From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A jester, joker, jokester, fool, wit-cracker, prankster or buffoon was a person employed to tell jokes and provide general entertainment, typically by a European monarch. Jesters are stereotypically thought to have worn brightly colored clothes and eccentric hats in a motley pattern. Their hats were especially distinctive; made of cloth, they were floppy with three points, each of which had a jingle bell at the end. The three points of the hat represent the donkey’s ears and tail worn by jesters in earlier times. Other things distinctive about the jester were his laughter and his mock sceptre, known as a bauble or marotte.
In ancient times courts employed fools and by the Middle Ages the jester was a familiar figure. In Renaissance times, aristocratic households in Britain employed licensed fools or jesters, who sometimes dressed as other servants were dressed, but generally wore a motley (i.e. parti-coloured) coat, hood with ass’s (i.e. donkey) ears or a red-flannel coxcomb and bells. Regarded as pets or mascots, they served not simply to amuse but to criticise their master or mistress and their guests. Queen Elizabeth (reigned 1558-1603) is said to have rebuked one of her fools for being insufficiently severe with her. Excessive behaviour, however, could lead to a fool being whipped, as Lear threatens to whip his fool.
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