Thursday, May 31, 2012

What Kind of Fool Am I? (Parte the Firste)


Artificial Fool or Natural Fool?

The Fool of the Early Modern stage derives from the idea of the court jester, who from the Middle Ages on had been “licensed” (permitted and expected) to express the truth as long as he did so entertainingly. Robert Armin was the first actor in such roles as Feste, Touchstone (in As You Like It), Thersites (in Troilus and Cressida) and Lear’s Fool; all are examples of what Olivia calls “an allowed fool.” Armin consciously drew upon the history of Fooling in his performances, including the career of Henry VIII’s jester, Will Sommers; he wrote about Sommers in Foole Upon Foole, published in 1600 (around the time of his debut with Shakespeare's company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men). Armin was also mindful of Queen Elizabeth's jesters, including John Pace, who gave up an academic career for fooling (no comments, please!) – first in the Duke of Norfolk's service, and then for the Queen. Shakespeare further gives Feste an awareness of his character's origins in Medieval drama, singing about “the Old Vice” – a figure who mocked authority, performed (and often improvised) song and dance, is very interested in money (note Feste's skill in begging), and calls attention to his entrances and exits (note Feste's first appearance, after a long absence from Olivia's household). 

Fools could also be “natural” – what different eras would term “simpletons” or “the mentally disabled.” Malvolio criticizes Feste for being outdone by “an ordinary fool that has no more brain than a stone.” Maria suspects Sir Andrew of being “almost natural” – that is, the natural kind of fool. Feste is instead an “artificial” fool, a skilled (or artful) performer wittily able to document Olivia's and Orsino's own folly. As Viola observes: “This fellow is wise enough to play the fool; / And to do that well craves a kind of wit. / He must observe their mood on whom he jests, / The quality of persons, and the time . . . . This is a practice / As full of labor as a wise man's art.”

The Production and Touring Schedule for Flatwater Shakespeare's Twelfth Night:
June 13-17 and 20-24 – Lincoln Community Foundation Garden (near 14th and N)
June 28 – Antelope Park (27th and A)
June 29 – Trago Park (22nd and T)
June 30 – Henry Park (44th and Prescott)
July 1 – Wyuka Cemetery (35th and O)
July 5 – First Plymouth Church (20th and D)
July 6 – Havelock Park (62nd and Havelock)
July 7 – Irvingdale Park (19th and Van Dorn)
July 8 – Bethany Park (66th and Vine)

All shows starts at 7 p.m.  Call 402-473-2897 for performance information.

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