Arch-enemy of jesters

The 17th century Spanish writer and jurist Cristóbal Suárez de Figueroa lashes out at jesters.  A rare example of such strong antipathy, even at the tail-end of the great age of European jesterdom.  Regrettably, he doesn’t really tell us why they irk him so.  However, he gets an award for the most visceral secular disapprobation of the jester, even though he grudgingly admitted that they had some uses:

Quotation: Cristóbal Suárez de Figueroa - El Pasajero

All my life I have been an arch-enemy of jesters, considering them to be utterly base scum of the earth, none of whom are any good except for trying out the various types of torture that exist in the world [although] I used to tolerate some of them, whose wit amused and cheered princes, such that they owed to their jokes and sallies some titbits of food, rather like the discarded bones flung at the greyhounds.


Toda mi vida he sido enemigo capital de bufones, juzgándolos vilísimas inmundicias de la tierra, ya que por ningún caso son buenos, sino es para ejercer en ellos cuantos géneros de martirios tiene el mundo.  Solía admitir el uso algunos de éstos, cuya graciosidad entretenía y alegraba a los principes, de modo que era debida a sus agudezas y a sus burlas alguna porción de cualquer mesa, bien como se suele arrojar al lebrel el hueso desechado…

I like that closing insult, likening jesters to hounds hanging around hoping for a bone to be thrown their way at the banquet.  In fact the court records, particularly in Spain, suggest they were rather cossetted. 

See also Seneca’s gripe about his wife’s ‘fatuo’ and others of her type, whom he calls ‘freaks’.

Source: Cristóbal Suárez de Figueroa (1571- c. 1644), El Pasajero (1617), ed. by Rodríguez Marín (Madrid: 1913), pp. 254-55, quoted in Joly, `Fragments d’un Discours Mythique Sur le Bouffon’, in Visages de la Folie: 1500-1650 (Domaine Hispano-Italien), ed. by A. Redondo and A. Rochon, Serie Etudes, 16 (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1981), p. 89.


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