Silence the sotties … if you can

The sottie was a form of French satirical drama from the 15th and 16th centuries, until they were banned.  Their characters were allegorical without individual names and they were a channel for criticising the government.

The Farce Morale de Troys Pelerins et Malice (1523) mocked the king’s mother, Louise de Savoie (1476-1531), who twice acted as regent during the reign of François I (r. 1515-47), and who was blamed for many of the problems afflicting France.

In 1516 the king arrested three sottie actors of whom one had played the part of Louise using the guise of Mere Sotte to satirize the government.  The arrests did not succeed in silencing other actors, simply making them more subtle in their attacks. The play ends with the second fool excoriating rich men:

Who have eaten many a sumptuous meal

And yet couldn’t walk a single step

Except to dance with a pretty coquette:

It is they who Disorder at liberty have set


Qui ont mengé maint bon repas

Et ne seroyent marcher un pas,

Synon danser aveq fillete:

Se sont ceulx qui Desordre ont faicte (ll. 242-45)

Source: Farce Morale de Troys Pelerins et Malice (1523), in Receuil Générale des Sotties, ed. by Emile Picot, 3 vols (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1912), vol. 2, pp. 299-300.


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