The most accomplished actors

Like his court jester counterpart, the fool in French medieval drama was somehow on the edge of the arena of action and therefore more independent – it seems writers made more effort to vary his characterization than with other roles, or alternatively creativity was left to the initiative of the actor – stage directions simply announcing the fool who was then given complete freedom.  For this reason the fool’s role in French drama was often taken by the best actor in the company, as Rabelais’ Pantagruel explains:

In this way, when it came to distributing the roles among the players, that of fool and joker was always given to the most accomplished of the troupe.


En ceste maniere, voyons nous entre les jongleurs, a la distribution des rolles, le personnaige du Sot et du Badin estre tous jours representé par le plus perit et perfaict joueur de leur compaignie.

The same applies to English and Samoan plays: in Samoa, troupes of players putting on improvisatory plays were trained and directed by the most accomplished comedian among them. 

Source: François Rabelais (c. 1494-c. 1553), Le Tiers Livre des Faicts et Dicts Heroiques du Bon Pantagruel (1546), in Oeuvres Complètes, ed. by Pierre Jourda (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 1962), vol. 1, p. 558; Caroline Sinavaiana, `Traditional Comic Theatre in Samoa: A Holographic View’, doctoral thesis, University of Hawaii, 1992, p. vi.


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