Yellow waistcoat & sky-blue breeches

Valerio in Georg Buchner’s play Leonce and Lena (1836) is a character for whom the power and weight of a Shakespearean court jester has been claimed. Although not formally designated a jester, he clearly acts the part, forever mocking and having his say, pointing out the folly of his masters, occasionally in point-blank terms:

Your Highness would seem to be well on the way to becoming a perfect head-case (I.iii.)

He implies the king is a cuckold, a favourite joke of the Persian jester Talhak.  When Prince Leonce runs away, Valerio accompanies him as the Fool followed Lear on his wanderings.  He is full of puns and wry comments and, like Lear’s Fool, thinks his master is mad although he refuses to abandon him (II.ii).  When Leonce works himself into a melancholic passion and decides to commit suicide, Valerio puts a stop to his melodramatic leanings, to the great disappointment of Leonce,

The fool has ruined everything with his yellow waistcoat and sky-blue breeches (II.iv.)

Sources: Nancy Lukens, Buchner’s Valerio and the Theatrical Fool Tradition (Stuttgart: Heinz, 1977), pp. 11-12;  Georg Buchner (1813-37), Leonce and Lena (1836), in The Plays of Georg Buchner, trans. by Victor Price (London: Oxford University Press, 1971), pp. 83 & 95.

Image credit: Jane Austen’s World


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