Of fools and poets

This parting shot, the conclusion of a fictive quest in search of the ‘veriest fool in England’, has one of the fools name poets as being the greatest of fools, recommending they form a ‘parliament of poets’ to serve the interests of the fooliverse.

There is much overlap between court fools and poets, starting with the standard skill-set of fools including the capacity to compose poems, ditties or doggerel, or engage in verse-capping contests.  In addition, there are instances of the court poet being or becoming the court jester.   

Well (quoth one of the jury), if we cannot finde the foole we looke for amongst these fooles before named, one of us will be the foole: for in my minde, there cannot be a verier foole in the world then is a poet; … therefore we thinke fit to have a parliament of poets, and to enact such lawes and statutes, as may proove beneficial to the commonwelth of Jacke of Dovers motly coated fooles.

Source: Jacke of Dovers Quest of Inquirie Or, His Privy Search For The Veriest Foole In England (London, William Ferbrand, 1604), quoted in W. Carew Hazlitt, Shakespeare Jest-Books, 3 vols (London: Willis and Sotheran, 1864), vol. 2, p. 354. 

Image credit: Front cover of Richard Garnett’s 1966 retelling as Jack of Dover (New York: Vanguard, 1966)


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