Clown

(Court Jester, Fool)

The Clown archetype is associated with three major characteristics: making people laugh, making them cry, and wearing a mask that covers one’s own real emotions. The Clown is generally male, with few women playing the role either in literature or the theater. This may well be explained by the social attitude that associates weakness and loss of control with a man who expresses emotions. Therefore, the man has to wear a mask, which often portrays a crying face. The Clown reflects the emotions of the crowd, making an audience laugh by satirizing something they can relate to collectively or by acting out social absurdities. In general, the messages communicated through a Clown’s humor are deeply serious and often critical of the hypocrisy in an individual or in some area of society. Because of the mask he wears, the Clown is allowed–indeed, expected–to cross the boundaries of social acceptance, representing what people would like to do or say themselves.

The Court Jester or Fool is the manifestation of the Clown in a royal setting. Since no one can possibly take a fool seriously at the physical level, he is allowed entry into the most powerful of circles. While entertaining the king with outrageous behavior, the Fool is actually communicating messages that the king trusts. Political satirists often have dominant Court Jester archetypes, revealing the motivations of the highest officials in the nation in a manner that is generally granted freedom from the legal retribution that might be leveled against an ordinary citizen making the same comments.

Related to the Fool is the Dummling, the fairy tale character who, although often simple-minded, acts with a good heart and is usually rewarded for it. Modern film characters such as Forrest Gump and Nurse Betty embody this aspect of the archetype, which does not so much impart wisdom as foster living with kindness and simplicity.

The shadow aspect of the Clown or Fool manifests as cruel personal mockery or betrayal, specifically the breaking of confidences gained through knowledge from the inner circle.

In reviewing your relationship to this archetype, consider your use of humor in association with power. Since everyone is prone to jesting, you are looking for a connection to a pattern of behavior that is fundamental to your personal protection and survival. In distinguishing Clown from Fool, note that the Fool is connected to arenas of power, while the Clown does his best work as an Everyman, like Ralph Kramden on “The Honeymooners.” Reflect on whether “clowning” around is an essential channel for expressing your emotions over and above simple play. Ask yourself if, like the Fool, you carry truth into closed circles or closed minds.