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FOOL (O. Fr. fol, modern fou, foolish...

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Originally appearing in Volume V10, Page 615 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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FOOL (O. Fr. fol, modern fou, foolish, from a Late Latin use of follis, bellows, a ball filled with air, for a stupid person, a jester, a wind-bag), a buffoon or jester. The class of professional fools or jesters, which reached its culminating point of influence and recognized place and function in the social organism during the middle ages, appears to have existed in all times and countries. Not only have there always been individuals naturally inclined and endowed to amuse others; Only this much, he was a poor man's friend, there has been besides in most communities a definite class, the And hclpt the widow often in her end. members of which have used their powers or weaknesses in this The king would ever grant what he would crave, For well he knew Will no exacting knave." direction as a regular means of getting a livelihood. Savage jugglers, medicine-men, and even priests, have certainly much in The literature of the period immediately succeeding his common with the jester by profession. There existed in ancient full of allusions to Will Sommers. Greece a distinct class of professed fools whose habits were not Richard Tarleton, famous as a comic actor, cannot be omitted essentially different from those of the jesters of the middle ages. from any list of jesters. A book of Tarleton's Jests was published Of the behaviour of one of these, named Philip, Xenophon has in 161 r, and, together with his News out of Purgatory was re-given apicturesque account in the Banquet. Philip of Macedon printed by Halliwell Phillips for the Shakespeare Society in 1844. is said to have possessed a court fool, and certainly these (as Archie Armstrong, for a too free use of wit and tongue against well as court poets and court philosophers, with whom they have Laud lost his office and was banished the court. The conduct sometimes been not unreasonably confounded) were common of the archbishop against the poor fool is not the least item of the in a number of the petty courts at that era of civilization. Scurrae evidence which convicts him of a certain narrow mindedness and moriones were the Roman parallels of the medieval witty and pettiness. In French history, too, the figure of the court-fool; and during the empire the manufacture of human mon- jester flits across the gay or sombre scene at times with fantastic strosities was a regular practice, slaves of this kind being much effect. Caillette and Triboulet are well-known characters of the in request to relieve the languid hours. The jester again has times of Francis I. Triboulet appears in Rabelais s romance, from time immemorial existed at eastern courts. Witty stories and is the hero of Victor Hugo's Le Roi s'amuse, and, with some are told of Bahalul (see D'Herbelot, s.v.) the jester of Harun al changes, of Verdi's opera Rigoletto; while Cl}icot, the lithe and Reshid, which have long had a place in Western fiction. On the acute Gascon who was so close a friend of enry III. is porconquest of Mexico court fools and deformed human creatures trayed with considerable justness by Dumas in his Dame de of all kinds were found at the court of Montezuma. But that Monsoreau. In Germany Rudolph of Habsburg had his Pfaff monarch no doubt hit upon one great cause of the favourt of Cappadox, Maximilian I. his Kunz von der Rosen (whose features, monarchs for this class when he said that " more instruction as well as those of Will Sommers, have been preserved by the was to be gathered from them than from wiser men, for they pencil of Holbein), and many a petty court its jester after jester. dared to tell the truth." Douce, in his essay On the Clowns and Late in the 16th century appeared Le Soltilissime Astaczie di Fools of Shakespeare, has made a ninefold division of English Bertoldo, which is one of the most remarkable books ever written fools, according to quality and place of employment, as the about a jester. It is by Giulio Cesare Croce, a street musician of domestic fool, the city or corporation fool, the tavern fool, the fool Bologna, and is a comic romance giving an account of the of the mysteries and moralities. The last is generally called the appearance at the court of Alboin king of the Lombards of a " vice," and is the original of the stage clowns so common among peasant for a nderfue in ugliness, good Italy. and A great The book of the dramatists of the time of Elizabeth, and who embody so much of the wit of Shakespeare. A very palpable classification is that which distinguishes between such creatures as were chosen to excite to laughter from some deformity of mind or body, and such as were so chosen for a certain (to all appearance generally very shallow) alertness of mind and power of repartee,—or briefly, butts and wits. The dress of the regular court fool of the middle ages was not altogether a rigid uniform. To judge from the prints and illuminations which are the sources of our knowledge on this matter, it seems to have changed considerably from time to time. The head was shaved, the coat was motley, and the breeches tight, with generally one leg different in colour from the other. The head was covered with a garment resembling a monk's cowl, which fell over the breast and shoulders, and often bore asses' ears, and was crested with a cockscomb, while bells hung from various parts of the attire. The fool's bauble was a short staff bearing a ridiculous head, to which was some-times attached an inflated bladder, by means of which sham castigations were effected. A long petticoat was also occasionally worn, but seems to have belonged rather to the idiots than to the wits. The fool's business was to amuse his master, to excite him to laughter by sharp contrast, to prevent the over-oppression of state affairs, and, in harmony with a well-known physiological precept, by his liveliness at meals to assist his lord's digestion. The names and the witticisms of many of the official jesters at the courts of Europe have been preserved by popular or state records. In England the list is long between Hitard, the fool of Edmund Ironside, and Muckle John, the fool of Charles I., and probably the last official royal fool of England. Many are remembered from some connexion with general or literary history. Scogan was attached to Edward IV., and later was published a collection of poor jests ascribed to him, to which Andrew Boorde's name was attached, but without authority. Will Sommers, of the time of Henry VIII., seems to have been a kind-hearted as well as a witty man, and occasionally used his influence with the king for good and charitable purposes. Armin, who, in his Nest of Ninnies, gives a full description of Sommers, and introduces many popular fools, says of him death is editions and translations appeared, and it was even versified. Though fiction, both the character and the career of Bertoldo are typical of the jester. That the private fool existed as late as the 18th century is proved by Swift's epitaph on Dicky Pearce, the earl of Suffolk's jester. See Flogel, Geschichte der Hofnarren (Leipzig, 1789) ; Doran, The. History of Court Fools (1858). (W. HE.)
End of Article: FOOL (O. Fr. fol, modern fou, foolish, from a Late Latin use of follis, bellows, a ball filled with air, for a stupid person, a jester, a wind-bag)
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