Art and Aesthetics

The Wise Fool in Shakespeare and in Life and in Scripture

Historically, plays and entertainment in various cultures have had the figure of a jester, clown, or fool. William Shakespeare’s plays sometimes redesigned this character where he made the fool a central figure of the story, and not just a jester. Influenced by the Bible, Shakespeare played on the biblical notions of the wise man; his fools are often “the wise” who have prophetic revelations for the main characters of the plays that are often themselves shown to be the true proper fools. His fool is often the only one who is not afraid to speak the truth, providing commentary on both the story and the other characters. One of the most fascinating examples is found in King Lear, a play that explores with the ideas of reality, folly, magisterial delusions of kings, and what is wise and what is foolish. He can see through the duplicities and falsehoods before everyone else, and he also stays by Lear’s side and does not abandon him to his madness.
Shakespeare’s fools take some getting used to by the audience, since at first glance they posture as a clown or buffoon, but with closer examination their lines convey some of the wittiest and most logical reasoning in the plays. Besides often giving comic relief in light of tragic circumstances or tragic character flaws in the main characters, the fool often gives us wisdom, playing on the biblical theme of “the wisdom of God is folly/foolishness to the world.
Not all of Shakespeare’s fool follow the same pattern, since some are simpler, and even some darker, than others and give less insight.[1]

One of my favorite fool-dialogues and descriptions is from the Twelfth Night where Viola gives us her definition of the fool, and also the longer selection below where they dialogue wittily and very humorously:

VIOLA

This fellow is wise enough to play the fool;
And to do that well craves a kind of wit:
He must observe their mood on whom he jests,
The quality of persons, and the time,
And, like the haggard, cheque at every feather
That comes before his eye. This is a practise
As full of labour as a wise man’s art
For folly that he wisely shows is fit;
But wise men, folly-fall’n, quite taint their wit.

A dialogue from the Twelfth Night below gives us a good example:

Clown

Wit, an’t be thy will, put me into good fooling!
Those wits, that think they have thee, do very oft
prove fools; and I, that am sure I lack thee, may
pass for a wise man: for what says Quinapalus?[a made-up philosopher][2]
‘Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit.’

The original fuller text alongside a modern rendition from “no-fear shakespeare”[1]  
Original Text 

Enter OLIVIA with MALVOLIO

OLIVIA

Take the fool away.

Modern Text

Enter OLIVIA with MALVOLIO

OLIVIA

Get that fool out of here.

FOOL

Do you not hear, fellows? Take away the lady.

FOOL

Didn’t you hear her, guys? Get the lady out of here.

OLIVIA

Go to, you’re a dry fool. I’ll no more of you. Besides, you grow dishonest.

OLIVIA

Oh, go away, you’re a boring fool. I don’t want to have anything to do with you anymore. Besides, you’ve gotten unreliable.

FOOL

Two faults, madonna, that drink and good counsel will amend. For give the dry fool drink, then is the fool not dry. Bid the dishonest man mend himself. If he mend, he is no longer dishonest. If he cannot, let the botcher mend him. Anything that’s mended is but patched. Virtue that transgresses is but patched with sin, and sin that amends is but patched with virtue. If that this simple syllogism will serve, so. If it will not, what remedy? As there is no true cuckold but calamity, so beauty’s a flower. The lady bade take away the fool. Therefore, I say again, take her away.

FOOL

Madam, those are two character flaws that a little booze and some common sense can fix. If you hand a drink to a sober fool, he won’t be thirsty anymore. If you tell a bad man to mend his wicked ways, and he does, he won’t be bad anymore. If he cannot, let the tailor mend him. Anything that’s mended is only patched up. A good person who does something wrong is only patched up with sin. And a sinner who does something good is only patched up with goodness. If this logic works, that’s great. If not, what can you do about it? Since the only real betrayed husband in the world is the one deserted by Lady Luck—because we’re all married to her—beauty is a flower. The lady gave orders to take away the fool, so I’m telling you again, take her away.

OLIVIA

Sir, I bade them take away you.

OLIVIA

I told them to take you away.

FOOL

Misprision in the highest degree! Lady, Cucullus non facit monachum—that’s as much to say as I wear not motley in my brain. Good madonna, give me leave to prove you a fool.

FOOL

Oh, what a big mistake! Madam, you can’t judge a book by its cover. I mean, I may look like a fool, but my mind’s sharp. Please let me prove you’re a fool.

OLIVIA

Can you do it?

OLIVIA

Can you do that?

FOOL

Dexterously, good madonna.

FOOL

Easily, madam.

OLIVIA

Make your proof.

OLIVIA

Then go ahead and prove it.

FOOL

I must catechise you for it, madonna. Good my mouse of virtue, answer me.

FOOL

I’ll have to ask you some questions, madam. Please answer, my good little student.

OLIVIA

Well, sir, for want of other idleness, I’ll bide your proof.

