Where fools rush in

Kachal Muṣṭafā was a jester to the Persian Safavid king, Shāh ʿAbbās I (r. 1588-1629).  Typically for a jester, he was given broad access to the court, although with the notable exception of the Shah’s harem. On one occasion, no doubt presuming on his usual freedom of movement:

Kachal Muṣṭafā raced to the roof of the royal palace where a tightrope performance was taking place. This was a space where on this occasion, for unknown reasons, he was not welcome. The Shāh angrily ordered him away, but the jester brazenly returned. In a fit of anger, Shāh ʿAbbās unsheathed his sword and struck Kachal Muṣṭafā in the neck, severing his head.

A rare instance of a jester paying with his life for overstepping the mark, and perhaps even more unusual among non-Chinese jesters, where we have a record of a handful of jesters being executed, as well as those talking their way out of imminent execution. 

But then, we have been warned of the unpredictability of kings.

Source: Gianni Izzo, ‘Playing the fool: jesters of the Safavid and Zand courts’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (August 2023), p. 9, citing Nasrollah Falsafī, Zindigānī-yi Shāh ʿAbbās-i Avval, vol. 3 (Tehran: Intishārāt-i Dānishghāh-i Tehran, 1955), p. 129.

Image credit: Line art drawing of a scimitar; archives of Pearson Scott Foresman, donated to the Wikimedia Foundation


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