Who is Quinapalus?

Who is Quinapalus?

FOOL [aside] Wit, an ’t be thy will, put me into good
fooling! Those wits that think they have thee do very
oft prove fools, and I that am sure I lack thee may
pass for a wise man. For what says Quinapalus?
“Better a witty Fool than a foolish wit.”—God bless
thee, lady!

Twelfth Night I.V

An apocryphal philosopher mentioned by the clown in Twelfth Night1, Quinapalus is a  wonderful example of Shakespeare's way with words.  As Isaac Asimov found,  "It is useless to try and find Quinapalus in a reference book; the name is invented.  The Clown apparently has had an education and it is his particular comic device to speak in pseudo-learned jargon."2  The "imaginary authority" 3 of Quinapalus has the deliberate effect of elevating the fool.  "The genius of Twelfth Night is Feste,  the most charming of all Shakespeare's fools, and the only sane character in a wild play" states Harold Bloom. 4  With one made up name,  the fool Feste shows us Shakespeare's amazing ability to shape a character with language.


1. [Schmidt, Alexander. Shakespeare Lexicon and Quotation Dictionary, vol. 2. 1902. Dover, 1971.]

2. [Asimov, Isaac. Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare. Avenel Books, 1978.]

3. [Stokes, Francis Griffin. Who’s Who in Shakespeare. 1924. Dover, 2007.]

4. [Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. Riverhead Books, 1998.]


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