Sunday, June 3, 2012

For Three-Word Wednesday, Magpie 120 and ABC Wednesday

("U" is for "Ungrateful")
I was immediately reminded of someone by the above picture – the Fool.
(In Shakespeare circles, when you say “the Fool,” it usually means you’re talking about old King Lear’s personal jester.)
As I’m sure you know, back during the Middle Ages and right on up to Renaissance times, if you were big enough, politically or aristocratically – or if you were just plain rich – you usually had one of these guys in your employ.
Your own David Letterman on your payroll, cracking wise on command.
The grand personages of that day would regard the jokesters almost like pets; they were usually tolerant of anything the fools might say so often they’d say things no one else could get away with.
They were expected to make slyly quasi-insulting remarks about their masters. Queen Elizabeth, who owned a couple of them, once rebuked one of her fools for being insufficiently severe with her.
Certainly, in the vast collection of unforgettable characters Will Shakespeare created, King Lear’s Fool stands out.
You know the story. The old King, getting to the age where he knew he’d soon be cashing in his chips, didn’t just resign; he gathered his family around him (three daughters) and divvied up his kingdom so they'd all get a share. Each girl had to prove her love for him first.
He got a rude surprise when two of them, Goneril and Regan, who had spoken most emphatically about how much they loved the old guy, managed to forget all about that once they got their hands on the real estate. These two fictional characters have come to be famous over the years as exemplars of ungrateful children.
A large portion of the play has to do with what happened to King Lear after that, with his faithful Fool at his side, the jester constantly reminding him of how dumb it had been to give away his kingdom – and with it his fortress and power.
Fool: “Mark it, Nuncle. Can you tell how an oyster makes his shell?”
Lear (wearily): “No.”
Fool: “Nor I, neither. But I can tell why a snail has a house.”
Lear: “Why?”
Fool: “Why, to put his head in it – not to give it away to his daughters and leave his horns without a case.”

Old Man Lear began to get pretty irritated with the constant biting comments, but he knew that no matter how difficult things became his faithful jester would stay with him, no matter what, when almost no one else would.
Fool: “That sir which serves and seeks for gain
And follows but for form,
Will pack when it begins to rain
And leave thee in the storm.
But I will tarry; the fool will stay,
And let the wise man fly.”

As for King Lear, there’s a mist out on the heath as he wanders about, and it turns into a violent storm. He has his jester with him; the Fool is almost like a bulky package Lear carries with him every step of the way.
As I’m sure you’re aware, we have pretty much the same situation today. Leading politicians and candidates often have what might be described as jesters on their staffs, writers who are charged with providing droll remarks so the candidates will come across as good-humored, folksy types.
Lately, however, it’s almost as though they don’t understand the basic principle. From time to time these days, it’s the political candidate, not the hired writer, who acts the part of the Fool. :-)
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings)

40 comments:

Tess Kincaid said...

I sure would like to have my own personal David Letterman...

Roger Owen Green said...

Yes, the candidate (or OFFICE HOLDER!) ought not to be the Fool.

zongrik said...

i didn't realize that the writers for the political to day are jesters. that's scary

fruit essence facial mask

Kathe W. said...

I'm afraid that we the voters are being played for the fool....clever appropriate post!

Linda said...

Your reflections this week are insightful and the connections interesting. Thank you for sharing, Berowne.

Tumblewords: said...

Well, yes, but of course! Timely treat!

Leslie: said...

I don't know if they hire "fools" in Canada or not, but there sure are a lot "fools" in politics!

Trellissimo said...

And you are nobody's fool... :)

Berowne said...

My thanks to Tess K, Roger O G, zongrik, Kathe W, Linda, Tumblewords, Leslie and Trellissimo for some friendly comments.

barbara said...

Must have been tricky, living in close quarters and having yo be "on" 24/7. Constantly witty, even in February.

Berowne said...

barbara: "Must have been tricky, living in close quarters and having to be 'on' 24/7."
Yes, the most famous jesters in drama and opera were known to be pretty depressed when they were not "on."

gautami tripathy said...

