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Entertainment: Fools and Jesters

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MatC
164412.  Tue Apr 10, 2007 7:04 am Reply with quote

A “joculator regis” (name of Berdic) is listed as living in retirement in Gloucestershire in the Domesday Book. What a great job title.

 
MatC
164416.  Tue Apr 10, 2007 7:09 am Reply with quote

At the court of Rufus, successor to William the Conq, there was a fashion amongst the young nobles for shoes with long, tapering points like scorpions’ tails. A fool named Robert stuffed the points of his shoes with flax so that they could be curled into the form of a ram’s horn. For this, he was given the nickname of Horner or Horny.

(Link to Little Tich).

 
MatC
164425.  Tue Apr 10, 2007 7:18 am Reply with quote

“Minstrel” originally meant simply a minor court servant - it did not imply that the person was a musician of any kind. “Menestrel” was the 12th century word; Anglo-Norman from Latin, literally “little servant.”

These minor servants earned their place at court by multitasking; they would be domestic servants, who also did a turn. Many court entertainers were waferers - that is, people who made wafers. These were eaten with sweet wine at the conclusion of meals; having spent the day making wafers, the waferers would then do an after-dinner spot, as jugglers, comics, or whatever.

“You’ve been lovely, I’ve been Willy the Waferer. If you liked the biscuits, tell your friends. If you didn't like them, cut my head off and evict my family. Thank you and goodnight!”

 
MatC
164432.  Tue Apr 10, 2007 7:39 am Reply with quote

Over at the Eke-names thread, we were discussing legendary funster and king’s favourite, put your hands together for, Roland the Farter. Southworth confirms the basics - that, in exchange for his retirement acres in Suffolk, Roland was required to continue to appear at court just once a year, on Christmas Day, when he would perform “saltum, siffletum et pettum” (a leap, a whistle and a fart). Southworth points out that a more normal nominal rent for ennobled retired jesters was a pound of pepper or a pair of spurs. But I suppose the king felt it just wouldn't be Christmas without Roland, the David Jason of his day.

Farting jesters go back to at least the fifth century, when St Augustine wrote with wonder of performers who could “produce at will such musical sounds from their behind (without any stink) that they seem to be singing from that region.”

Link to
post 146480

 
MatC
164442.  Tue Apr 10, 2007 7:50 am Reply with quote

For some, being a minstrel fool could really bring in the money - not only through pension plans, but from tips.

Edward II gave Morris Ken, who worked in the kitchens, a pound, after a stag hunt during which Ken (riding ahead of the king) “often fell from his horse, at which the king laughed exceedingly.” (Sophisticated bastard, eh?).

Mind you, the same king gave his court painter 50 shillings for dancing on a table top.

 
MatC
165090.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 4:58 am Reply with quote

Discussing “natural fools” - ie, those whose eccentric behaviour came from mental illness or disability - Southworth reports that madness in mediaeval times was treated with bleeding, dietary regimes and herbal remedies, but also that (at least from the 14th century) the “talking cure” was popular. Which isn't what I’d have expected, to say the least.

 
Flash
165099.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 5:15 am Reply with quote

But I bet the talking consisted mostly of the "Get a grip of yourself! Stop playing the fool!" variety.

There's a condition called hebephrenia ('young mind'), one of the symptoms of which is that one becomes a ceaseless joker; it's asserted that some professional comedians are basically making a living from having a mild form of this disorder.

 
MatC
165143.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 6:28 am Reply with quote

Charles VI of France “retained a notorious madman called Haincelin Coq, who was given to frenzied dancing and leaping” and tearing off of his clothes. Given that Charles himself was subject to “disabling attacks of mental instability,” this must have been a bit confusing all round.

 
MatC
165150.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 6:36 am Reply with quote

Elizabeth I had a fool named William, who was looked after by a man called Phypp. This Phypp (real name William Worthy) is “the first person that we know about to be given the official title of ‘Keeper of the King’s fools’.”

 
Flash
165169.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 6:49 am Reply with quote

Is an unemployed jester nobody's fool?

 
Gray
165181.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 7:04 am Reply with quote

A single kudo for that.

Quote:
The deceased jester Yorick is thought by some to be based on the the Elizabethan comedian Richard Tarleton who was a star performer of the pre-Shakespearian stage.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yorick_%28Hamlet%29

 
MatC
165207.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 7:27 am Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
Is an unemployed jester nobody's fool?


Nobody's nobody, in fact, given that a fool was known as a nebulo.

 
Jenny
165303.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 9:58 am Reply with quote

I'm currently reading Peter Ackroyd's biography of Shakespeare, which QIly points out that the nature of 'fools' as portrayed in Shakespeare's plays changes with the departure of William Kemp from the company in the late 1590s and the arrival of Robert Armin, a slender chap who was a talented musician (where Kemp was a stout chap famed for his dancing). Fools in the later plays have many more songs to sing (qv Twelfth Night).

 
Molly Cule
165331.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:47 am Reply with quote

Noah's Ark was known as "Sunday toy": children were not allowed to play with most toys on Sunday, but Noah's Ark was an exception because of its biblical subject matter.

s - pollocks toy museum (er....leaflet!)

 
Gray
165334.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:49 am Reply with quote

Do you think all the fresh-water fish were in the ark too, or were they left to fend for themselves? (i.e. was it a multi-story carp ark?) Aythengyou.

 

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