Foolish Mortals! Medieval Jesters and Mummers

Dame Aoife was feeling foolish this week, and offers this week's Links as a resource for the medieval artistry of jesters and fools.

Greetings my Faithful Readers!

This week it's all about being foolish. Unfortunately not a lot of information exists on the web about Jesters or Fools. However, we have gleaned what we could, and present the following links for your entertainment. You'll find medieval illustrations of fools and jesters, as well as articles on their historical importance and context. Make no mistake, Fools are fun, but studying fools is serious scholarship!

This week's list topic come to us courtesy of Juliann (and her husband). Thanks for the suggestion!



Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon
m/k/a Lisbeth Herr Gelatt
Riverouge, Endless Hills, Aethelmearc

Foolish Clothing: Depictions of Jesters and Fools in Medieval and Renaissance Art
by Karen Larsdatter
(Site Excerpt) So, what did jesters wear in the Middle Ages and Renaissance? This set of links concentrates on pictures of those who were professionally employed as jesters or entertainers. In some cases, these individuals have had physical handicaps or mental problems. (Those who are referred to as "fools" but were not employed as such are not listed here, as they are more likely to be depicted as insane beggars in period paintings.)

Medieval European Jesters and Fools--University of North Texas
(Site Excerpt) The character of the jester or fool can be found throughout Medieval European history, folklore, and legend. They are one of the most common and widely recognized character types found in culture and mythology throughout the history of the world.

Coxcomb Academy of the Performing Arts--Articles and Lecture Notes
Three articles on the subject and related issues

The Virtual Fooles Troupe
See especially the section on "What Every Well Educated Foole Should Know".

Stefan's Florilegium--Jesters Msg
(Site Excerpt from ONE message of many) Someone was asking about jesters.
Here's a book:
"Willeford, William The Fool and his Scepter; a study of clowns and jesters and their audience. GV1828 .W5 Northwestern University Press, 1969."
"I looked thru this briefly about a year ago. Jesters seemed to be of 2 types, the "natural" fools, which in our more enlightened time we would call mentally handicapped, and the others which were more like entertainers. The natural' fools were kept about because they were amusing in themselves, and in some cases their lords realized these special people needed a place to stay."

History of the Fool
(Site Excerpt) "Fools" emerged in medieval England in the13thC. The rigid social hierarchies of medieval society relied on these reality maintenance constructs which were closely related to traditional inversionary re-enactments of mis-rule to create a sense of release for and in the population.

Foolery Page
(Site Excerpt) An ongoing site with articles and links on Jesters, Fools, Clowns, Harlequins, Tricksters, Punsters and Buffoons as they apply to the Middle Ages and the SCA. (with a few modern references)

Mumming Shows
(Site Excerpt) Mumming shows are a simple structure that can be used to readily develop a wide variety of entertainment. They are medieval in origin based on the archetypes of clown, hero, heroine, villain, doctor (& perhaps doctor's assistant). Each of these characters can readily be translated into a modern day character (drunk, racing driver hero, racing driver villain, feminist girl friend, mechanic respectively). They can also be transformed beyond recognition. In 1995 one mumming group became a trio of nuns who titled themselves 'The Brides of Brock'. They performed in pubs, at the race ball, in the pits at the race and in the streets, and have promoted issues ranging from enjoy drink in moderation to safe sex.