In a Word...Fool

On this first day of April, and along with Gratiano in The Merchant of Venice, let us play the Fool

Still life of typewriter with crumpled paper around it Pic: getty images writing writer

Okay. It’s April Fool’s Day. NO pranks here. “What, on our page?”, as Lady Macbeth might have said. “Too cruel anywhere,” as the soon-to-be, “the-late Banquo”, responded. No pranks here in this little stress-free oasis, pitched between religion above, the mysterious Crosaire to the left, Sudoku, Chess, and Bridge beneath. So many challenges, so little time.

Soccer fanatics among my friends describe Argentinian footballer Messi as God. That is idolatry. Of this world there is but one God and that is Shakespeare. Notice how he deploys his Fool character in so many plays to speak the truth to power. Like Feste in Twelfth Night who tells sweet Olivia: “Youth’s a stuff will not endure.”

Or Lear’s Fool, who tries to cheer up his desolate old master with: “He that has and a little, tiny wit,/With heigh-ho, the wind and the rain,/Must make content with his fortunes fit,/Though the rain it raineth every day.”

And dear Yorick, whose skull Hamlet caresses as he tells Horatio, about this “fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar?”


We have all known such Yoricks. Our lives are the richer for them.

So, on this first day of April, and along with Gratiano in The Merchant of Venice, let us play the Fool. “...with mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come,/And let my liver rather heat with wine/Than my heart cool with mortifying groans./Why should a man, whose blood is warm within,/Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster?/Sleep when he wakes and creep into the jaundice/By being peevish?”

That has been translated from Shakespeare, to read: “Let me play the fool, Let me grow old with joy and laughter,/And let my liver be destroyed by wine,/Rather than waste away, groaning to death./ Why should a warm-blooded man, still alive,/Sit there dead like his grandfather’s tombstone?/Be lifeless while he’s a awake and get jaundice/By being angry all the time?” Why, indeed.

Have a nice, foolish, day.

Fool, from Latin follis, for “windbag, empty-headed person”.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times