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Spring 2023

The Voices of Shakespeare’s Fools

“I am indeed not her fool, but her corrupter of words.” (Fest, Twelfth Night, 3.1)

Feste, Twelfth Night
Touchstone, As You Like It
Parolles, All’s Well that Ends Well

Scholar: Marie Roche, Ph.D.
Founder of Community Shakespeare of New England.

Course Description:

Beginning this year’s conversation on Shakespeare and the Popular Voice with the fools is not innocuous. Shakespeare’s fools have force. Their presence on stage signals their weighty cultural significance in his time. Shakespeare created them to express self- and socio-political refashioning, not simply to provide comic relief within aristocratic dramas. We will explore how deeply this figure was embedded in oral traditions. The fool’s role as a source of laughter helps create a sense of community. The fool speaks and shares similarities with his audience, no matter their class. In fact, the fool is uniquely poised between the common class and the court. Despite being from the lower class, a fool was often chosen for his wit and was a close counselor to the King. The fool’s appearance as a coarse peasant can be misleading, but the allegorical names Shakespeare gave his fools are deeply embedded not only in his plots but also in the cultural life of his audience. Shakespeare’s fools weave new narratives of freedom of expression and self-realization and therefore this social dimension of the fool is relevant to our discussion of the popular voice. The voice of the fool in Shakespeare’s plays deserves our attention and analysis.

We will remain open minded as to the potent function the fools take on in these plays, asking questions such as: Who is the fool? What is his function? Why would Shakespeare use the fool as a transgressor of conventions? What is the fool’s message? Why might some resist the fool’s wisdom?  Whom in the audience does the fool address? What is in his name i.e., Feste, Touchstone, and Parolles? Could a fool be an allegorical figure that is standing for something significant?

Mondays 5-6:30 pm 

March 6th – May 23rd On Zoom


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