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How dangerous was it to be a jester? - Beatrice K. Otto

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Contrary to common belief, jesters weren’t just a medieval European phenomenon but flourished in other times and cultures. The first reliably recorded jester is thought to be You Shi, of 7th century BCE China. Jesters had unique relationships to power: they could be viewed as objects of mockery or as entertainers and trusted companions. Beatrice K. Otto digs into history's most infamous jokers.

While it was widely acknowledged that court jesters or fools had a license to mock and criticize those in power, as we saw from Jing Xinmo and Archy Armstrong, this didn't always protect them if the VIP they mocked thought they'd gone too far. What would you do in Jing Xinmo's shoes? Was it too risky for him to crack a joke when his boss threatened him with execution? Should he have begged for mercy instead?

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Beatrice K. Otto
  • Director Yael Reisfeld
  • Narrator Alexandra Panzer
  • Music Jan Willem De With
  • Sound Designer Jan Willem De With
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Produced by Anna Bechtol, Sazia Afrin
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Script Producer Cella Wright
  • Script Editor Molly Bryson
  • Fact-Checker Charles Wallace

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