Twelfth Night and The Servant of Two Masters both relate to this course’s theme of the carnivalesque. Both plays share the commonality of having a clown, or a fool; in Twelfth Night it is Feste or the Fool, and in The Servant of Two Masters it is Truffaldino. Both characters play the fool in contrasting ways to express similar yet different forms of the carnivalesque. During carnival, laughter is prominent; people are laughing together, they are laughing at each other, and they are being laughed at. The laughter of carnival is both malicious and happy and everyone is included in it.
Feste and Truffaldino show the different aspects of carnival laughter through their portrayals of the fool. Feste plays the role of the artificial fool and because of this people laugh with him at his wit and humor. As an artificial fool, Feste is a bit removed from the action of the play. He is in contact with almost every character but he is not what drives the main plot. By being detached, Feste is able to observe what is going on more and laugh with the audience. Feste further proves he is an artificial fool with his trick against Malvolio.
The trick was though out carefully and done out of revenge so that people would laugh at Malvolio and with Feste. Truffaldino plays the role of the natural fool. Because he is a natural fool, people laugh at him, not with him. When he tricks his two masters, the tricks are not well thought out and are done only to cover up previous tricks. His messes and blunders cause the audience to laugh at him but he is too wrapped up in the action of the play to even notice. By playing the artificial fool, Feste is able to display the dimension of carnival laughter where he laughs with others.
Turffaldino displays the dimension of carnival laughter where he is laughed at by playing the natural fool. Although both characters are defined as fools, they fall into different categories of the fool. Feste is an artificial fool. He plays the part of a fool but in actuality, he is rather smart and witty. Feste tells Olivia that he only pretends to be a fool but is in fact smart; “Misprision in the highest degree! Lady, cucullus non facit monachum. That’s as much to say as I wear not motley in my brain” (Shakespeare 1. 5. 49-51). The audience laughs at his wit and his word play; they do not laugh at his misfortunes or mistakes.
The audience laughs with Feste. Feste embodies the dimension of carnival in which the fool laughs along with the audience. Truffaldino, on the other hand, is a natural fool. In the first act of the play another character, Pantalone, says “What am I to make of this fellow? Is he a knave or a fool? ” (Goldoni 85) Truffaldino is dimwitted and gets himself into many jams. The audience laughs at him, not with him. They laugh at his mannerisms, the predicaments he gets himself into, and the way he gets out of the messes he has caused himself by sheer luck. He embodies the dimension of carnival laughter in which people laugh together at a fool.
Feste and Truffaldino also portray different version of the fool through their involvement in the action of their respective plays. Feste is outside of the action for the most part of the play. He is not in the central plot. He talks to everyone, but he is not intertwined in the love triangle of Duke Orsino, Viola, and Olivia, nor is he the instigator of the scheme against Malvolio. He simply takes part. This is evident when Feste says “the competitors enter” (Shakespeare 4. 2. 9) when Sir Toby Belch and Maria enter the scene right before Feste goes in to talk to Malvolio in the dark room.
Truffaldino is the opposite. He is in the action for the entire show. In fact, the play is named after him, The Servant of Two Masters, that is how pivotal he is to the piece’s plot. Feste’s removal from the action and Truffaldino’s immersion in it relates to the idea that Feste is an artificial fool and Truffaldino is a natural fool. Because Feste is separated from the action, he is able to observe what is going on like a member of the audience and he is able to laugh with them at what is going on in the play. Truffaldino is too immersed in the action of the play to even notice the laughter of others.
Because he is so wrapped up in what is going on, he isn’t able to stop and notice that everyone is laughing at him. This is clearly shown in the dinner scene. Truffaldino is so busy trying to serve both masters that he misses the other waiters making fun of him and he misses how foolish he looks running back and forth from Beatrice’s room to Florindo’s room stuffing food in his mouth in between (Goldoni 129-134). Feste and Truffaldino both take part in trickery in their respective plays. Their motives behind doing the tricks show the different ways that each character plays the fool.
Feste participates in the scheme against Malvolio by attempting to drive him insane by dressing up as Sir Topas and speaking nonsense. In response to Malvolio complaining that it is dark in the room, Feste says “Why, it hath bay windows transparent as barricadoes, and the clerestories toward the south north are as lustrous as ebony. And yet complainest thou of obstruction? ” (Shakespeare 4. 2. 34-36) Feste tells Malvolio that the room has two small windows that are as clear to see out of as if looking out of stone and that the windows facing south north are as clear as ebony.
It makes no sense. Feste contributes to this prank out of revenge. Malvolio had wronged him in the past: I was one, sir, in this interlude, one Sir Topas, sir, but that’s all one. “By the Lord, fool, I am not mad. ” But do you remember: “Madam, why laugh you at such a barren rascal? And you smile not, he’s gagged. ” And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges. (Shakespeare 5. 1. 359-364) Malvolio said that Feste didn’t know what to do unless someone was laughing at him. Feste did not agree with this statement because he is not a natural fool.
He does not get laughed at; Feste laughs with others as an artificial fool does. By contributing to the trick against Malvolio, Feste made it clear that everyone was laughing with him and at Malvolio proving that Malvolio was in fact the natural fool, not him. Truffaldino tricks Beatrice repeatedly in The Servant of Two Masters. For example, he tricks Beatrice into thinking that Florindo is dead by saying that Florindo “tumbled into the canal and was drowned and never seen again” (Goldoni 150).
Truffaldino tricks Florindo several times in the play as well; for instance, he tricks Florindo into thinking that Florindo is his only master by responding “yes… ” (107) when Florindo ask “am I not your master? ” (107) Truffaldino does not trick Beatrice and Florindo out of spite or hate. He does it so as to not get punished. He tricks Beatrice and Florindo more and more only because he has to cover up previous tricks. His tricks are made at the spur of the moment and these decisions cause the audience to laugh at him. He is unaware because he is a natural fool.
The use of the fool is a common mode of carnivalesque performance found in both Twelfth Night and The Servant of Two Masters. Feste and Truffaldino both play the role of the fool. By incorporating fools into their works, Goldoni and Shakespeare bring more depth and insight into the carnival aspects of the plays. Also, by comparing the interpretations of the usage of the fools, one gets different understandings of the carnivalesque. Together, Feste and Truffaldino, show off the traits of carnival laughter by means of their representations of the fool. ?