Shakespeare’s Fools

In lieu of fooling you all on this day of fooling, I thought I might post a very short blurb of my love for the Fools in Shakespeare’s plays: Touchstone, Feste, Lear’s fool, and the rest. I’ve had the opportunity to play a few of the Fool characters. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had onstage was as Feste. Hopefully I’ll get to play the rest in the future.

Despite being labeled as fools they are actually the wisest characters in the canon. These are characters whose job it is to entertain. Court jesters who are not to be taken seriously, even though they often speak quite wisely.

The more pity, that fools may not speak wisely what wise men do foolishly.
– Touchstone, As You Like It, I.2

But they often speak the most true, don’t they? Anyone else that would dare to say the things that Lear’s fool does would be killed.

FOOL. That lord that counsell’d thee
To give away thy land,
Come place him here by me,
Do thou for him stand.
The sweet and bitter fool
Will presently appear:
The one in motley here,
The other found out there.
LEAR. Dost thou call me fool, boy?
FOOL. All thy other titles thou hast given away, that thou wast born with.
KENT. This is not altogether fool, my lord.
– King Lear, I.4

The power these characters have with words is wonderful and sometimes astounding. The Groucho and Chico Marx of Shakespeare’s time.

FESTE. Good madonna, why mourn’st thou?
OLIVIA. Good fool, for my brother’s death.
FESTE. I think his soul is in hell, madonna.
OLIVIA. I know his soul is in heaven, fool.
FESTE. The more fool, madonna, to mourn for your brother’s soul, being in heaven.
– Twelfth Night, I.5

Feste would make a great lawyer with that kind of rhetoric. He’d convince the jury that THEY were guilty. But he probably doesn’t think that highly of his own wordly talents. After all,

Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.

I hope you all had a foolish day!