Fools used to be a standard part of royal courts in the old Elizabethan and Jacobian days. These individuals would be kept on hand to act in an amusing manner to entertain the king and queen. I don’t know if it was considered a noble profession in those days, but I imagine it had its drawbacks. Foolin’ around and desperately trying to make someone laugh, when they have the power to lop off your head at any time, had to be a rather stressful occupation. And imagine being the replacement fool after your predecessor had missed the mark and ended up on the chopping block.
I have only to watch one of my cats chasing a plastic cap from a milk bottle around the floor to appreciate the joy of just foolin’ around. I’m sure, in the feline’s mind, the cap is some sort of prey or foe to be vanquished. When it comes to humans foolin’ around, I am far less tolerant. Responding to unfounded calls when I was a cop was never a pleasant experience. Many times the anxious complainant would call in about a problem, let’s say a domestic disturbance or a neighborhood fight, and mendaciously add, “He’s got a gun.” Thus the dispatch center would advise the responding units that a firearm was involved, which significantly elevated the stress level of the officers and added more importance to the response time. (I can’t tell you how many times I’d emphasize to my guys and girls to use discretion when responding to such calls. “You can’t do anything about a situation unless you get there safely.”) Invariably, when responding to a falsely enhanced call officers would put the pedal to the metal to get there faster. With feelings of apprehension, fear, and nervousness all vying for dominance in their adrenaline-laced bodies, they’d often arrive focused on maintaining survival tactics and expecting the worse. They’d then get the subsequent gut punch when the complainant would subsequently admit that there was no gun involved. “I only said that figuring it would get you here faster.”
That’s obviously what the old song calls, the wisdom of a fool.
“Yeah, well, it could also have gotten someone shot,” I would advise them, and instruct them not to do it again. It seldom worked, and sometimes I fantasized about having the power of a royal decree to deal with such idiots. They never envisioned things from the officer’s perspective: pulling up to a nighttime scene after having been advised that one of the agitated parties was armed could make that shiny object in the person’s hand be mistaken for a gun, rather than a cell phone.
Like I said… the wisdom of a fool.
Case in point was the tragic incident of the twelve year old boy who was just foolin’ around in the park pointing a pellet gun at people. He was subsequently shot and killed by responding police. It was a tragedy for all involved, the kid, his family, and the officer.
In Shakespeare’s plays, having the characters stumble into a tragic situation, by design or tomfoolery, made for interesting situations and enhanced the possibilities catharsis. Thus, in Henry IV, Part I, when Falstaff is erroneously credited with besting Hotspur in combat, his foolish acceptance for the victory ultimately leads to his undoing, although this is more in the realm of pathos than tragedy, at least in the Aristotelian sense. Regardless, when Prince Hal subsequently dismisses the pompous oaf in Henry IV, Part II, it is obvious that the newly crowned king does not suffer fools, or Falstaff, gladly.
In my writing, which I’m not comparing to the Bard’s, I did have my Ron Shade character once indulge in some foolin’ around with an old girlfriend after being reunited by an unexpected situation in Windy City Knights. I was quick to have him realize that he’d made a big mistake. Having your characters stumble and act foolishly is a standard part of constructing the story, but please try to show the folly of such actions. Otherwise, it’s like watching an old rerun of the Three Stooges. After about five minutes, I couldn’t stand that insipid trio.
The way I see it, nobody tolerates a fool for very long.