"Court jester" redirects here. For the 1956 movie, see The Court Jester.
A jester or fool is a specific type of clown mostly associated Medival Jesters with the Middle Ages. Jesters typically wore brightly colored clothing in a Medeival Jesters motley pattern. Their hats, sometimes Medeval Jesters called the cap ’n bells, cockscomb (obsolete coxcomb) (or, in German, schellenmütze and, in Italian, berretto a sonagli), were especially distinctive; made of cloth, they Mediveal Jesters were floppy with three points (liliripes) each of which had a jingle bell Medieal Jesters at the end. The three points of the hat represent the Meideval Jesters asses' ears and tail worn by jesters in earlier times. Other things distinctive about the jester were his incessant laughter and his mock scepter, known as a bauble or marotte.
A Court-Fool, of the 15th Century. Facsimile of a miniature from a ms. in the Bibl. de l'Arsenal, Th. lat., no
- 1 History
- 2 The jester in other media
- 3 Shakespearian jesters
- 4 The jester as a symbol
- 5 References
- 6 See also
- 7 External links
- 8 Other uses
The origins of the jester are possibly in prehistoric Western tribal society. Pliny the Elder mentions a royal jester (planus regius) when recounting Apelles' visit to the palace of the Hellenistic King Ptolemy I. However, jesters are mainly thought of in association with the European Middle Ages.
All jesters and fools in those days were thought of as special cases whom God had touched with a childlike madness—a gift, or perhaps a curse. Mentally handicapped people sometimes found employment by capering and behaving in an amusing way. In the harsh world of medieval Europe, people who might not be able to survive any other way thus found a social niche.
In the Islamic world Sufi mystics tell tales of Mulla Nasrudin, the legendary 14th century mystic jester of Tamerlane.
All royal courts in those days employed entertainers and most had professional fools of various types. Entertainment included music, juggling, clowning, and the telling of riddles. Henry VIII of England employed a jester named Will Sommers.
During the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I of England, William Shakespeare wrote his plays and performed with his theatre company the Lord Chamberlain's Men (later called the King's Men). Clowns and jesters were often featured in Shakespeare's plays, and the company's expert on jesting was Robert Armin, author of the book Fooled upon Foole.
King James employed a famous jester called Archibald Armstrong. During his lifetime Armstrong was given great honours at court. He was eventually thrown out of the King's employment when he over-reached himself and insulted too many influential people. Even after his disgrace books were sold in London streets of his jests. He held some influence at court still in the reign of Charles I and estates of land in Ireland. Charles later employed a jester called Jeffrey Hudson who was very popular and loyal. Jeffrey Hudson had the title of Royal Dwarf because he was very short of stature. One of his jests was to be presented hidden in a giant pie (from which he would leap out). Hudson fought on the Royalist side in the English Civil War. A third jester associated with Charles I was called Muckle John.
The tradition of Court Jesters came to an end in Britain when Charles I was overthrown in the Civil War. As a Puritan Christian republic, England under the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell had no place for such fripperies as jesters. English theatre also suffered and a good many actors and entertainers relocated to Ireland where things were little better (see Irish theatre).
After the Restoration, Charles II didn't reinstate the tradition of the Court Jester but he did greatly patronize the theatre and proto-music hall entertainments, especially favouring the work of Thomas Killigrew.
In France and Italy, travelling groups of jesters performed plays featuring stylized characters. These were called the commedia dell'arte. A version of this passed into British folk tradition in the form of a puppet show Punch and Judy. In France the tradition of the court jester ended with the French Revolution.
Poland's most famous court jester was Stańczyk whose witty jokes were usually related to current political issues, and who later became an important historical symbol for many Poles.
In the 21st century the jester is a character beloved of all with a passion for historical drama and the cap'n'bells will often be seen worn by participants in medieval style fayres and pageants.
Tonga was the first Royal Court to appoint a Court Jester in modern times, Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, the King of Tonga, appointing JD Bogdanoff to the role in 1999. He was later embroiled in a financial scandal.
In 2004 English Heritage appointed Nigel Roder ("Kester the Jester") as the State Jester for England, the first since Muckle John 355 years previously.
In Germany today,Till Eulenspiegel is a folkloric hero dating back to medieval times and ruling each year over Fasching or Carnival time, mocking Politicians and public Figures of power and authority with political satire like a modern day Court Jester. He holds a mirror, to make us more aware of our Times ( Zeitgeist ) and his sceptre or marotte is the symbol of his absolute and supreme rule .
The jester in other media
- Dagonet, jester to King Arthur in medieval romances
- Giacomo "King of Jesters, and Jester to the King" played by Danny Kaye in the 1956 film musical The Court Jester
- Jack Point, the tragic jester in The Yeomen of the Guard by Gilbert and Sullivan
- Malcolm, the mad jester of The Legend of Kyrandia adventure games
- Harley Quinn, an enemy of Batman's, the DC comics superhero. She is girlfriend of the the Joker, the hero's nemesis.
- Harle, a character in Chrono Cross that jests at expense of reality itself.
- QuackerJack, a vicious jester with a weird obsession for toys in Disney's animated series Darkwing Duck.
- Dhoulmagus, an evil jester in the Dragon Quest VIII game by SQUARE/ENIX.
- A nameless jester helps and hinders the player in the Infocom game Zork Zero.
- A jester, based on the Shakespearean jesters and unofficially named Elvis, is the logo of the financial website The Motley Fool.
- Jester, an alter-ego of Arkham, one of the main antagonists of the Devil May Cry 3 videogame.
