How dangerous was it to be a jester? - Beatrice K. Otto
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Other excellent books on the subject zoom in on the European fool, including Enid Welsford's The Fool, and John Southworth's beautifully illustrated Fools and Jesters at the English Court.
Also worth reading are some of the great primary source materials, including the slim and playful classic by Erasmus, In Praise of Folly. This was a bestseller when it came out, no doubt due to its light-hearted subversiveness, with Folly as a self-proclaimed and self-praising goddess. She humorously argues why it is she who rules the world, and makes a mockery of so-called wise and pious people.
An excellent source of stories concerning some of the most famous Chinese jesters is the lively translation of Sima Qian's Biographies of Jesters in War-Lords.
Another way to learn about the nature of jesters, is to get to know one of the greatest depictions of the role in literature—Shakespeare's Fool in King Lear. A particularly interesting adaptation of the story, taking place in medieval Japan, is Akira Kurosawa's film, Ran.
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