Much can be said about the figure of the Fool in Shakespeare’s plays. The role that this type of character shows an interesting dynamic, particularly in the sense that the inclusion of the figure of a clown is always fitting and appropriate, regardless of the genre of the play. Shakespearean fools are privileged laugh provokers, who usually don’t have any real part in the play but their presence is significant. Many were wise enough to know how to offer profound truth and wisdom in the guise of humor. The fool is often the only source of humor in tragedies and is needed to lighten the otherwise dark, and depressing mood of the play.
Despite the different personalities these fools or clowns can take, from one play to another, they all serve a purpose in the play. They provide pure entertainment or indirect criticism of the surrounding events. The inevitable title of the “fool” that they have (which as one can tell by the name, denoted that they are characters whom words or actions have little or no significance because they are deemed as being not as sane as other characters or rather “mad”) This puts them in a position of power and lesser consequence especially since they are automatically excused for what they do or have to say. The presence of the clown or fool figure therefore act as a voice of conscience, a merry joy-bringer to the play, or a commentator to the surrounding events. Shakespeare uses the fool in A Midsummer Night Dream and King Lear to bluntly deliver to the reader what he wants them to feel or understand in a tragedy, comedy, romance or any other type of play
One important aspect to keep in mind about the fools is their ability to freely move without being affected by what happens around them. Just as their w…
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…or reader by merely being themselves, whether it be the wisdom Lear’s Fool offers, or the humorous response that Bottom illicit. As we see that one fool, Bottom is an example of a witty fool, and another is an example of a wise man in a fools disguise, Lear’s fool. Nevertheless as both fools take on roles of their own, and though it might not seem like they have a key role in the play in many ways would not be the plays that they are without these characters.
Goldsmith, Robert H. Wise Fools in Shakespeare. USA: Michiagan State University Press, 1963.
Shakespeare, W. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Ed. David Bevington. 6th Ed. New York: Longman, 2008.
Videback, Bente A. The Stage Clown In Shakespeare’s Theatre. Greenwood Press, 1996
Warde, Fredrick. The Fools Of Shakespeare. Los Angeles, California: Times Mirror Press, 1923.