Fools Class Notes
by Lady Nina Amaya of Bright Hills. Atlantia
Fools are known in societies throughout the world's history.
Seneca the Younger (Rome, c. 4 BC - 65 AD) did not keep fools: "If I want to look at a fool, I have only to look in the mirror." Yet his wife retained the first known female Fool.
Certainly we are entertainers, but the Fool also holds up a mirror up to the Fool in us all, commoner or King.
Focusing today on the medieval European Fool, there are two main types: Natural and Artificial. Artificial Fools are of above average wit. The Natural is of low intelligence, or a has a physical difference that people found funny- dwarves could be both Natural (due to stature) and Artificial (due to wit) Fools. Assuming we are all Artificial Fools, we have our work cut out for us. I will expand on our role in history and in the SCA.
Historically: Fools were a status symbol for their patron (owner), and therefore dressed well by the noble or ruler who retained them. Sometimes a tavern owner might have the wherewithal (and reason) to keep a fool. The Fool was also a nobody- no status themselves, and sometimes slept with the dogs. A Fool could say things to a ruler that would not be tolerated in another noble of rank. Criticism could be given in a jest that might be heard when an argument would not. Often a fool had the ear of the King and other nobles would try to pass information or please through the Fool to the Sovereign. Fools were sometimes given estates or even towns at retirement, and sometimes they were beheaded for the liberties they took. Fools could be marvelous musicians, wordplay artists, tumblers, jugglers, warriors, actors.
In the SCA: Talk to your baron or baroness about being "their" Fool if you wish. Win your bardic championship and they are stuck with you!
How to be a Fool? The easiest way to get everyone to recognize your Foolishness is with motley. No all Fools wore motley, however- it is not required. A bauble, or Marotte is another quick giveaway. I have not yet seen a scadian fool with a bladder on a stick, but I want one!
What are your assets? Do you blurt out inappropriately? Are you Punny? Can you juggle? I can't, but I can drop things entertainingly, or complain that I have no balls. Can you do stupid physical comedy like pulling off your thumb? Can you tell jokes? You can medievalize a joke. Not quick? Then practice a routine. Can you mimic our barons walk? Make fun of Laurels? Sing? Play a lute? If you can juggle or play an instrument, all you need is motley! You're ahead of me!
Keep a notebook of ideas, other people's jokes. Before an event google the theme for jokes. Make fun of your fellow bards: How many harpists does it take to play Greensleeves? (Apparently all of them)
The 'funniest joke in the world" - hunter calls 911 after shooting friend dead. - how to medievalize it? (mine- blind healer woman - but would use it?)
knock knocks- 9/11 - changed it Alamo for my dad, Jesus Christ for my Baroness. (back away crossing yourself, 'Mon Dieu!')
Hand out jokes for participants to medievalize. Anachronisms can be funny- the birds, arrows of messages, then the bit of parchment- fax.
Physical humor- be bold, use sound effects. e bold? Yes, if you are to entertain you must be bold and pretend to be confident.
Physical- somersaults, armpit farts, head/handstands, fingers jump from one hand to another, finger rings, steal your thumb, moonwalk, cut off your hand...doubling spoons
Big lead up to hitting on head, sticking out tongue and rolling it in with fingers in ears
wagging tongue- throw it around. Towel with wire in it.
Everyone practice the finger jump...
Fools Are Everywhere_ (University of Chicago Press) by Beatrice K. Otto - wonderful!!!
Clowns: A Panoramic History of Fools and Jesters, Medieval Mimes, Jongleurs and Minstrels, Pueblo Indian Delight Makers and Cheyenne Contraries, Harlequins and Pierrots, Theatrical Buffoons, etc. - very good!
Fools and Jesters of the English Court by John Southworth
Dwarfs and jesters in art With 90 illus: Erika Tietze-Conrat
And then a zillion more references- have fun!
http://www.modaruniversity.org/Fool.htm - sca fools1
Armin, Robert "Fools and Jesters: with a reprint of robert Armin's Nest of
ninnies" Call Number: PR2417.N4 1842
Busby, Olive Mary "Studies in the development of the fool in the Elizabethan
drama" Call Number: PR658.F7B8 1923
Doran, John "The History of Court Fools"
Call Number: Gt3670.d6
Swain, Barbara "Fools and folly during the middle ages and renaissance"
Call Number: PN56.F6S8
Welsford, Enid "The Fool; his social and literary history."
Call Number: GT3670.W4
Arden, Heather "Fool's plays: a study of satire in the sottie"
Call Number: PQ514.A7 1980
Billington, Sandra "A Social History of the fool"
Call Number: GT3670.B45 1984
Kaiser, Walter Jacob "Praisers of folly: Erasmus Rabelais, Shakespeare."
Call Number: PA8515.K3
Lukens, Nancy "buchner's Valerio and teh theatrical fool tradition"
Call Number: PT1828.BA7246
The Fool and his Scepter; a study of clowns and jesters and their audience.
GV1828 .W5 Northwestern University Press, 196
: A Shakespeare Jestbook Robert Armin's Foole upon Foole (1600), A Critical, Old-Spelling Edition by H.F. Lippincott
1973 Institut Für Literatur Universität Salzburg A-5020 Salzburg, Austria.
The Jester Has Lost His Jingle by David Saltzman
The Jester Company.
The Fool. His Social and Literary History by Enid Wilsford
1935 Farrar and Rinehart Inc.
Shakespeare's Clown: Actor and text in the Elizabethan playhouse by David Wiles
1987 Cambridge University Press.
Robert Armin and Twelfth Night by Muriel C. Bradbook
1972 [Twelfth Night: A Casebook], Macmillan Press Ltd.