Jenny Review of Books About Jesters and Fools My initial research for my jester novel has focused on nonfiction books about jesters and fools. Throughout the book, she would re-tell portions of allegorical plays and stories that completely charmed me and provided plenty of historical and social significances, and then she never offered any explanation as to how they related to her thesis. Or none that I was understanding anyway hence the re-reading. And just a warning—there are no in-text translations.
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His aspects are many and varied today we will take a closer look at one of them: the Fool. To do so the Illuminated Showman managed to order a great out-of-print book from alibris. After seven weeks of waiting it finally arrived and has been read with much vigour.
The woman who wrote it, Enid Welsford has many great insights about the foolish side of our many faceted Showman. It adds weight and gravity to our noble Craft. We thought the best way of sharing her keen scholarship was to present the key points of her thesis through a carefully selected and ordered number of quotes, to let you get it in her own words. The fool is a man who falls below the average human standard, but whose defects have been transformed into a source of delight, a mainspring of comedy, which has always been one of the great recreations of mankind and paricularly of civilized mankind.
The nature of this transformation of folly into happiness is surely worthy of scrutiny. Does comedy act on the spiritual system as a vitamin or as a narcotic? Does the enjoyment of it involve deeper insight, keener criticism or deliberate evasion of reality? I suggest we should go to the fool for an answer to these not unimportant questions, just as we examine the tragic hero not to enlarge our understanding not only of tragedy, but even of the ultimate mysteries of life.
A clown is not quite comparable, for instance, to a violinist or even to a tragic actor. THe fool is now no longer a mere safety valve for the supressed instincts of a bully, he provides a subtler balm for the fears and wounds of those afflicted with the inferiority complex, hte greater part of humanity if we may elieve our psychologists.
It is all very well to laugh at the buffeted simpleton; we too are subject to the blows of fate, and of perople stronger and wiser than ourselves, in fact we are the silly Clown, the helpless Fool. The fact is that the Fool can count upon almost every member of his audience holding two beliefs: firstly, that mankind is divided into the sheep and the goats; secondly, that he himself belongs to the party of the Injured Innocents.
Fundamentally the clown depends, not upon the external conflict of hostile groups, but upon a certain inner contradiction in the soul of every man. In the first place we are creatures of the earth, propagating our species like other animals in need of food, clothing and shelter and of the money that procures them. Yet if we need money, are we so wholly creatures of the earth? This incongruity is exploited by the Fol. More than that, he has persuaded us that wasted affection, thwarted ambition, latent guilt are mere delusions to be laughed away.
For how can we feel spiritual pain, if we are only animals? But even the primitive joke about the human body has its complexity. We laugh to find that we are as natural as the fool, but we laugh also because we are normal enough to know how very unnatural it is to be as natural as all that.
Therefor, whenever the clown baffles the policeman, whenever the fool makes the sage look silly, whenever the acrobat defeats the machine, there is a sudden sense of pressure relieved, of a birth of new joy and freedom. On the contrary, these errors may rather be mistaken attempts to formulate the results of genuine experience as available in the twentieth century as in the so-called Dark Ages - the experience, namely, of two kinds of wisdom: the wisdom of the intellect, and that of the spirit.
AN once more, in his capacity as detached commentator upon the action the fool exploits an inner contradiction; the incongruity due to that strange twofold consciousness which makes each one of us realize only too well that he is a mere bubble of temporary existence threatened every moment with extinction, and yet be quite unable to shake off the sensation of being a sable entity existing eternal and invulnarable at the very center of the flux of history, a kind of living punctum indifferens, or point of rest.
The Fool is a creator not of beauty but of spiritual freedom.
The Fool: His Social and Literary History
The Fool and the trickster : studies in honour of Enid Welsford