jester n : a professional clown employed to
entertain a king or nobleman in the middle ages [syn: fool
from Latin geste
- one who jests, jokes or
- a person in bright garb
cap who amused a mediaeval royal court.
person in a mediaeval royal court
A jester, joker, fool, or buffoon are names of a
profession that came into popularity in the Middle Ages
Jesters are always thought to have typically worn brightly colored
clothes and eccentric hats in a motley
pattern. Jesters have been
featured on playing cards. 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 ass's 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
maharoof. In recent years, scholars including David Carlyon have
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."
The origins of the jester are said to have been in
society. Pliny the
mentions a royal jester (planus regius) when recounting
visit to the palace of the Hellenistic
King Ptolemy I
ancient Rome, the rich employed balatrones
Nowadays, jesters are mainly thought of in
association with the European Middle Ages
The jester was a symbolic twin of the king. 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 societies where the Freedom
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.
The position of the Joker
, as a wild card
has no fixed place in the hierarchy of King, Queen, Knave etc.
might be a remnant of this position of the court jester.
In the Islamic
s tell tales of Mulla
, the legendary 14th century
mystic jester of Tamerlane
Indian Kingdom JestersTenali
was jester in Vijayanagara
. In the Islamic world , Jesters were refered to being a
English royal court jesters
All royal courts in those days
employed entertainers and most had professional fools of various
types. Entertainment included music
ing, and the telling of
jester named Will
During the reigns of Elizabeth
I of England
wrote his plays and performed with his theatre
company the Lord
(later called the
). Clowns and jesters were often featured in
Shakespeare's plays, and the company's expert on jesting was
, author of the book Fooled upon Foole. In Shakespeare's
the jester is
described as "wise enough to play the fool." Indeed, to be
successful in the job of King's Fool the holder had to be anything
but a fool in the modern meaning of the word.
King James employed a famous jester called
. 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 telling of his
jests were sold in London streets. He held some influence at court
still in the reign of Charles
and estates of land in Ireland
later employed a jester called Jeffrey
who was very popular and loyal. Jeffrey Hudson had the
title of Royal Dwarf
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
. A third jester associated with Charles I was called
End of tradition
The tradition of Court Jesters came to an
end in Britain when Charles I was overthrown in the Civil
. As a Puritan Christian
Lord Protector Oliver
had no place for such fripperies as jesters. English
theatre also suffered and a good many actors and entertainers
relocated to Ireland
things were little better (see Irish
After the Restoration
did not 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
groups of jesters performed plays featuring stylized characters in
a form of theatre called the commedia
. A version of this passed into British
in the form of a puppet
show Punch and
. In France the tradition of the court jester ended with
As late as 1968, however, the Canada
awarded a $3,500 grant to Joachim Foikis of Vancouver
revive the ancient and time-honoured tradition of town fool".
'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
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 fayre
s and pageants.
Tonga was the first Royal Court to appoint a
Court Jester in modern times, Taufa'ahau
, the King of Tonga, appointing JD
to the role in 1999
. He was later
embroiled in a financial scandal.
In 2004 English
appointed Nigel Roder
("Kester the Jester") as the State Jester for England, the first
since Muckle John 355 years previously.
is a folkloric hero dating back to medieval times
and ruling each year over Fasching
time, mocking politicians and public figures of power and authority
like a modern day Court Jester. He holds a mirror to
make us more aware of our times (Zeitgeist
is the symbol of his
absolute and supreme rule.
The "Shakespearian fool" is a
recurring character type in the works of William
. Shakespearean fools are usually very clever
peasants or commoners that use their wits to outdo people of higher
social standings. In this sense, they are very similar to the real
fools, clowns, and jesters of the time, but their characteristics
are greatly heightened for theatrical effect. They are largely
heterogeneous. The "groundlings" (theater-goers that were too poor
to pay for seats and thus stood in the front by the stage) that
frequented the Globe Theater were most likely particularly drawn to
these Shakespearian fools or clowns. Shakespearian fools have
CostumesThe costumes worn by Shakespearean fools were
fairly standardized. The actor wore a ragged or patchwork coat.
There were often bells along the skirt and on the elbows. They wore
closed breeches with pantyhose, with each leg of the pants a
different color. A monk-like hood, covering the entire head was
positioned as a cape, covering the shoulders and part of the chest.
This hood was decorated with animal body parts, such as donkey's
ears or the neck and head of a rooster. The animal theme was
continued in the crest worn as well.
The actor had props as well. Usually he carried a
short stick decorated with the doll head of a fool or puppet on the
end. This was an official bauble or scepter, which had a pouch
filled with air, sand, or peas attached as well.
More common for the time was the long petticoat.
It was composed of several different colors and expensive materials
(such as velvet). It was trimmed with yellow.
