The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0567  Monday, 12 March 2001

From:           Barrett Fisher <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 09 Mar 2001 10:30:55 -0600
Subject:        Fabian vs. Feste

First, thanks to all who suggested various sources for music in "Twelfth
Night."  My student, who has a wonderful soprano voice and accompanied
herself on the piano, did come up with a contemporary setting from
"Songs in Shakespeare" and made an excellent contribution to a fine
student performance.

Second, I am also wondering if someone can help me with a question that
my students raised but I have never investigated: why the switch of
Fabian for Feste in 2.5?  This change was made particularly clear to all
of us when one student group played 2.3, in which Feste is in on the
plan for the letter, and then another performed 2.5, in which Fabian
appears instead.

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."  (And Fabian certainly has a larger part than Friar Thomas [or,
for that matter, the Justiceo and Varrius in "Measure."])  Perhaps it
wouldn't be appropriate for Feste both to comment on Sir Toby's and
Maria's marriage and confront Malvolio at the end, but given his animus
towards Malvolio (especially emphasized in Trevor Nunn's film, which
could be subtitled "Feste's Revenge") it seems odd that he is not an
active partner in 2.5.

A possible argument--that this is Maria's device rather than
his--doesn't seem to hold up in light of 4.2, where he willingly
cooperates with the Sir Topas ploy, which is also Maria's idea.

Barrett Fisher
Bethel College

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