No character comes better equipped to speak truth to power than a fool. It’s been a hallmark of great literature for hundreds of years. In honor of April Fool’s Day, I humbly submit a short, somewhat unfocused list of literature and film’s notable fools.
“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar?” Hamlet, after taking up the exhumed skull of the court jester, Yorick, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act V, Scene 1.
“I hope she’ll be a fool — that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” Daisy Buchanan (speaking about her young daughter, Pammy) in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
“Fool’s blood, king’s blood, blood on the maiden’s thigh, but chains for the guests and chains for the bridegroom, aye aye aye.” Patchface, in A Clash Of Kings, one of three notable fools from George R. R. Martin’s Song Of Ice And Fire series. This quote seems to predict the events of the infamous Red Wedding.
“He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse’s health, a boy’s love, or a whore’s oath.” The Fool in Shakespeare’s King Lear, from Act III, Scene 6. Perhaps the greatest archetype of the madman who speaks truth to power, Lear’s Fool mysteriously disappears after Act III, but the stinging truth of his seemingly crazed yammering lives on throughout the rest of tragedy.
“I am ignorant, but I read books. You won’t believe it, everything is useful… this pebble for instance.” Il Matto from La Strada. Journeyman actor Richard Basehart delivers a deeply affecting performance in Federico Fellini’s 1954 classic film about a traveling circus troop. Basehart plays the circus clown Il Matto, whose jibes and wit both enchant and enrage, ultimately driving the action toward its tragic conclusion.
So that’s my very incomplete list. As with many of my posts, I encourage you to pile on dear readers. Send in the fools!
–Scott (hat tip to Dandy Don and Dan the Man)