("U" is for "Ungrateful")
(In Shakespeare circles, when you say “the Fool,” it usually means you’re talking about old King Lear’s personal jester.)
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.
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.”
Fool: “Why, to put his head in it – not to give it away to his daughters and leave his horns without a case.”
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 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. :-)
1 year ago