  Perhaps he does so for the same reason he neglects to deliver
Malvolio's letter until the situation has exhausted its comic
potential.  Certainly Feste, of all people, would enjoy watching Olivia
and the others make fools of themselves believing Viola to be a man.  If
so, it would be an especially Puckish touch, one in keeping with the mad
inversions of the play.

The Madly Used McCluskey

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lawrence Manley <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Mar 1999 10:52:10 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 10.0488 What did Feste Know, and when did he know it?
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0488 What did Feste Know, and when did he know it?

On Thursday, 18 Mar 1999, Pete McClusky wrote:

>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?

It seems to be the basis for Ben Kingsley's interpretation of the Feste
role in the 1996 Trevor Nunn film.

Lawrence Manley

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Mar 1999 11:28:34 -0500
Subject: 10.0488 What did Feste Know, and when did he know it?
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0488 What did Feste Know, and when did he know it?

Didn't Nunn have Feste play it that way in his film version with Ben
Kingsley?

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Taylor <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Mar 99 13:15:02 PST
Subject: 10.0488 What did Feste Know, and when did he know it?
Comment:        Re: [SHK 10.0488 What did Feste Know, and when did he know it?

Pete McCluskey asks if Feste recognizes that Cesario is a woman.

I have seen it played that way on several occasions, most notably in the
Trevor Nunn film (1996) with Ben Kingsley and Imogen Stubbs.  According
to Nunn, Feste is sitting on top of a hill and watches Viola wash up
onto the beach, in woman's dress.  She throws away a necklace which he
returns to her in the final scene, revealing that he has known
throughout the film that Cesario is a woman.

I'm correcting term papers just now, and two of my students are
maintaining (I don't agree with them) that Anton Lesser's Feste has seen
through her disguise in 3.1 of the production directed for the stage by
Kenneth Branagh and for television by Paul Kafno (available on a laser
disk that did not get mentioned, I think, in the recent postings about
Shakespearean LDs).

Such an interpretation raises two other questions immediately.

1)   Does Viola know that he knows?  The director/actor decision here
can easily be communicated by Viola's "I would not have it grow on my
chin."  Is that delivered as an aside, or directly to Feste, with a
wink, acknowledging his discovery of her secret?

2)   Feste seems to know pretty much everything that is going on at
Orsino's and at Olivia's.  He has certainly seen through Orsino and his
problems, and tells him so in 2.4: "Thy mind is a very opal," etc.
Would he not be aware of Olivia's passion for Cesario?  Even Aguecheek
has noticed that something is going on.  And if so, wouldn't Feste tell
her that Cesario is a woman?  That one is harder to answer, it seems to
me.


[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Werner Bronnimann <
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Date:           Fri, 19 Mar 1999 08:58:11 +0000
Subject: What did Feste know?
Comment:        SHK 10.0488 What did Feste know?

If indeed Feste recognised Cesario/Viola as a woman, this would reduce
the irony in 4.1.4-7, where he addresses Sebastian:

"No, I do not know you, nor I am not sent to you by my lady to bid you
come speak with her; nor your name is not master Cesario; nor this is
not my nose neither.  Nothing that is so is so."

Given the play's intricate structures of discrepancies of awareness
(Bertrand Evans), greater comic and emotional effects can probably be
achieved, if Feste's level of awareness is in fact below that of the
audience, while his words suggest that he is aware of greater truths.
Still it would be interesting to know about production practice in this
matter.

Cheers,
Werner Bronnimann
 

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