In the scene in which Feste and Olivia converse about her grief for her brother’s death, stichomythia is used to make light of a rather serious topic. The scene is a reminder that our emotions may cloud our judgment of a situation, conjuring an attitude that may be more self-centered than constructive; sometimes, an outside perspective is needed to correct this. Feste provokes Olivia in stating “I think his soul is in hell, madonna” (1.5.63). In defensive response, Olivia states, “I know his soul is in heaven, fool” (1.5.64). Feste wins the tet-a-tet with the checkmate line, “The more fool, madonna, to mourn for your brother’s soul, being in heaven” (1.5.65-66). The perspective/attitude one chooses to apply shapes the mood one experiences. I participated in service learning in Dr. Holc’s International Relations class; I served at the Esperanza Center, teaching English as a second language to refugees and immigrants. Every Tuesday night from 6pm-8pm, I drove downtown with four fellow Greyhounds. There were a few times when our energy/motivation levels would falter and we’d talk about the things we need to do—homework, catch up on sleep, etc, but the minute we walk onto the site, the focus on the self seemed to go away.
Like Olivia, I remember a few times when we experienced a weariness that was centered on ourselves. We mourned what felt like lost time that we could be using for something else, but we were able to set aside our worries to focus on our purpose. For Olivia, she needs Feste to help her realize the upside to the situation. He finds the goodness that comes from the misfortune that is Olivia’s mourning. For me, Feste came in the form of the man I was working with that night. His name was Meron and he was a refugee from Eritrea. We were working on the five sense and at the same time, working on the past tense and future tense. There was an instance when I was there, watching him write “saw,” “see,” and “will see,” and “felt,” “feel,” and “will feel,” I knew that there was no other place I would rather be that on that chair, side-by-side with him. His eyes were a dark chestnut brown and he was left-handed. Being attentive to these details made it easy to be in the moment. On our way home, my service group and I talked about the people we worked with, sharing the little stories that were the treasures we take away. The scene with Olivia and Feste in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a reminder that we are in charge of our attitude and the way we apply our energies. Sometimes, it takes someone other than ourselves to check our lens. Olivia’s ability to consider how joyous it is for her brother to be in heaven parallels how joyous it is when I am invested in the moment. Boldly and helpfully, Feste calls Olivia a fool. Constructively, he points at where she could improve the way she sees the situation that is her brother’s death. By experience and attentiveness to the moment and to others, the selfish worries that one may feel burdened by are conquered and the lenses through which we see are brighter.