Shakespearian fool

(or Shakespearean fool)

Shakespearian fool is character type that is seen in many of Shakespeare’s plays.

Shakespearian fools often occur to be peasants that act cleverly to outdo people of higher social status. In this sense, they are similar to clowns and jesters but their characteristics are greatly improved for theatrical effect.

Shakespearian fools in Shakespeare's tragedies mostly appear right after a truly horrific scene: The Gravediggers in Hamlet after Ophelia's suicide; The Porter in Macbeth just after the murder of the King.

It is argued that Shakespeare's clowning goes beyond only 'comic relief', and making the most complicated scenes easier to understand for the audience by removing the focus from the fictional world to the reality of the audience and conveying the theme of the play more successfully.


The costumes worn by Shakespearean fools were quite standardized at the Globe Theatre. The actor wore a ragged or patchwork coat. There were often bells along the skirt and on the elbows. They wore closed breeches with tights, with each leg a different color. A monk-like hood, covering the entire head was positioned as a cape, covering the shoulders and part of the chest. This hood was decorated with animal body parts, such as donkey's ears or the neck and head of a rooster. The animal theme was continued in the crest worn as well.

The actor had props. Usually he carried a short stick decorated with the doll head of a fool or puppet on the end. This was an official bauble or scepter, which had a pouch filled with air, sand, or peas attached as well. He wore a long petticoat of different colors, made of expensive materials such as velvet trimmed with yellow.