Monday, April 4, 2011

Magpie 60

This week’s Magpie prompt got me to thinking of Feste.

In Shakespeare’s play “Twelfth Night,” there’s a jester of that name who sings, dances, plays instruments, tells jokes, etc. His most famous song is about rain.
“When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain…”
Feste is attached to the household of the Countess Olivia. In those days, if you had a lot of money – and Olivia did – you had a permanent staff to provide entertainment. The television programs of the Elizabethan era were fairly primitive, to say the least, so after the evening meal all hands would sit back and enjoy whatever the staff tummlers could come up with in the way of amusement and distraction. The master – in this case the mistress – of the house would usually have a jester, fool, clown, whatever, on permanent call.
It was a tough gig. One wisecrack too many, one step over whatever imaginary line had been set up, and the joker would be out on the street. And he had to be prepared, no matter how he felt at the moment, to be funny.
“Here’s a man of jollity,
Jibe, joke, jollify!
Give us of your quality,
Come, Fool, follify!”

It’s understandable that the Jester of that era, a chap seemingly of such a playful and frivolous nature, occasionally had his moments of melancholy. Many artists, writers, operatic composers (“Rigoletto,” anyone?) have used this theme in their works.
And Will S. was no exception.
With all of Feste’s amusing shaggy-dog stories and pranks, the play’s audience realizes that there’s a darker and mysterious side to him. When he sings the famous line “The rain it raineth every day,” he’s saying that every day can bring some kind of misery. At the end of the play he sums it all up in a famous closing song:
“When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain.
The rain it raineth every day.
But when I came to man's estate,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
'Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
For the rain, it raineth every day.”

He then comes right out and in effect makes a plea for applause:
“A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain.
But that's all one, our play is done,
And we'll strive to please you every day.”

23 comments:

Isabel Doyle said...

Indeed Sir, the rain doth raineth every day except in the desertus where it doth dusteth continually

clever and good fun

Marinela said...

Beautiful write, enjoyed it very much!
You have really creative page here!

Short Poems

Kristen Haskell said...

Another great post. What a tough job being a jester.

Berowne said...

Isabel D.: ...except in the desertus where it doth dusteth continually."
"Doth dusteth"? I like it. :-)

hedgewitch said...

What was that line from Douglas Fairbanks(?) to the reporter interviewing him on his deathbed: "Dying is easy, comedy is hard."

Great post, continuing my education on Shakespearean minutia most enjoyably, as always.

Southwest Arkie said...

"Come fool, follify!" I could never be a jester...just couldn't keep that happy face on all the time.

Helen said...

I knew you would come up with a gem involving Shakespeare. You didn't disappoint.

versebender said...

A very enjoyable read. Jester seems like a tough gig.Vb

DebbyMc said...

It does indeed raineth every day. The trick is in staying somewhat dry. This was great fun, and interesting, as well!

Tumblewords: said...

There's nothing finer than a just jester!

Berowne said...

Tumblewords: "There's nothing finer than a just jester!"
Unless you were just jesting. :-)

Berowne said...

What a collection of fine comments -- from DebbyMc, versebender, Helen, hedgewitch, Kristen H. and Marinela -- thanks.

honeyhaiku said...

Thank you for the share; this was a provocative piece with tandem with the prompt!

Tess Kincaid said...

Hey, ho, I loved this post!

Steve Isaak said...

Lively, solid storytelling - highly enjoyable.

Berowne said...

Tess K.: "Hey, ho, I loved this post!"
Not as much as I loved this comment. :-)

Carrie Burtt said...

A jester's work is never done....love this Berowne! :-)

Rene/ Not The Rockefellers said...

That cat Feste reminds me a bit of Festus from Gunsmoke
"You ornery ole scutter"

HyperCRYPTICal said...

Lovely storytelling indeed! My! I wish I knew all you know!

Anna :O]

Berowne said...

"....love this, Berowne!"
I always look forward to a visit from Carrie Burtt.

Berowne said...

Anna: "I wish I knew all you know!"
I wish I knew all that you think I know. :-)

Lucy Westenra said...

Berowne . . this is one W.S. play that I hardly know at all. After this interesting post I must remedy that. Best thanks. I visit knowing I'm ALWAYS going to learn something . .

chiccoreal said...

Feste sounds like the first tramp sad clown in the style of Emmett Kelly. How very profound and provacative his jestful rhyme tinged with a knowing diespair. Cant have sunshine without the rain! All Jesters know this! The First Cirque de Soliel must have rained that day!Finding our happiness in unhappiness; we all got to do it!

 
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