( France: 1420- 1571)
Performers who are members of companies of fools, or sociétés; red, yellow, and green costumes of motley with coxcombs or asses' ears on the hoods; the sounds of bells that dangle from performers' clothes; slapstick with baubles as weapons; acrobatics; spitfire dialogue filled with contemporary satire, puns, and wordplay: these are among the most striking characteristics of a highly theatrical genre, unique to fifteenth- and sixteenth-century France, known as the sottie, or fool's play.
One critic, Ida Nelson, counts forty-two extant sotties (or soties) from the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. However, generic distinctions between the sottie and its companion form, the farce, prove difficult. Much of the debate revolves around the character of the fool and his presence in a given comedy. Eugénie Droz, in her collection, maintains that there is no difference between sotties and farces other than a style of acting. Emile Picot's edition separates the two forms, as do studies by Jean-Claude Aubailly and Barbara Bowen, who subsequently distinguishes some 150 farces. Alan Knight, on the other hand, follows the practice of the late Middle Ages and groups all the comedies as farces, proposing to classify what the contemporary authors and printers alternatively entitled sotties or farces moralisées as a subgenre of the typical farce. In so doing, he respects their differences while he preserves the notion that they all belong to the same "folly-ridden world."
As an initial, general distinction, the typical farces, with the exception, that