Dalqak – Persian

Talhak, jester to Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni (r. 998-1030), would say whatever he felt like and the Persian word for jester (dalqak) seems to have been derived from his name, which in turn may derive from the Persian word daghal, meaning `fraud, falsification, adulteration’.

Enjoy a couple of examples of Talhak’s lèse-majesté, one implying the Sultan was a cuckold, and the other suggesting his father was too.

Gianni Izzo’s article on Persian jesters demonstrates their commonality with jesters elsewhere, including the fact that they tended to emerge from humble backgrounds:

The dalqak was one of the few positions available in the court where common people could elevate their socioeconomic standing from scarcity to abundance and from obscurity to fame. Their fortune was earned and not inherited. Although, in an official capacity, the occupation offered economic security, it produced a dependency on court largesse and new motivations for a continual, personalized style of performance. As an outsider now inside the imperial estate, the dalqak’s humble background still served as a conduit for the common sentiment of the king’s subjects. (pp. 4-5)

According to Gaffary, the court jester is sometimes also known as masḵara. Gaffary also notes that Jāḥeẓ, in Ketāb al-tāj, a text based primarily on Persian sources, reported that kings needed attendants, including jesters (możḥeks – note the related term możḥekān, meaning ‘comics’), whom he distinguished from satirists (ahl al-hazl).

Karīm Khan Zand (r. 1751-79) is said to have had jesters, with titles such as moqalled-bāšī (chief mimic), masḵara-bāšī (chief buffoon), and lūṭī-­bāšī (chief rogue). I quite like the title of Chief Rogue – a new variant on the mock titles that are occasionally attributed to jesters.

Worth also mentioning the word for ‘minstrels’, moṭrebs.


Gaffary, Farrokh, Encyclopædia Iranica, VI/6, pp. 611-614, s.v. ‘Dalqak’

Halabi, A.A., `The Development of Humour and Satire in Persia with Special Reference to ‘Ubaid-i Zakani’, Ph.D thesis, Edinburgh University, 1980, p. 72.

Izzo, Gianni, ‘Playing the fool: jesters of the Safavid and Zand courts’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (August 2023), pp. 1-15.

Jāḥeẓ, Ketāb al-tāj fī aḵlāq al­-molūk, A. Zakī (ed.) (Cairo: 1914), p. 21.

Martin, Vanessa, “The jester and the shadow of God: Nasir al-Din Shah and his fools”, Iranian Studies 40:4 (2007), pp. 467–81.

Nūrbakhsh, Hossein, Dalqakhā-yi mashhūr-i darbārī va maskharehhā-yi dawrahgird (Tehran: Intishārāt-i Kitābkhāneh-yi Sanāʾī, 1996).

Nūrbakhsh, Hossein, Karīm Shīraʾī: Dalqak-i mashūr-i darbār-i Nāir-al-Dīn Shāh Qājār (Tehran: Intishārāt-i Kitābkhaneh-yi Sanāʾī, 1968).

Zakani, ‘Obeyd-e (14th century), The Ethics of the Aristocrats and Other Satirical Works, trans. by Hasan Javadi, Middle Eastern Series, 11 (California: Jahan Books, 1985), pp. 96 and 124.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This