Tuesday, April 17, 2007

This was sent to us fools from a fellow fool in Yugoslavia, perhaps some day we will visit her or she will visit us.


Here's a bit about jesters from a chapter called "Stateless societies and the maintenance of order" by Max Gluckman (he was actually buddies with Victor Turner):

"It is probably in some such light that we should analyse the manner in which the court jester operated as a privileged arbiter of morals, given licence to gibe at king and courtiers, or lord of the manor. Jesters were usually men of low class - sometimes on the continent of Europe they were priests - who clearly moved out of their usual estate. Normally they were entitled to mock at anyone in the midst of their tales and jokes, and even in some countries play practical jokes on their betters, perhaps by spilling food on them. Seemingly those who were gibed at or maybe rebuked for faults could not protest. In Shakespeare's King Lear and other of his plays the jesters mix with their fooling acute commentaries on the foolishness and foibles of their employers, and even on their evil-doings; reminders of mortality and religious duty were set in a stream of witticisms. These dramatic representations do seem to reflect the actual situation of many of these court-jesters. If we look on the relation of jester and employer as a kind of joking relationship, it is possible to suggest that here there was a standardized pattern of fooling and smart repartee, aimed at amusing the employer, and at which he could not take offence. After all, was not it for this purpose that he employed the jester? Then if the jester mingled into these baseless gibes pointed rebukes, still cast in obscuring witty form, to draw attention to tyrannies and oppressions, any protest from the employer would show that he recognized the point of the attack, and in a sense would be admitting his fault. For it was the job of the jester to gibe. In a system where it was difficult for others to rebuke the head of a political unit, we might have here an institutionalized joker, operating at the highest point of the unit - a joker able to express feelings of outraged morality. Biographies of jesters of monarchs show that they often in this way obtained great influence..."

I hope you find this useful. I thought that the idea of court jesters (or fools) gaining influence was intriguing. It's like, in a way, being a fool and being recognized as one gives you freedom, or better - freedomS that are out of the reach of other, "normal" , ordinary people. And maybe there's some kind of link between that special kind of freedom (or freedoms) and the fact that most mythological tricksters (or jokers or fools) are also shapeshifters, free even from the boundaries of a single physical form...


Blogger evandebacle said...

If anyone is interested in the idea of a formal "joking relationship" I can dig up some stuff. It is a concept that is seminal to early 20th century anthropology, perhaps most famously with A.R. Radcliffe-Browne's "On Joking Relationships." He describes such relationships as "a relation between two persons in which one is by custom permitted, and in some instances required, to tease or make fun of the other, who in turn is required to take no offence."

5:46 PM  

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