theory on “the jester”

In act #1 on March 13, 2009 at 20:34

A jester playing the flute (Peter Wtewael, 1623)

A jester, joker, jokester, fool, wit-cracker, prankster, or buffoon is a member of a profession that came into popularity in the Middle Ages.

Jesters are always thought to have worn brightly colored clothes and eccentric hats in a motley pattern. Their hats, sometimes called the cap ’n’ bells, cockscomb (obsolete coxcomb), were especially distinctive; made of cloth, they were floppy with three points (liliripes) each of which had a jingle bell at the end. The three points of the hat represent the donkey’s ears and tail worn by jesters in earlier times. Other things distinctive about the jester were his laughter and his mock sceptre, known as a bauble or marotte.


Political significance

In societies where freedom of speech was not recognized as a right, the court jester – precisely because anything he said was by definition “a jest” and “the uttering of a fool” – could speak frankly on controversial issues in a way in which anyone else would have been severely punished for, and monarchs understood the usefulness of having such a person at their side. Still, even the jester was not entirely immune from punishment, and he needed to walk a thin line and exercise careful judgment in how far he might go – which required him to be far from a “fool” in the modern sense.

Jesters could also give bad news to the King that no-one else would dare deliver. The best example of this is in 1340 when the French fleet was destroyed at the Battle of Sluys by the English. Phillippe VI’s jester told him the English sailors: “Don’t even have the guts to jump into the water like our brave French.”

The position of the Joker playing card, as a wild card which has no fixed place in the hierarchy of King, Queen, Knave etc. might be a remnant of this position of the court jester.[citation needed] This lack of any place in the hierarchy meant Kings could trust their councel more. They had no vested interest in any region, estate or church.

Contrary to popular belief, Jesters did not wear clown-style make up. Europe has a wealth of Jester images but a scarcity of factual writings on them. In China, the situation is the opposite. In Asia, Jesters were always sane while in Europe many were crippled/mad/dwarves.

One scholar, David Carlyon has cast doubt on the “daring political jester,” calling historical tales “apocryphal,” and concluding that “popular culture embraces a sentimental image of the clown; writers reproduce that sentimentality in the jester, and academics in the Trickster,” but it “falters as analysis.”

Muckle John was the last English court jester. He lost his post when Charles I was executed in 1649.

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 or otherwise distracted, with a dog (sometimes cat) at his heels. The 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 license 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 adviser.

>>>From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: