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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: March ::
Re: Fabian vs. Feste
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0598  Tuesday, 13 March 2001

[1]     From:   Geralyn Horton <
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        Date:   Monday, 12 Mar 2001 20:17:27 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0567 Fabian vs. Feste

[2]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Monday, 12 Mar 2001 20:01:09 -0800
        Subj:   SHK 12.0567 Fabian vs. Feste

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Mar 2001 00:16:45 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0567 Fabian vs. Feste


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <
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Date:           Monday, 12 Mar 2001 20:17:27 -0500
Subject: 12.0567 Fabian vs. Feste
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0567 Fabian vs. Feste

Some directors never find a reason for Feste worth considering, and
combine the 2 into one character.  I believe that more than 1 out of
every 3 productions I've seen omit Fabian.

> I have to confess that I have never fully understood Fabian's presence
> in the play, though I can think of other instances (e.g., the
> "redundant" Friar Thomas in "Measure for Measure") where a new minor
> character is introduced, but I think those can generally be explained by
> staging exigencies, and that doesn't seem to be the case in "Twelfth
> Night."

Geralyn Horton, Playwright
Newton, Mass. 02460
<http://www.tiac.net/users/ghorton>

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Monday, 12 Mar 2001 20:01:09 -0800
Subject: Fabian vs. Feste
Comment:        SHK 12.0567 Fabian vs. Feste

The Feste/Fabian question raised by Barrett Fisher is one that never
seems to have been resolved satisfactorily. I was in a production in the
70s in which we combined the two into a single character (this device
created a small, but reparable, problem in the beginning of the final
scene). I don't think that this really resolved the issue, however. Rowe
called Fabian 'servant' to Olivia, and the formal language (albeit
familiar behavior) he employs with Sir Andrew and Sir Toby seems to
support this. But where he comes from and why Feste doesn't follow
through with Maria's suggestion in 2.3.168 is unclear. It leaves
directors and actors much room for experimentation -- for good or ill.

One theory that seemed popular thirty years ago, but which never sounded
convincing to my ears, was that Fabian was the new, young clown who has
come to replace Feste, the older clown. This idea, it seems to me, is
extra-textual.

A related, and also interesting, issue is why Feste sings for Orsino
instead of Viola. She claims to be able to sing in her scene with the
Sea Captain (1.2.61-2) -- indeed that skill seems to be an important
attribute, yet Feste is the one who sings "Come Away, Death" in 2.4!
This is another of those puzzles that seem to have inspired the
imagination of critics. I don't know of any truly satisfactory
explanations, but I find it very satisfying to have Feste play this role
in the scene.

Any new scholarship would certainly interest me, too.

Paul E. Doniger

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Tuesday, 13 Mar 2001 00:16:45 -0500
Subject: 12.0567 Fabian vs. Feste
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0567 Fabian vs. Feste

Barrett Fisher asks:

> why the switch of
> Fabian for Feste in 2.5?

I believe that I previously posted a comment on a subject which bears
upon this, taking off from Viola's lines at I.ii.57-58 ("Thou shalt
present me as an eunuch to him./ It may be worth thy pains; for I can
sing").  It has been speculated (e.g., by Granville-Barker) that this
play went through a number of changes of intent as it was composed, such
as the addition of Fabian when Feste would not serve his function.  But
I wonder if these lines don't presage that the actor playing Viola would
be the singer in the play and, when he couldn't serve this turn (or
another actor replaced him), Feste was added to do the singing and was
given most of Fabian's part to fill out the role.  If this speculation
is accurate, Fabian is a remnant, not an addition.  The change of Viola
from a proposed eunuch to a page is consistent with this notion, and
confusion of Fabian with Feste in II.iii.174, and the omission of a
stage direction for Feste's exit in that scene, tends to confirm it.

Also, note that in II.iv.2 Cesario is invited to sing, but Feste later
enters to sing the song.  This may be an echo of Viola's intended
function as the singer in the play.
 

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