A Fool with an unsightly head,As wise at thirty as on the day he Was born; with a small forehead And large eyes, a big nose and Squat figure, a flat, long belly,And a hump back. He mocked,Sang,danced and preached in derision of every one.
Jester Triboulet served King Louis XII AND Frances I, he was one of the most celebrated Jesters in History. He was quick witted and had all the necessary qualities of a good Jester. His wit made him desirable as well as responsible for nearly dooming him several times and ultimately saving his life.
Legend has it that once a nobleman of the court was upset about being made the butt of Triboulet’s pun and threatened to kill him. Triboulet quickly ran to the king telling him about the menacing situation. The king in an attempt to pacify the Jester said, “Don’t worry! , if he hangs you I’ll have him beheaded fifteen minutes later”, to which Triboulet promptly responded saying, “well, would it be possible to behead him 15 minutes before?”
Another time when Triboulet’s sense of flippancy got unruly, he spanked the king on the royal bum. The King lost his temper and threatened to execute Triboulet. A while later when the king calmed down, he promised to forgive Triboulet’s audacity if he could think of an apology more offending than the deed. A few seconds apart, he exclaimed “I’m so sorry, your majesty, that I didn’t recognize you! I mistook you for the Queen!”
From entertaining the masses and Egyptian pharaohs, to the first emperor of China, jesters were frequently employed. The jesters, then known as fools or Buffoons seemed to enter the common stereotype represented today. Jester deriving from the angular name jesteuer- meaning story telling didn’t come up until the 16th century. While an ideal Jester was expected to be intelligent, quick-witted and multitalented, their variety of skills included song, music, story-telling and also employed acrobats, juggling, reciting puns and stereotypes, imitation as well as magic tricks. They sure knew how to become a celebrity. As for the job description, it was staggeringly diverse. Some were even given additional tasks like household duties and running messages.
Jesters were also an integral part of court meetings and inner workings of it since they were allotted with the task of delivering highly confidential messages to and fro. The flip side of which was often carrying messages to the enemy camp, around the battle fields, which wasn’t a very pleasant and secure position.
The so called fools were cleaved up in two categories i.e. ‘Licensed’ and ‘Natural’ fools. In both cases, those with physical deformities, such as extreme hunch back, malformed limbs, particularly displeasing visages, which they covered with, face paint. It is something that is taught as a chapter in history, with the best makeup institute in India . Natural fools had some sort of mental issue that was somehow found entertaining, they were also rewarded for their natural tendency to speak the unbridled truth. The licensed fools particularly garbed themselves in peculiar colored patch work and applique, mildly playful and volatile outfits, paired with a monks cowl and pointed colorful hats with bells on it, surely adept at taking apparel design course themselves. As for the Natural fools, their outfits were similar to anyone in the court or people in the region and era that they lived.
As far as remuneration is concerned, in account of various services provided by the jesters, it would entirely depend on the employer as some would get regular stipends whereas others were compensated by being taken well care of, in regards to their day to day needs rich food, clothing, shelter etc. They were also occasionally rewarded with bounties of land, money and other gifts, for a good session of entertainment. Many jesters waltzed their way to huge wealth by using their position to purse lucrative deals for self and family.
Although, Fools and Jesters breathed their last in the 18th century, a version of this passes into British folk tradition in the form of a puppet show, ‘Punch and Judy’, which are still celebrated as they’re exhibited in many art festivals in Mumbai and all over the globe. They were also acknowledged for their comic styles and contemporary jokes in songs, of events well known to their audience. To this, Shakespeare, in his book ‘Twelfth night’, describes the Jester as ‘Wise enough to play the fool’.
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