Character BreakdownTrinculo Trinculo is considered to be a
jester, but as he is only seen with the drunken butler and Caliban,
he does not have the stage time to act out the qualifications of a
traditional fool. At the end of the play, however, it is revealed
that he works for both Stephano and the King of Naples. He is a
domestic buffoon, and is outfitted accordingly.
Launce and Speed Speed is a clever and witty
servant, while Launce is simple and pastoral. There is no mention
of specific dress, or any indications of the two being a domestic
fool or jester.
Feste Feste is a hired and domestic fool for
Olivia. He is referred to as "an allowed fool," "a set fool," and
"the jester, that the Lady Olivia's father took much delight in."
There is no mention of his dress.
The Clown - Measure for Measure While this clown
is the employee of a brothel, he can still be considered a domestic
fool. He should be dressed as such.
Costard This clown is referred to as a "fool" in
Act V, scene ii, but the word in this context simply refers to a
silly man. He is not simple enough to be considered a natural fool,
and not witty enough to be considered an artificial one. He is
rather just a man from the country.
Launcelot Gobbo Nowhere in the play does Gobbo do
anything that qualifies him as an official fool or jester. Still,
he is considered as such, perhaps because he is called a "patch"
and a fool. It is possible that these terms refer rather to the
idea of the clown. Either way, Gobbo is proof that Shakespeare did
not necessarily constantly discriminate in his qualifications of
clowns, fools, and jesters.
Touchstone Touchstone is a domestic fool
belonging to the duke's brother Frederick, and is one of the witty
(or "allowed") fools. Accordingly, he is often threatened with a
whip, a method of punishment often used on people of this category.
Further, he should be dressed appropriately, with a multi-colored
outfit, bauble, and donkey's or ass's ears on his hood.
Lavache He is a domestic fool, similar to
Clown - The Winter's Tale He is simply a country
The Fool - King Lear The Fool is a very basic
domestic buffoon. While his use of sarcasm heightens his manner of
speech for stage effect, he is still a genuine fool with a lot of
cunning. He is very distinguishable from other Shakespearean fools
(such as Touchstone). He should be dressed in many colors, with a
hood decorated with either a cock's comb, head, or neck, as this is
often alluded to. He should carry a bauble with a model of a
grinning head like his own. He is also associated with the
character Cordelia, in same play, and it has been suggested that
they were the same character. This also suggests Fools in
Shakespeares time were like women or young girls.
The jester as a symbol
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
The root of the word "fool" is from the Latin
follis, which means "bag of wind" or that which contains air or
In literature, the jester is symbolic of common
sense and of honesty, notably King Lear
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.
Use of the term in Israeli politics
At political debates in
"court jester" (Hebrew
: ליצן החצר)
is used (especially on the Left side of the spectrum) as a term of
abuse for supposed dissidents who keep their criticism within
limits set by the political establishment. Specifically, it is used
for those who express criticism of government policies while also
seeking government budgets for artistic or academic projects.
In similar vein, Buffoon is a term for someone who
provides amusement through inappropriate appearance and/or
behavior. (In Australian colloquial slang Buffoon can be used
affectionately like the term dag
Strictly, a buffoon describes a "ridiculous, but nevertheless
amusing person." In broader terms, a buffoon is a clown
-like, publicly amusing
person, such as a court
. In the more modern sense, the term is frequently used
in a derogatory sense to describe someone considered a public fool,
or someone displaying inappropriately vulgar, bumbling or
ridiculous behavior that is a source of general amusement. The term
may originate from the old Italian "buffare", meaning to puff out
one's cheeks. Robin
's character conjectures in the movie Toys
that the word "is a combination of the words 'buffer' and 'fool.'
Or perhaps 'buffamotus,' he who carries the pickle."
Earl of Rochester
was involved in an amusing incident
concerning a poem presented to the king, when he said: -
The jester in other media
In writing and theatre
- Wamba, Jester in Sir Walter
Scott's Novel Ivanhoe.
- Dagonet, jester to
Arthur in medieval romances
- Jack Point, the tragic jester in
The Yeomen of the Guard by Gilbert
- Rigoletto is the
title character of the opera by Verdi.
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
- 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 Fool, a court jester in Robin Hobb's
The Realm of the Elderlings books.
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
Somers (Will), the former fool/jester of King Henry
(see Shakespearean fools below)
In film and television
- Giacomo "King of Jesters, and Jester to the King" played by
Kaye in the 1956 film musical
- 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
- The Photojournalist from Apocalypse
Now is often seen as a harlequin figure.
- Funnyman, A UK horror movie about a demonic jester, The Funny
Man, with a varied and imaginative repertoire of homicidal
techniques and an irreverent sense of humour.
- Jester, the Court jester of King Cradock in the TV series
and the Dragon.
- Jester - The puppet in the Puppet
In comic books and animation
Quinn, an enemy of Batman's, the
Comics superhero. She is girlfriend of the the Joker,
the hero's nemesis.
