Shakespeare wrote many fools and foolish characters in his plays -- from Touchstone to Feste to Nick Bottom to Launcelot.
But there was one fool who was unlike the rest, the greatest of all fools.
The Fool in King Lear.
|Ian McKellen as Lear and Sylvester McCoy as The Fool,|
in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production 2007-8
What makes him the supreme fool in all of Shakespeare?
Is it because he is funny, because he is also wise, or because he is faithful to Lear? What is it about him that is so important?
There are many scholars who have written about the Fool and the significance of the character in the play.
What they don’t write about is a real fool, a real person who was a fool, whom Shakespeare knew.
Archibald Armstrong was a court jester, a fool for King James.
Armstrong was born in Scotland, and was known as "Archy."
|The real fool behind Shakespeare's Fool|
Archy traveled to London in 1603 in the service of King James when he succeeded Queen Elizabeth after she died.
Archy was the first official court jester in England since King Henry VIII, and his court fool William Sommers.
Shakespeare must have seen all of this. When he wrote King Lear, he didn’t have far to look to find inspiration for the character of the Fool.
We know very little about him. We don’t even know when he was born.
But we do know that he was buried on 1 April 1672.
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