Such a delightful writing! I enjoyed reading this!

borrow my eyes, borrow my ears

Helen said...

That fruity guy does look a bit like a court jester! Or a Colbert writer.

Berowne said...

"...a Colbert writer."
That too must be a tough job - tho presumably well paid.

Lyn said...

Much wisdom here! Looking for a really good stand-up fool myself...

Other Mary said...

Yes, not too many wise fools in the political realm! And here I was thinking you might tell us about Milton.

Karen S. said...

I just adore Jesters, and this was just so delightful. Such a cool read....you brought out all the funny with this clever post!

Sharp Little Pencil said...

I think the jesters have proclaimed themselves to be "carnival barkers." Conservative talk show hosts! But the real fools are those who don't believe in global warming; who are sure they will be "saved" soon; and who, despite all evidence to the contrary, insist the President is not an American... stepping off soap box now!

I have an old deck of Tarot cards, the classic Ryder-Waite deck where the Fool is stepping right off the cliff. Peace, Amy

Berowne said...

Lyn: "Looking for a really good stand-up fool myself."
I'm available, though the hourly rate is staggeringly high. :-)

Berowne said...

S L Pencil: "...stepping off soap box now!"
Never lose that soap box, Pencil. :-)

Kat Mortensen said...

Very interesting. Wouldn't you also say, that Letterman surrounds himself with his own coterie of fools?

Meryl said...

OH how wonderfully entertaining and insightful, and sadly so true. And also so ironic that it is the fool who is often the sharp insightful tool.

Great post, have a great week.

Berowne said...

Meryl: "OH how wonderfully entertaining and insightful."
And how wonderfully entertaining and insightful your comment - thanks. :-)

Ann said...

Very neat read! Very funny examples.
Ann

Ramesh Sood said...

Very interesting .. reading such a
write for the first time perhaps..but enjoyed it.. thanks..

Do visit me for a haiku with three words already given.. I am here:

http://rameshsood.blogspot.in/2012/06/mist-of-ugly-doubts.html

Lmkazmierczak said...

Enjoyed the drama lesson♫

Sheilagh Lee said...

'How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child! Away, away!'
The fools sure had a lot of leeway but I'm sure there were one or two who lost their heads for their comedy.A clever post linking to to today's elections

Gattina said...

The first picture is a real masterpiece what an artwork, all made with vegetables !

Mary-Ann said...

Great comparison--jesters on the staff of politicians. Some of them don't even need the jester to make them look dumb.

Daydreamertoo said...

I smiled at the comment about Queen Elizabeth telling her jester he wasn't severe enough. Don't think I'd enjoy my own jester though. Too many jokes is as bad as not enough.
Enjoyed this read, thank you!

Berowne said...

Sheilagh L: "I'm sure there were one or two who lost their heads for their comedy."
Yes, there was always a line, and they had to be very careful not to step over it.

Rinkly Rimes said...

We probably all need a paid fool to keep us in line. My husband tries to play the part but it sometimes backfires.

Dandelion Girl said...

ahh I pity the fool... ;)

rosemary mint said...

Very interesting post.

This sounds like the perfect job for me: "They were expected to make slyly quasi-insulting remarks"

rallentanda said...

Will was so insightful.Goneril and Regan are names you don't hear much but their characters are alive and well even to this day. Enjoyed this.

Berowne said...

Rallentanda: "Will was so insightful."
Very true...

Berowne said...

rosemary mint: "They were expected to make slyly quasi-insulting remarks" This sounds like the perfect job for me.
Good, but be careful you don't step over that line. :-)

Mojo Writin said...

Interesting way to use the words, and I have certainly not seen the words Letterman and Shakespeare used so closely before *grin*

Di Eats the Elephant said...

Now I know why I have no job - no one hires FOOLS anymore! Drat! And the closest I have - a writer of foolishness - is stolen by the very politicians who hired the fools in the first place. Plague, a plague on those plaguerists (sp). Aiiigh!

Andy David said...

Hello.
What can I say, except how right you are! Enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing.

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