- In the Marvel
Comics comic Daredevil,
Jester is the alter-ego of villain Jonathan Powers, who appears
between issues #47-49.
Jester is a superhero in the DC Comics
- QuackerJack, a vicious jester with a weird obsession for toys
animated series Darkwing
- In the Disney animated film
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the narrator, and rather
fundamental character, was Clopin, a jester.
- Merryman, leader of the Inferior
Five in DC Comics,
wears a Jester costume.
- Maytag, in the webcomic Flipside is a
Jester. She's is normally very timid, but takes on the normal
jester sterotype when she wears her cap 'n bells.
- Allen Walker, in the manga and anime D.Gray-man, is given the
title Crown Clown, also known as God's Clown, and carries a
In video games
- Jester is a character class in the MMORPG Flyff and in the RPG
- Malcolm, the mad jester of The
Legend of Kyrandia adventure
Harle, a character in Chrono Cross
who jests at expense of reality itself.
- Dhoulmagus, an evil jester in the Dragon
Quest VIII game by Square Enix.
- Hecklar, an insane and sadistic court jester in
Kronos Digital's fighting game Cardinal
- A nameless jester helps and hinders the player in the Infocom game
- Jester, an alter-ego of Arkham, one of the main antagonists of
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
Palazzo, the main antagonist in Final
Fantasy VI, wears typical outfit and makeup of a jester.
Zorn & Thorn are a pair of court jesters that serve as
recurring antagonists in the RPG Final
- Dimentio is an evil magician in Super
Paper Mario who wears a stylized jester costume and creates
clever similes. He also
wears an Italian Comedy Mask.
- There is also a Jester in the tower in the 2007 Xbox 360 game
Overlord. The player can kick the jester, knocking him a great
distance, making cowbell
sounds when he hits the floor. The Jester also follows the player
around the tower, and in the tutorial he taunts the player. The
player must repeatedly hurt the jester to finish the tutorial.
- Jester, A.K.A Sarah Hawkins in the game UT3, fitting her name
by making jests about the opponent or team mates.
- Umlaut - He is a petrified Jester Skull in CarnEvil who gives
a brief rhyme to describe what's in store upon selecting a level.
He is also a sub-boss at the final level of the game.
- Trivet - the royal jester in the adventure game Blazing
- A jester, based on the Shakespearean jesters and unofficially
named Elvis, is the logo of the financial website The Motley
Root, guitarist for metal band Slipknot,
wears a Jester-like mask on stage.
- The Jester, a poker term used to describe a suited Jack/Seven -
named after the poker player "The Jester" as it is his favourite
- Lee Civico-Cambell (poker player and actor - star of "A
Jester's Tale", "Gaylon Peglegg: Exorcist" and "The Harvest") is
known as The Jester.
Jesters Honorary Social Club is a 2-year social club at
Mississippi University for Women, at Columbus, MS.
Dylan is often referenced as the 'jester' who stole the 'king's
Presley's) crown in the song American
for a Jester's Tear" is the title of the first LP (1983) by a
British rock band Marillion.
- "The Jester
Race" is the title of an album by the Swedish melodic death
metal band In Flames.
Since this album they also use a symbol called "Jesterhead" as
their mascot, appearing on almost every album-cover.
- The Fool is the main and title character of a series of 12
books called "The Fool Series". He has also been used in over 200
role-plays over the internet.
- The Fool is a Trump card in a Tarot deck.
- The Jester is the mascot for Finnish ice hockey
team Jokerit based out
- "The Jester" is a song on the Sum 41 album
- Kourt Jester
is the name of an underground Hip Hop
- Jester is the name of a famous alternative indie Italian band
formed by members of Elfoguelfo.
- The Jester is the mascot of St. Joseph's High School, a private
all-girls Catholic school in Lakewood, CA - they are known as the
St. Joseph's Jesters - "Fools for Christ", and were founded by the
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJ) in 1964. Their colors are
Orange and White and their motto is "Love, Hope and Zeal".
- "The jester from Leicester" is the nick name of snooker player
- 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
- M. Conrad Hyers The Spirituality of Comedy: comic heroism in a
tragic world 1996 Transaction Publishers ISBN 1560002182
- Doran, John A History of Court Fools, 1858
- Billington, Sandra A Social History of the Fool,
jester in German: Narr
jester in Spanish: Bufón (cómico)
jester in Esperanto: Bufono
jester in French: Bouffon
jester in Hindi: विदूषक
jester in Italian: Giullare
jester in Dutch: Nar
jester in Norwegian: Narr
jester in Polish: Błazen
jester in Portuguese: Bobo da corte
jester in Russian: Шут
jester in Finnish: Hovinarri
jester in Swedish: Narr
jester in Chinese: 弄臣
, gag writer, gagman
, jack-pudding, joker
, merry-andrew, motley
, motley fool, parodist