- Rigoletto is the title character of the opera by Verdi.
- Verence first appeared in Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters as the court jester and remained so for most of the novel. Both this novel and the Fools' Guild Diary feature comic exaggerations of the "tragic fool" motif.
- Towser, jester to King John the Presbyter in Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams
- The Photojournalist from Apocalypse Now is often seen as a harlequin figure.
- Mr Harley Quin, in the Agatha Christie collection The Mysterious Mr Quin is a modernised version of the "wise fool" who helps others see the truth.
- The anarchic Jerry Cornelius is often shown as a jester figure.
- The Jester, a 2003 novel by James Patterson and Andrew Gross.
- The Jester, a poker term used to describe a suited Jack/Seven - named after the poker player "The Jester" as it is his favourite hand.
- Lee Civico-Cambell (poker player and actor - star of "A Jester's Tale", "Gaylon Peglegg: Exorcist" and "The Harvest") is known as The Jester.
- The Fool, a court jester in Robin Hobb's The Realm of the Elderlings books.
- James Root, guitarist for metal band Slipknot, wears a Jester-like mask on stage.
- NiGHTS Into Dreams featured two brightly colored jesters. NiGHTS, the main protagonist, who wore a purple jester outfit with a purple hat, each with carnival and dream like designs on them, and Reala, NiGHTS nemesis, who had a clownlike face, and wore red and sky blue, and red and black striped shoes with a red- and black-striped jester hat.*
- In the Disney animated film The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the narrator, and rather fundamental character, was Clopin, a jester.
- Timothy Claypole, a character in the BBC children's television comedy programme Rentaghost of the 1970s/80s, was a Jester (played by the late Michael Staniforth).
- In the Marvel comic Daredevil, The Jester is the alter-ego of villain Jonathan Powers, who appears between issues #47-49.
- The Jester is a superhero in the DC Comics universe.
- The Queen's Fool, a novel by Philippa Gregory, centers around the life of a young "holy fool" named Hannah, who happens to work with and befriend William Sommers (Will), the former fool/jester of King Henry VIII.
- Touchstone in As You Like It
- The Fool in King Lear
- Trinculo in The Tempest
- Costard in Love's Labours Lost
- Feste in Twelfth Night
- Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice
- Lavache in All's Well That Ends Well
- Yorick in Hamlet
- A Fool in Timon of Athens
- Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream
- Thersites in Troilus and Cressida
- Clown in Othello
- Dromio of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus in The Comedy of Errors
The jester as a symbol
In Tarot, "The Fool" card of the Major Arcana (card 0, in Rider-Waite numbering, card 22 in Belgian decks, and sometimes unnumbered) represents the Spirit, God, the Monad; The Lord of the Universe; the Absolute Being. Other permutations include: Eternity, Life Power, Originating Creative Power, the Will of God, the Essence or Essential Self, Tao, Aether, Prana, Akasha, the Void, the White Brilliance, the Radiant Field of God, Omnirevelation, the Universal Light, Boundless Space, Superconsciousness, the Inner Ruler, the Plenitude, the Unmanifest, the Ancient of Days (repeated in manifest form within Key 9, the Hermit), Mysterium Magnum, the Sun at a 45 degree angle in the Eastern Heaven—always increasing, never decreasing.
The tarot depiction of the Fool includes a man, (or less often, a woman), Juggling unconcernedly, with a dog (sometimes cat) at his heels. The juggling fool is in the act of unknowingly walking off the edge of a cliff, precipice or other high place. This image represents a number of human conditions: innocence, ignorance, heterodoxy, freedom, great cheer, freedom from earthly desires or passions but also perversity, audacity, truth, confidence, or cultural power.
The root of the word "fool" is from the Latin follis, which means "bag of wind" or that which contains air or breath.
In literature, the jester is symbolic of common sense and of honesty, notably King Lear, the court jester is a character used for insight and advice on the part of the monarch, taking advantage of his licence to mock and speak freely to dispense frank observations and highlight the folly of his monarch. This presents a clashing irony as a "greater" man could dispense the same advice and find himself being detained in the dungeons or even executed. Only as the lowliest member of the court can the jester be the monarch's most useful advisor.
- Welsford, Enid: The Fool : His Social and Literary History (out of print) (1935 + subsequent reprints): ISBN 1-299-14274-5
- Otto, Beatrice K., “Fools Are Everywhere: The Court Jester Around the World,” Chicago University Press, 2001
- Clown society
- Village idiot
- BBC News site story about the Tongaon Royal Jester's involvement in financial scandal 2003
- Royal decree proclaiming the Jester title by the Tongan Royal 1999
- BBC News site story about Kester the Jester's appointment to English Heritage 2004
- University of California, Berkeley Online Medieval and Classical Library (OMACL) & links for medieval studies
- Picture of Will Somers with Henry the Eighth
- Mulla Nasruddin
- Gesundheit! Institute
- Shakespeare search engine - A keyword search such as "fool", "folly", "jester" or "clown" reveals every reference in Shakespeare
- Danny Kaye's movie The Court Jester (1956) in the Internet Movie Database
- Rumpelstiltskin - A rare modern day jester with an impressive resumé
- Fooling Around the World (A history of the court jester)
- Jester also refers to a chess engine.
- Jester is the codename of Chief Petty Officer Bailey Ivarsen, a character in the SOCOM video game series. (See the SOCOM 3 instruction manual.)
- Jester is the callsign of Michael Ironside's character Lt. Cmdr. Rick Heatherly in the movie 'Top Gun'
Categories: Jesters | Defunct occupations | Clowning | Middle Ages