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play served to amuse the audience with his sallies. of coarse buffoonery, and thus became the clown of the piece. In short, the theatrical clown or fool seems to have been a kind of heterogeneous character, drawn in part from real life, but very considerably heightened in order to produce stage effect; an opinion that derives considerable support from what Shakspeare has put into the mouth of Hamlet, when he makes him admonish those who play the clowns to speak no more than is set down for them. Indeed the great dramatist himself cannot be absolved from the imputation of having given too high a colouring to the characters in question, unless we suppose, what s extremely probable, that his plays have been very much interpolated with the extemporaneous nonsense of the players. To this licentious practice the author of an excellent and well written satire, entitled Pasquil's mad-cappe, throwne at the corruptions of these times, 1626, 4to, alludes in the following lines:

"Tell country players, that old paltry jests
Pronounced in a painted motley coate,
Filles all the world so full of cuckoes nests,
That nightingales can scarcely sing a note:
Oh bid them turne their minds to better meanings;
Fields are ill sowne that give no better gleanings."

Among other grave writers of the age, Sir

Philip Sidney has reprobated the practice of introducing fools on the theatre. He remarks that the plays of his time were neither right tragedies nor right comedies, but that the authors mingled kings and clowns, "not," says he, "because the matter so carieth it, but thrust in the clowne by head and shoulders to play a part in majestical matters, with neither decencie nor discretion: so as neither the admiration and commiseration, nor the right sportfulnesse is by their mongrell tragicomedie obtained"." William Rankin, a puritan, and contemporary with Shakspeare, has left us a most virulent attack on plays, and players, whom he calls monsters; "And whie monsters," says he, Bicause under colour of humanitie they present nothing but prodigious vanitie. These are wels without water, dead branches fit for fuell, cockle amongst corne, unwholesome weedes amongst sweete hearbes, and finallie, feends that are crept into the worlde by stealth, and holde possession by subtill invasion." In another place, describing the performers at a fictitious banquet in Terralbon, [England] he says, "Some transformed themselves to roges, other to ruffians, some other to clownes, a fourth to fooles

b Defence of poesie, near the end.

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the roges were ready, the ruffians were rude, theyr clownes cladde as well with country condition, as in ruffe russet; theyr fooles as fonde as might be," &c. The latter passage is interesting, because the clown is properly distinguished from the fool, as he always should have been.

It may be the means of affording a clearer view of the present subject, if something like a classification of the different sorts of fools and clowns be given. The following is therefore offered as a substitute for a better.

I. The general domestic fool, often, but as it should seem improperly, termed a clown. He was 1. a mere natural, or idiot. 2. Silly by nature, yet cunning and sarcastical. 3. Artificial. Puttenham, speaking of the latter, says, "A buffoune or counterfet foole, to here him speake wisely which is like himselfe, it is no sport at all; but for such a counterfait to talke and looke foolishly it maketh us laugh, because it is no part of his naturalld." All these officiated occasionally as menial servants.

II. The clown, who was 1. a mere country

* Mirrour of monsters, 1587, 4to, fo. 7.
Arte of English poesie, 1589, 4to, fo. 243.

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booby. 2. A witty rustic. 3. Any servant of a shrewd and witty disposition, and who, like a similar character in our modern plays, was made to treat his master with great familiarity in order to produce stage effect.

III. The female fool, who was generally an


IV. The city or corporation fool, whose office was to assist at public entertainments and in pageants. To this class belong perhaps the Lord Mayor's state fool, and those employed by the companies of trades, &c.

V. Tavern fools. These seem to have been retained to amuse the customers. We learn from one of Ben Jonson's plays that they exhibited with a Jew's harp, mounted on a joint-stool, and in another of them he has preserved the name of such a characterf: they were sometimes qualified to sing after the Italian manner 5. Fools were also employed in the common brothelsh.

VI. The fool of the ancient theatrical mysteries and moralities. He was, more properly speaking, the Vice, a singular character, that would afford sufficient matter for much better

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• The devil is an ass, Sc. 1. Marston's Malcontent, Sc. 7.

The fox, Act ii. Sc. 1.
See vol. i. p. 151.

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dissertations than those of Warburton or Upton Being generally dressed in a fool's habit, he appears to have been gradually and undistinguishably blended with the domestic fool; yet he was certainly a buffoon of a different sort. He was always a bitter enemy to the Devil, and a part of his employment consisted in teazing and tormenting the poor fiend on every occasion. He ceased to be in fashion at the end of the sixteenth century.

VII. The fool in the old dumb shows exhibited at fairs and perhaps at inns, in which he was generally engaged in a struggle with Death; a fact that seems alluded to more than once in Shakspeare's plays. It is possible that some casual vestiges of this species of entertainment might have suggested the modern English pantomimes.

VIII. The fool in the Whitsun ales and Morris dance.

IX. The mountebank's fool, or merry Andrew. There may be others introduced into our old dramas of an indefinite and irregular kind, and not reducible to any of the above classes; but to exemplify these or many of the above by a specific reference to authorities is not within the


iThe Devil is an ass, Sc. 1.

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