Fansy and Foly: The Drama of Fools in Magnyfycence


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

John Skelton's Magnyfycence contains the most extensive use of fools on the English stage to have survived prior to the Elizabethan period and their adaptation and development by Shakespeare. As embodiments of folly, the fools Pansy and Foly in Skelton's play require careful attention; the main objective of the present essay is to consider the detail of Skelton's handling of these characters and, to a lesser extent, their associates in the destruction of Magnyfycence. The task will be to review some aspects of the inheritance in what might be termed the theory of fools and in the ways in which this theory has been incorporated in some non-dramatic literature as well as in plays. In support of my discussion it will also be useful to consider similarities with the sotties, which may or may not have been influential but nevertheless offer illuminating similarities and contrasts. The central part of the essay focuses on the mechanics and functions of folly in Magnyfycence,1 and I conclude with a review of the effectiveness and limitations of Skelton's treatment and its relation to broader objectives.

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