Much can be said about the figure of the Fool in Shakespeare’s plays. The role that this type of character shows an interesting dynamic, particularly in the sense that the inclusion of the figure of a clown is always fitting and appropriate, regardless of the genre of the play. Shakespearean fools are privileged laugh provokers, who usually don’t have any real part in the play but their presence is significant. Many were wise enough to know how to offer profound truth and wisdom in the guise of humor. The fool is often the only source of humor in tragedies and is needed to lighten the otherwise dark, and depressing mood of the play.
Despite the different personalities these fools or clowns can take, from one play to another, they all serve a purpose in the play. They provide pure entertainment or indirect criticism of the surrounding events. The inevitable title of the “fool” that they have (which as one can tell by the name, denoted that they are characters whom words or actions have little or no significance because they are deemed as being not as sane as other characters or rather “mad”) This puts them in a position of power and lesser consequence especially since they are automatically excused for what they do or have to say. The presence of the clown or fool figure therefore act as a voice of conscience, a merry joy-bringer to the play, or a commentator to the surrounding events. Shakespeare uses the fool in A Midsummer Night Dream and King Lear to bluntly deliver to the reader what he wants them to feel or understand in a tragedy, comedy, romance or any other type of play
One important aspect to keep in mind about the fools is their ability to freely move without being affected by what happens around them. Just as their words or actions never consequential, they in turn also face no consequences, none that really touches their character at least. They are able to say what they feel, when they want and disguise it in a humorous form. This aspect can be seen in both King Lear’s Fool and in Bottom, the Fool in A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Videbaek comments on that thought:
Again there is no clear correlation between the degree to which the clown figure is developed and the time at which the play in question was written. Always the roles of these more major clowns are tailored to fit a particular function within the play. They too are the audience’s bridge between play and interpretation; their doings and comments serve to facilitate the appropriation of major themes or the understanding of protagonists and their interrelations. Often, they function as catalysts, furthering events but remaining unchanged by them (39)
Like a catalyst in Chemistry that speeds up a reaction without being consumed in it or affecting the end product whatsoever, the fools like catalyst. They act as active facilitators in the action of the play, but do not get too involved that they are affected directly. With this in mind, we can begin to understand the role of...