OLIVIA

I’m listening to you only because I’ve got nothing better to do.

FOOL

Good madonna, why mournest thou?

FOOL

My dear madam, why are you in mourning?

OLIVIA

Good fool, for my brother’s death.

OLIVIA

My dear fool, because my brother died.

FOOL

I think his soul is in hell, madonna.

FOOL

I think his soul’s in hell, my lady.

OLIVIA

I know his soul is in heaven, fool.

OLIVIA

I know his soul’s in heaven, fool.

FOOL

The more fool, madonna, to mourn for your brother’s soul being in heaven. Take away the fool, gentlemen.

FOOL

Then you’re a fool for being sad that your brother’s soul is in heaven. Take away this fool, gentlemen.

OLIVIA

What think you of this fool, Malvolio? Doth he not mend?

OLIVIA

What do you think of this fool, Malvolio? Isn’t he getting funnier?

MALVOLIO

Yes, and shall do till the pangs of death shake him. Infirmity, that decays the wise, doth ever make the better fool.

MALVOLIO

Yes, and he’ll keep getting funnier till he dies. Old age always makes people act funny—even wise people, but fools more than anybody.

FOOL

God send you, sir, a speedy infirmity, for the better increasing your folly! Sir Toby will be sworn that I am no fox, but he will not pass his word for two pence that you are no fool.

FOOL

I hope you go senile soon, sir, so you can become a more foolish fool! Sir Toby would bet a fortune that I’m not smart, but he wouldn’t bet two cents that you’re not a fool.

OLIVIA

How say you to that, Malvolio?

OLIVIA

What do you say to that, Malvolio?

MALVOLIO

I marvel your ladyship takes delight in such a barren rascal.

I saw him put down the other day with an ordinary fool that

MALVOLIO

I’m surprised you enjoy the company of this stupid troublemaker. The other day I saw him defeated in a

has no more brain than a stone. Look you now, he’s out of his guard already. Unless you laugh and minister occasion to him, he is gagged. I protest I take these wise men that crow so at these set kind of fools no better than the fools’ zanies. battle of wits by an ordinary jester with no more brains than a rock. Look at him, he’s at a loss for words already. Unless he’s got somebody laughing at him, he can’t think of anything to say. I swear, anyone smart who laughs at these courts jesters is nothing but a jester’s apprentice.  
OLIVIA

Oh, you are sick of self-love, Malvolio, and taste with a distempered appetite. To be generous, guiltless, and of free disposition is to take those things for bird-bolts that you deem cannon-bullets. There is no slander in an allowed fool, though he do nothing but rail. Nor no railing in a known discreet man, though he do nothing but reprove.

OLIVIA

Malvolio, your vanity is damaging your good taste. If you were generous, innocent, and good-natured, you wouldn’t get so upset by what the fool says. You’d think of his wisecracks as harmless little firecrackers, not hurtful bullets. A court jester isn’t really criticizing people, even if he does nothing but make fun of them all day long. And a wise person doesn’t make fun of people, even if all he does is criticize them.

 
FOOL

Now Mercury endue thee with leasing, for thou speakest well of fools!

FOOL

You speak so highly of fools! I hope the god of deception rewards you by making you a wonderful liar.

 

[1] From http://nfs.sparknotes.com/twelfthnight/page_38.html accesses 8/18/2015.


Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

1 Cor 3 18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours,”

1 Cor 1 18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

19 For it is written,
“I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE,
AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.”

20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  26For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29so that no man may boast before God. 30But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”

[1] There have been many things written on Shakespeare’s fools: one example available for free is See Frederick B. Warde, The Fools of Shakespeare: An Interpretation of Their Wit, Wisdom and Personalities (London: McBride, Nast, and Company), 1915.

[2] Possibly means something in Latin (Opalus is Opal, Quin to negate, “without”).

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“Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There!”

bored with books

On boredom, creativity, and the not-so-necessary

There have been a number of articles and books in recent years with this same title. I suppose copy-write laws do not apply to titles. So here is another, though much briefer (for those who get bored).

I have been known to tell my children (three marvelously curious boys) that “boredom is a sin” for those of us who live in God’s endlessly extraordinary universe of people, places, creatures, and things of every size, shape, and color imaginable.  Yet, I have learned a qualification to this sentiment from some of these recent publications, that boredom can actually be a good, since “downtime” with nothing to do is a necessary counter-balance to the frenetic-(fanatical)-fever-pitch over-scheduling of our lives and our childrens’, many of whom have never had the delicious languidity of a summer day laying in the hay or along a brook with a good book, day-dreaming in leisure of very little that may be deemed “matters of consequence” by those  mostly concerned with what-is-necessary. Deprived of the gift of boredom, and tethered to the ever-present-absent, and virtual (not-real), in-iverse of the NET, we lose the moment of imagination and creativity. As Richard Simon quotes Paul Persal, that in worshipping “Nowism” we have “an addiction to technology and the instantaneous response, the disconnection from the natural world, the final triumph of consumerism and the desperate longing for more and more and more.”[1] And as Richard Winter quotes Mary Pipher,

