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

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

human understanding in general. The foundation that the Forms provide for the Socratic vision gives it an underlying sense of security, but since that vision constantly seeks justification by argument, and all arguments prove inadequate, that security is simultaneously undermined. Socratic philosophy is thus characterized by an essential incongruity between fulfillment and shortcoming, between security and risk, between celebration and criticism. In this oscillation and ambivalence, it recalls the comic vision.

Socrates' laughter in the Phaedo is described as "gentle." Any ridiculing laughter is left to his companions. This gentleness arises from Socrates' belief in the true and good foundation of the world, which enables him to manifest a secure and generous spirit. Yet it remains impossible for Socrates to account for a belief in the good and pure because accounting, or giving a logos, can only occur after the commitment to logos and an edifying view of the cosmos has already been made. This results in an incongruous situation similar to what David Hume identified as the "whimsical condition of mankind." The philosopher's "last laugh" in the Phaedo, called forth by the ultimate questions concerning life and death, illuminates this double significance of the human condition especially intensely, simultaneously indicating the paltry and inadequate efforts and results of human words and deeds to grasp the nature of the cosmos and act in harmony with it while, in spite of this acknowledgment, pointing trustfully to the rational and good basis of the world that provides both a standard of judgment and a promise of security for human thought and action.


CRITICAL RECEPTION

The ultimate meditation on the significance of the Socratic life that Plato provides in the Phaedo and that provides the basis for such a great portion of Western thought confirms the comic foolery of the philosopher but shows its profound metaphysical roots. The Socratic and comic visions share a generous spirit and promise of security that is very appealing, but their very workings undercut what they seem to establish. In this incongruous tension between fulfillment and falling short, between having it all and having the rug pulled out from under one, what is left but, as happens periodically during Socrates' last discussion, to laugh?


NOTE
1
Most modern commentators do not follow this line of thought. Although it is not unusual to ascribe a humorous quality to Socrates, it is typically confined to his eccentricities and ironic banter.

-404-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xiii
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 20
  • Woody Allen - The Clown as Tragic Hero 25
  • The Anthropology of Fools 33
  • Notes 39
  • Robert Armin 41
  • Notes 48
  • Archy Armstrong 50
  • The Badin 55
  • Lucille Ball 62
  • Jean-Louls Barrault 71
  • Critical Reception 77
  • Beckett's Postmodern Clowns - Vladimir (Didi), Estragon (Gogo), Pozzo, and Lucky 79
  • Jack Benny 85
  • Birbal 91
  • Selected Bibliographv 96
  • The Bishop of Fools 97
  • Note 104
  • 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
  • Selected Bibliograph 153
  • Native American Coyote Trickster Tales and Cycles 155
  • Notes 164
  • 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
  • Notes 212
  • Gimpel 215
  • Joseph Grimaldi 220
  • Notes 224
  • Forrest Gump - Innocent Fool 226
  • Hamlet 231
  • Hephaestus, Hermes, and Prometheus - Jesters to the Gods 237
  • Note 245
  • The Heyoka of the Sioux 246
  • Clowns of the Hopi 250
  • Selected Bibiliography 253
  • 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 - (England: in William Shakespeare's King Lear: 1605 289
  • Loki, the Norse Fool 295
  • The Marx Brothers 298
  • Notes 306
  • Selecteid Bibliograpy 306
  • Merry Report 308
  • Paul the Apostle 316
  • Notes 325
  • Penasar of Bali - Sacred Clowns 329
  • Note 335
  • Pierrot - Dramatic and Literary Mask 336
  • Plautus's Clowns 343
  • Puck/Robin Goodfellow 351
  • Punch and Judy 363
  • FrançOis Rabelais 370
  • Martha Raye 376
  • Rigoletto 382
  • Schlemiels and Schlimazels 388
  • The Sleary Circus 395
  • Socrates as Fool in Aristophanes and Plato 400
  • Note 404
  • Will Sommers 406
  • The Sottie, the Sots, and the Fols 411
  • South African Political Clowning Laughter and Resistance to Apartheid 419
  • Ciritical Reception 427
  • Country Squires and Bumpkins 428
  • Selected Bibliographv 436
  • The Three Stooges 438
  • Taishu Engeki - Subverting the Patterns of Japanese Culture 445
  • Note 452
  • 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
  • Critical Reception 512
  • Selected General Bibliography 513
  • Index 521
  • About the Editor and Contributors 545
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