Jesters in Literature


[Non-Fiction]   [Fiction]   [The Mildly Irrelevant]  

Non-fiction books about jesters; fiction books with major jester characters; and fiction books featuring jesters in some minor role, all in alphabetical order of title. Click on the book's title to find it at Amazon, where you'll often find reviews.

If you know of any books that should be in this list, or have any further information about books already in the list, please please please let me know! I hope to make it as comprehensive as possible...


Fools and Folly During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance by Barbara Swain.

Fools and Jesters at the English Court by John and Joan Southworth. An exploration of the English court fool through the ages.

Fools Are Everywhere

Fools Are Everywhere: The Court Jester Around The World by Beatrice K Otto. An examination of the jester tradition throughout the world and history. Gets excellent reviews, and is one of the few recent books on the topic. If you want more vaguely jester-related books, by the way, she has some available to order on her homepage, Jesterlife.

Fools, Clowns and Jesters by Paul Cline. [out of print]

The Fool and his Sceptre: a Study in Clowns and Jesters and their Audience by William Willeford. [out of print]

The Fool: His Social and Literary History by Enid Welsford. [out of print]

The Fools of Shakespeare: An Interpretation of their Wit, Wisdom, and Personalities by Frederick B. Warde.

The History of Court Fools by John Doran. [out of print]

The King's Fool : A Book About Medieval and Renaissance Fools by Dana Fradon. A jester statue comes to life to relate the history of fools to a group of students. Mixed reviews.

Le Sceptre et la Marotte : Histoire des Fous de Cour by Maurice Lever. [out of print]

Shakespeare's Motley by Leslie Hotson. A study of the meaning of the fool in Elizabethan times and the use by Shakespeare of the fool in his plays.

A Social History of the Fool by Sandra Billington.

Studies in the Development of the Fool in the Elizabethan Drama by Olive Mary Busby.

The Sufis by Idries Shah. Recommended to me because it contains two jester anecdotes by Robert Graves, and anything about the Sufis in general should be interesting to the jester enthusiast, they have such a powerful 'holy fool' tradition.

Tales of the Jesters by Robert Henry Hill. [out of print]


The Autobiography of Henry VIII : With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers by Margaret George. A life of King Henry told in the form of his private journals, with irreverent comments interspersed by the jester.

Dizzy From Fools by ML Miller and Eve Tharlet. A beautifully illustrated children's story about a princess who decides to prove to her father the King that girls can be jesters too...

The Fool's Tale: A Novel by Nicole Galland. A steamy historical romance about a medieval Welsh queen's love affair with the king's best friend his profane, hyperactive royal fool. Set in 12th-century Wales. Click here to check out the author's official site!

The Jester by James Patterson & Andrew Gross. In eleventh-century France the protagonist has to disguise himself as a jester, in order to infiltrate a castle and rescue his wife.

The Jester Has Lost His Jingle

The Jester Has Lost His Jingle by the late David Saltzmann. All the laughter has gone from the kingdom, and it's up to the Jester to find it again! Click on the picture to visit the website and fund set up in the author's memory.

Jockin the Jester by Ursula Moray Williams. Children's book.

The King's Fool by Margaret Campbell Barnes. I don't know whether to put this book in fiction or non-fiction! The story of Will Somers, Henry VIII's fool, told in his own words. I'm assured that it's a 'simply grand' read...

Many Moons

The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory. Historical fiction set in Tudor England, telling the tale of a young woman who is begged as a fool to Bloody Mary. Click here for a short review by me.

Many Moons by James Thurber. Children's book; The tale of a princess who wanted the moon, and of how she got it, with the help of the court jester. Winner of the Caldecott Medal in 1944. Beautiful full-colour illustrations.

The Queen's Own Fool

The Queen's Own Fool by Jane Yolen and Robert Harris. Children's book, telling the story of Mary Queen of Scots from the point of view of her female jester Nicola, La Jardinière.

Thirteenth Night

Thirteenth Night, Jester Leaps In, A Death In The Venetian Quarter, The Widow of Jerusalem, and An Antic Disposition comprise the 'Theophilos the Fool' series. These popular books by Alan R Gordon feature a jester detective, with a fascinating twist on Shakespeare for their premise. There were also two Theophilos short stories published in "Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine" a few years ago: 'The Jester and the Saint' from EQMM (December 1995) and collected in the anthology "Once Upon a Crime II" edited by Janet Hutchings (1996); and 'The Jester and the Mathematician' in EQMM (February 2000).
Read an excellent review of Jester Leaps In at Mysterynet, including some interesting insights into Fools...

To Play the Fool by Laurie R King. A murder mystery in a series by this author about Kate Martinelli, a San Francisco detective. This particular installment features the 'Holy Fool' movement (see Literature: Jesters in Christian Literature).

The Mildly Irrelevant

Books featuring jesters who are not major characters

a.k.a. Jongleur's dumping ground for books which she likes the look of, but doesn't quite think she'd get away with in the Fiction section...

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb. Fantasy series, not brilliant, but very entertaining and it features a wonderfully mysterious Fool...

Song of the Gargoyle by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Thirteen-year-old Tymmon tries to rescue his kidnapped father, the court jester, and is adopted by a gargoyle.

The Jester at Scar by EC Tubb. Book 5 of 32 in the 'Dumarest' science fiction series. I have little to no information about this book, so it's going under Mildly Irrelevant until I know otherwise...

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