In disgrace for his unexplained absence from her court, Olivia’s Fool restores his credit by a kind of riddle. Why, Feste asks his reclusive mistress, is it foolish to mourn for the brother you loved? Answer: because you believe he is in heaven (Twelfth Night, 1.5.63–71). Mourning is a requirement of the virtuous. In a more or less contemporary play, Hamlet finds the speed of Gertrude’s remarriage scandalous: ‘a beast that wants discourse of reason/ Would have mourn’d longer’ (Hamlet, 1.2.150–1). And yet, paradoxically, good Christians grieve for those they suppose in a better place. The acknowledgement of their happiness in another world does not bring the dead back, or alleviate the pain of their loss to the living, but the answer to the Clown’s riddle offers Olivia comfort, even so: ‘What think you of this fool, Malvolio, doth he not mend?’ (Twelfth Night, 1.5.70–1).
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Twelfth Night and the Riddle of Gender
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number