Fabian in Twelfth Night: Character Traits & Analysis

Instructor: Laura Foist

Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.

In this lesson we will learn about a minor character in Shakespeare's ''Twelfth Night'', Fabian. Although Fabian plays a small role in ''Twelfth Night'', he is important to the audience and in helping the humor progress in the play.

Fabian's Role in Twelfth Night

Who doesn't love a good prank? Go online and you'll find hundreds of examples of people playing clever (and not-so-clever) pranks on each other. This kind of humor just doesn't get old, particularly when we can just sit back and watch the chaos and humor ensue from a safe distance. In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Fabian plays the role of someone who just likes to watch a good prank unfold - making him someone many of us can relate to.

Fabian is a servant in Lady Olivia's household. Prior to the start of the play, Malvolio, the head of staff for Lady Olivia, caused Fabian to fall out of grace with Lady Olivia by telling her about some misdeeds that Fabian had done. So when Fabian learns of the plot that others in the household are planning against Malvolio, he gladly joins in.

Fabian does not play a major role in the schemes of the play, and in many ways he is just a spectator who is simply enjoying the scenes that are going on around him. Yet his role provides the audience with someone they can rely on to help set the stage for what is going on, and to laugh along with during these antics.

Fabian and Pranks

Fabian loves a good laugh. At first he joins in on the prank against Malvolio simply to get back at him for putting him in Olivia's bad graces. Yet we soon realize that Fabian likes any good prank just for the fun of the prank.

Fabian likes a good prank to the point that sometimes we even wonder if any prank is 'too far' for him. The Fool seems to recognize the dangerous attitude that Fabian has taken to these pranks. When the Fool is bringing the letter from Malvolio to Olivia he refuses to let Fabian see the letter. Perhaps Fabian wanted to simply have a good laugh before Olivia saw the letter. Yet Fabian could have even been willing to change or get rid of the letter in order to ensure that the prank continued.

When Fabian is first invited to join in on the pranks he quickly accepts, saying 'I'll come: if I lose a scruple of this sport, let me be boiled to death with melancholy.' It is obvious that he does not need much persuasion to be a part of this prank. He enjoys the pranks and wants to have a good laugh.

A scene from Twelfth Night where Fabian watches Malvolio read the made-up love letter from Olivia

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