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

By Vicki K. Janik; Emmanuel S. Nelson | Go to book overview

The Badin

( France: Comic Theatrical Role: c. 1400-c. 1600)

Yvonne LeBlanc


BACKGROUND

During the waning of the Middle Ages and the advent of the modern European era, Western society was deeply fascinated with the concept of folly in all its diverse permutations. Folly was perceived as evidence of the paradoxical nature of man, an inescapable condition that all, despite their station in life, must experience. This interest in folly was manifested not only in literary and artistic works but also in the real world. Kings and princes kept their own private retinues of fools for amusement; and seasonal celebrations, such as Carnival and the Feast of Fools, were set aside to exalt impulsive behavior and to revel in the overturn, if only temporary, of the established order ( Arden18-20). In literature, the descriptions of folly were diverse and ran the gamut from the pernicious to the beneficent. In his most famous and influential work, Das Narrenschiff (The Ship of Fools, 1494), Sebastian Brant painted an image of a society gone amok, in which irrational behavior leads men to sin and perdition. Several years later, in 1509, Desiderius Erasmus took a more benign view of human frailties and the irony of the human condition in the Moriae Encomium (The Praise of Folly). His main character, Stultitia (Folly), was revealed not only in wicked or irrational deeds but in childlike innocence, possessing a closeness to nature that separates the individual from social order. In French comic theater of the day, the stage was inhabited by a bevy of buffoon figures who exhibited all these diverse traits. They went under a variety of names: fou, sot, galant, and the Badin.

The figure of the Badin is linked to the world of fifteenth-and early- sixteenth

-55-

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