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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Jester

The jester was a professional fool, trickster and prankster in medieval times.  It was a position of privilege in English and Polish courts.  In modern terms, we think of the jester as this joking, foolish, character.  In medieval times he had an important function.  The jester had licence and was expected to criticize and advise, to speak without giving offense, to mock and to give news.

This was important in a time when saying the wrong thing could either end in a political/social death or even literal death.  The jester, the licensed fool, could.  The jester's role was very complicated.  Often he was seen as a mere buffoon but as he had no official place or rank in the court he had to walk a fine line.  While the lack of court standing allowed the jester to be more free with their opinions but if they crossed the line they could be punished.  Often they could use jokes to chide the behavior of nobles and the monarch.

It is the nature of jesters to speak their minds, regardless of the consequences.  Maybe we need to invoke the jester in ourselves sometimes, sometimes we need to be the fool.

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