Feste, the Fool, disguises himself as Sir Topas, a priest, and visits Malvolio in his imprisonment, under direction of Maria and Sir Toby. Malvolio is relieved to hear the voice of the priest and believes the priest might release him from his prison. Malvolio makes the claim that he is not insane and is wrongly imprisoned in darkness. Feste tells Malvolio that he is in a well-lit room and that the darkness is simply ignorance. Sir Toby becomes afraid that if this jest goes on for any longer, Olivia, his niece might kick him out of her house.
Sir Toby urges Feste to talk to Malvolio as himself. Feste, however, is having a bit of fun with his new alter ego. Feste begins talking to Malvolio as himself, but he begins using both personas in the conversation. Malvolio still urges Feste that he is sane and asks Feste to bring him a pen, some paper and a light. Feste offers to retrieve the requested items. 3. This scene deals directly with the ideas of identity and insanity found throughout the play. Feste dresses like a priest in order to assume the identity of Sir Topas. However, Malvolio is in darkness and is incapable of seeing Feste.
The disguise is not needed, but the usage of the disguise points to identity being a direct result of personal appearance. Feste must dress as a priest in order to act like a priest. Previously, Malvolio dressed rather absurdly and was, by the same logic inherent in Feste’s costuming, insane. The scene also changes the audience’s perception of Malvolio. Earlier in the play, Malvolio’s character is a boring burden of sobriety on the community. As such a character, his humiliation seems warranted. In this scene, however, he is helpless. Feste treats Malvolio like a toy and attempts to convince him that he is truly insane. . The scene’s location in the play breaks up the action involving Sebastian in the first and third scenes of Act IV.
This scene’s tone is lighter and comical in what would be a more serious act. It also adds the perspective of a brief passage of time between the two Sebastian scenes, thus allowing Olivia’s character to depart and collect the priest that is to marry her to Sebastian. 5. This scene directly affects the tone of the final act of the play. Malvolio’s resistance to Feste as the fool insists he is mad helps portray Malvolio as he sole person that is fully aware of his own identity. Malvolio knows that he is sane, whereas insanity holds onto other more frenetic characters. His stalwart sanity makes him incapable of letting down his guard and joining in the fun. At the play’s close, Malvolio finds out that Olivia did not write the love note, and his imprisonment was the result of a practical joke. If Malvolio were capable of buying into Feste’s claims that he was insane, he might have been more accepting of the joke. Instead, he claims he will have his revenge and adds a sour tone to the ending of the play.