Ironic Foolish Clowns
By ice rivers
I've been dedicating a lot of foolish thought to clowns lately. Apparently, at least in the Shakespearean model, more clowns exist on this earth than do fools although everybody's somebody's fool according to Connie Francis.
Shakespeare has two characters in his plays designated as Fools but seven designated as Clowns. Do the math. If everybody is somebody's fool, then everybody must be surrounded by three and a half clowns. Half clowns really irk me because they are almost always opportunistic and insincere. The model for half clowns is the clown in All's Well That Ends Well who finds ultimate regeneration by becoming a professional fool when he realizes that his unintentionally hapless behavior may be viewed by some as "entertainment" and thus a way of generating income.
Occasionally, when we realize how foolish we are, a job promotion follows. An upwardly mobile move from clown to fool is no accident. A line must be crossed.
Where then is that line between clown and fool and how can I possibly be oblivious enough to not trip over that line when I'm wearing size twenty five shoes?
Irony is the line.
The major difference between clowns and fools is consciousness of irony. The blood of fools is rich with it.
Irony is a tricky subject. Irony can be faked ignorance, utilized to provoke or prank an antagonist. Irony can also be a form of expresssion in which the implication is intended to be the opposite of the literal meaning.
Take this test. Ask somebody how they like their job and when they say "I love this job" decide whether you are talking to a clown or a fool or a Congressman or a Senator.
Fools get the joke, clowns live the joke.
Fools are professionals and intentionally witty. Clowns are accidentals and unintentionally bumbling. Clowns are less threatening than fools unless you happen to be near a clown lighting a gas grill. At moments like that clowns can get very threatening very quickly. No wonder Cosmo Kramer is afraid of clowns.
Clowns can be particularly threatening to fools when a fool's obvious irony is taken at face value by clowns and construed by the clown to mean the polar opposite of what the fool is implying which is, of course, the opposite of what he's saying. Clowns, in their unsophisticated sincerity and blundering sense of justice, can and often do cause a fool to laugh all the way to the hospital or the police station or beyond
to the grave itself
alas poor Yorick
Clowns are ridiculous but worthy, virtual and sensible to a fault. Clowns gracefully accept their own clumsiness. Clowns are more long suffering than they are patient. Clowns, even when cowardly often emerge as serendiptous heroes.
Fools in their paradoxical complexity are more mercurial, more objective, more apt to despair. A Shakespeare clown is blunt, a fool is sharp.
Shakespearean clowns help us to see the comedy within the tragedy as well as the melancholy within the hilarity.
My favorite Shakespearean clown is the clown from Titus Andronicus who innocently,obliviously and naively carries two pigeons in a basket and delivers a taunting message from Titus to murderous Saturninus and is promptly hung for his troubles. I'm convinced that clown had no idea why he was being hung and even less of an idea why people were laughing at his hanging.
Clowns are like that.
Finally there is Trinculo in the Tempest. Trinculo is technically a fool but in his buffonery and lack of conscious irony, he more resembles a clown.
I, myself, sort of alternate between fool and clown. Usually, I'm unaware of my own foibles but every once in awhile, well......
Essays are written and posted by fools like me
But only a clown can walk into a tree.
Or hand an asp to Cleopatree.