The modern use of the word 'jester' did not come into use until the mid-16th Century during Tudor times. The earlier terms to describe an entertainer that could be termed a jester are 'gestour' or 'jestour', 'fol', 'disour', 'bourder' and other terms. All these early terms described a variety of types of entertainers which do not necessarily equate with the later idea of a 'jester'.
- 1: fool
- 2: one given to jests
- a. an utterance (as a jeer or quip) intended to be taken as mockery or humor
- b. prank
- c.a ludicrous circumstance or incident
- d. a frivolous mood or manner <spoken in jest>
- e. gaiety and merriment
- f. laughingstock
A jester (or fool) was a historical person employed to entertain a ruler in medieval times and can also be a modern entertainer who performs at mostly medieval themed events. Jesters in medieval times are often thought to have worn brightly coloured clothes and eccentric hats in a motley pattern and their modern counterparts usually mimic this costume. As performers, jesters have used acrobatics, storytelling, juggling, music, and other skills to entertain their audiences.
In literature, the jester is symbolic of common sense and of honesty, notably in King Lear, the court jester is a character used for insight and advice on the part of the monarch, taking advantage of his license to mock and speak freely to dispense frank observations and highlight the folly of his monarch. This presents a clashing irony as a "greater" man could dispense the same advice and find himself being detained in the dungeons or even executed. Only as the lowliest member of the court can the jester be the monarch's most useful adviser.
Author Alan Gordon also writes about jesters as advisers to the king, who actually make up a super-secret spy ring that try to keep peace and control the leaders of different countries. The Fool's Guild of these novels is portrayed as a mockery to the church, and they refer to Jesus Christ as "Their Savior, The First Fool."
Originally the term was used to describe a ridiculous but amusing person. The term is now frequently used in a derogatory sense to describe someone considered foolish, or someone displaying inappropriately vulgar, bumbling or ridiculous behavior that is a source of general amusement.