by Royal Doulton
This wonderful figurine of a Jester was made by the Royal Doulton factory in England. It is beautifully hand-painted in subdued colors. It stands 14 inches tall and marked on the bottom number H.N.2016. It takes a second look, but this poor fellow has fallen over and broken a few pieces off of his cap. The smirk on his face though makes him a keeper!
About the Court Jesters
If you are really serious about this subject, the definitive book was written by William Willeford titled, The Fool and His Scepter, A Study in Clowns and Jesters and Their Audience, Northwestern University Press, 1969. Another book if interest has been published by John Southworth, Fools and Jesters at the English Court. Here are some thoughts courtesy of Daniel Achterman at Princeton.
A Brief History of the Modern Jester
Still, though many jesters were chosen for their trade because they were a little slow, and thus perfect scapegoats and victims for whatever, many jesters were extremely bright, and used their position of never being taken seriously to make comments about their superiors that wouldn't have gone over well if they weren't jesters. Shakespeare's jesters were extremely bright, and if you haven't already, I encourage you to check out "King Lear" and "Twelfth Night", as well as Terry Pratchet's "Weird Sisters" if you want to see what a jester can be, even without a juggling act. These jesters spout wordplays and puns like crazy, sing, dance, do imitations, and talk back to their masters; having a great time while doing so. However, the jester in "The Tempest" fits the buffoon description to a tee, so I guess Shakespeare wasn't too enamored with jesters. Finally, if you have a moment, I wholeheartedly endorse a fun movie called "The Court Jester," starring Danny Kaye, in which the beautiful princess is played by Angela Lansbury, so I guess it's a bit old. This 1956 film totally represents everything being a jester is about.
The jester has evolved quite a bit since 1202. He's become a far more abstract figure. His court has come to stand for a place of mirth and frivolity, a place to temporarily set aside the trials of life. There are now just as many jester she's as he's . There are jesters all over the place too. If you don't believe me, just try to register for some sort of online service with the nickname "jester." I'll bet someone's gotten there first. Teenagers all over the country wear the jester's motley hat, whether they can juggle and sing or not. Simply being a funny person is reason enough to assume the jester's mantle. Why so many more jesters than clowns? Could be just etymology, but most people would agree that the jester has a certain nobility in his buffoonery that a clown lacks.
The word jester conjures a lot of things to mind. These days, the image that tends to jump to mind first is an oddly noble, frivolous, jocular fellow. Due to the sweeping range of his history, the jester has become extremely abstract, and several different, unique "types" of jesters have arisen. Here's just a sampler of a few that I've noticed:
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