What is the role of the clown in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night?

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As the only character in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night who remains detached from the play's conflicts, Feste is able to comment objectively upon the foibles and actions of the other characters.  For example, in Act I, he comments on Olivia's foolishness in her mourning her dead brother when his soul lies in heaven:

The more fool, madonna, to mourn for your brother's/soul being in heaven.  Take away the fool, gentlemen. (I,v,64-65)

In Act II, he supplicates the god of melancholy to protect Orsino because his love-sickness is pure indulgence:

Now the melancholy god protect thee; and the tailor/make thy doublet of changeable taffeta for thy mind/ is a very opal.  I would have men of such constancy put/ to sea, that their business might be everything, and their/ intent everywhere; for that's it that always makes a good/ voyage of nothing.  Farewell. (II,iv,78-83) 

Acting as a foil to Sir Toby, the Puritan, Feste as the "wise fool,"--to use Olivia's term--shows by contrast the bafoonery of Sir Toby, a geste that great entertained the Elizabethans in its ridicule of the reviled Puritanism. 

Feste proves to the audience: "Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit" (I,v, 31)

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Discuss in detail the function of the clown in Twelfth Night.

The clown (also referrred to as Feste) is Olivia's professional jester, or fool. During the Renaissance, monarchs and sometimes members of the nobility retained fools in their households as a source of entertainment—to sing, make witty observations, and to engage in practical jokes.

To a certain extent—and true to his profession—Feste contributes to the holiday tone of Twelfth Night.

Feste has also been referred to as the only character in Twelfth Night who remains detached from the play's conflicts, thus being able to comment objectively on the other characters' actions and shortcomings.

For a more detailed character analysis, check out the link on eNotes below.

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