Fools and Jesters in Literature, Art, and History: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $114.94
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 36%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (4) from $114.94   
  • New (3) from $173.44   
  • Used (1) from $114.94   


Jesters and fools have existed as important and consistent figures in nearly all cultures. Sometimes referred to as clowns, they are typological characters who have conventional roles in the arts, often using nonsense to subvert existing order. But fools are also a part of social and religious history, and they frequently play key roles in the rituals that support and shape a society's system of beliefs. This reference book includes alphabetically arranged entries for approximately 60 fools and jesters from a wide range of cultures. Included are entries for performers from American popular culture, such as Woody Allen, Mae West, Charlie Chaplin, and the Marx Brothers; literary characters, such as Shakespeare's Falstaff, Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel, and Singer's Gimpel; and cultural and mythological figures, such as India's Birbal, the American circus clown, the Native American Coyote, Taishu Engeki of Japan, Hephaestus, Loki the Norse fool, schlimiels and schlimazels, and the drag queen.

The entries, written by expert contributors, are critical as well as informative. Each begins with a biographical, artistic, religious, or historical background section, which places the subject within a larger cultural and historical context. A description and analysis follow. This section may include a discussion of the fool's appearance, gender role, ethical and moral roles, social function, and relationship to such themes as nature, time, and mortality. The entry then discusses the critical reception of the subject and concludes with an extensive bibliography of general works.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

A reference beginning with an introduction examining the fool figure, followed by some 60 entries of varying lengths on individual and typological fool figures of great diversity, including Lucille Ball, Native American coyote trickster tales and cycles, Sir John Falstaff, Forrest Gump, William Kemp, Loki the Norse fool, Paul the Apostle, Rigoletto, South African political clowning, Taishu Engeki, and the Tarot fool, to name a few. The volume concludes with a selected general bibliography, an index cross-referencing terms within the essays, and brief biographies of the contributors. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780313297854
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/5/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 572
  • Lexile: 1380L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.44 (d)

Meet the Author

VICKI K. JANIK is Assistant Professor of English at the State University of New York at Farmingdale, where she teaches courses in Shakespeare, drama, comparative mythology, drama, and other topics.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Woody Allen: The Clown as Tragic Hero 25
The Anthropology of Fools 33
Robert Armin 41
Archy Armstrong 50
The Badin 55
Lucille Ball 62
Jean-Louis Barrault 71
Beckett's Postmodern Clowns: Vladimir (Didi), Estragon (Gogo), Pozzo, and Lucky 79
Jack Benny 85
Birbal 91
The Bishop of Fools 97
George Burns and Gracie Allen: The Jewish Vaudeville Tradition 106
The Camp 113
Canio-Pagliacco and Petrouchka: Two Contrasting Images of Pierrot 120
Charlie Chaplin 127
The American Circus Clown 136
Commedia dell'Arte 146
Native American Coyote Trickster Tales and Cycles 155
The Drag Queen 169
Sir John Falstaff 176
Feste 185
W. C. Fields 194
Folly in the Enduring Tradition 198
The Fop: "Apes and Echoes of Men": Gentlemanly Ideals and the Restoration 207
Gimpel 215
Joseph Grimaldi 220
Forrest Gump: Innocent Fool 226
Hamlet 231
Hephaestus, Hermes, and Prometheus: Jesters to the Gods 237
The Heyoka of the Sioux 246
Clowns of the Hopi 250
Knaves and Fools in Ben Jonson 254
Buster Keaton 265
William Kemp 273
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy: Yin and Yang 281
Lear's Fool 289
Loki, the Norse Fool 295
The Marx Brothers 298
Merry Report 308
Paul the Apostle 316
Penasar of Bali: Sacred Clowns 329
Pierrot: Dramatic and Literary Mask 336
Plautus's Clowns 343
Puck/Robin Goodfellow 351
Punch and Judy 363
Francois Rabelais 370
Martha Raye 376
Rigoletto 382
Schlemiels and Schlimazels 388
The Sleary Circus 395
Socrates as Fool in Aristophanes and Plato 400
Will Sommers 406
The Sottie, the Sots, and the Fols 411
South African Political Clowning: Laughter and Resistance to Apartheid 419
Country Squires and Bumpkins 428
The Three Stooges 438
Taishu Engeki: Subverting the Patterns of Japanese Culture 445
The Tarot Fool 453
The Tarot Fool in English and American Novels 459
Touchstone 466
The Vice Figure in Middle English Morality Plays 471
The Vice in Henry Medwall's Nature 485
Mae West 494
The Yankee 500
Zanni 508
Selected General Bibliography 513
Index 521
About the Editor and Contributors 545
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)