“Most real life is rather quiet and routine. Most pleasures – a hot shower, a sunset, a bowl of good soup or a good book. Television suggests that life is high drama, love, and sex. TV families are radically different from real families. Things happen much faster to them. On television things that are not visually interesting, such as thinking, reading, and talking, are ignored. Activities such as housework, fund-raising and teaching children to read are vastly underreported. Instead of ennobling ordinary experiences, television suggests that they are not of sufficient interest to document.”[2]

Boredom, all the same, can be related to Sloth in its “refusal to delight, a loss of wonder and a worship of numbness.”[3] This is the side of boredom that we parents fear, that it can become a “Slough of Despond” (a swamp of despair). So, we compel them anxiously: “Don’t Just Sit There, Do something!” Yet, we must admit, at that moment we may have killed off their innate ability to imagine in their quietude and solitude, and to begin to create out of their boredom something beautiful and lasting in their God-given drive to respond in wonder and worship of our awesome Creator, in awe at all that is, and at what can and could be . . . at what is still possible.

As Winter says further,

“In God’s creation we can find so much to take an interest in, but it takes effort and self-discipline for us to stop long enough to look and marvel at the structure of a flower or a leaf, to wonder how long it took a mountain to form, to see reflections in the smallest puddle, to watch the wind blowing seeds from a flower, to want to know what each snowflake looks like, to marvel that our nails and hair and skin are constantly growing, to learn the names of birds and trees or to learn to listen to bird songs. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem, ‘Aurora, Seventh Book,’ expresses something of this:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes–
The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.”[4]

And so, to do my part, I will be joining the Slow Food Movement, and, if they will have me, the Slow City Movement . . . to better learn the lessons of discipline in my boredoms, and the gift of leisure in God’s Sabbath design of things that ironically enables us to fulfill our vocations. The days of rest being made for us, and not us for them . . . as Jesus tried repeatedly to convince the Pharisees; always concerned with matters of great consequence they could see nothing good in Jesus feeding his disciples from the fields on a languid summer afternoon, nor with the opening of the eyes of the blind (and the bored) so that they can praise him in wonder at his glory and love.

In contrast to these sentiments, revivalist-mountain-top-experientialist-culture, ever tries to find more exciting and glamorous ways to get the bored, young people “pumped up” and thrilled that they are in the middle of something BIG that God is doing: the larger the crowd the better, the more hip and appealing the speaker the better, the more loud the music and moving the crescendo of noise the more certain God is REALLY present . . . the more exotic the mission . . . Yet, contrarily, “The work of ministry is not so much about finding new, tantalizing ways to make people excited about Jesus, but about the timeless rituals that shape their hearts.”[5]  It is in the seemingly insignificant liturgies of our daily life of loving and serving and praying and learning and working, in leisure and play, with regular folk, that we must walk the talk of faith in the valleys of the ordinary, where Christ is Lord of every (extraordinary) atom that sustains our oftentimes not-so-glamorous and boring lives.

[1] Richard Simon, “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There,” Family therapy Networker 23, no 1 (1999): 36.

[2] Richard Winter, Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment: Rediscovering Passion & Wonder, Downers Grove: IVP, 2002, p. 116.

[3] Winter, Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment, p. 120.

[4] Winter, Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment, p. 124.

[5] Daniel Darling, “Boring Church Services Changed My Life,” Christianity Today Pastors, February 2017, accessed on July 18, 2017 at http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/channel/utilities/print.html?type=article&id=137763 .

 

Watercolor metaphors for Postmodernists

STEPHEN - WIN_20140418_073727
Watercolor School: metaphors for luminosity (partly-found-verse)

  1. The equipment necessary to begin:
    brushes, palettes, sponges.
    Be sure to buy the best paints
    and sable brushes,
    though squirrel and ox hair will suffice,
    if you keep them clean.
    You will ruin your brushes
    if you leave them standing in water.
    Sponges and cottons
    create highlights, corrections,
    and can lay down colors.
    And most importantly,
    you must have good light
    over the left shoulder (if right handed).
    Soak and stretch your paper,
    or use hand-made of pure rag.
    Water and color on white paper
    reflects white back through
    the thin layers of paint,
    giving them their luminosity.
  2. A wash
    is a veil of color
    over a large area
    that can be the background
    for a sea-scape, land-scape, or still-life.
    It can be flat or uneven (as in gradated)
    which is needed for blue skies
    and requires practice
    — like variegated washes for a sunset —
    but too much water,
    or not enough,
    will create undesirable effects.
  3. Because you cannot judge the colors
    until the paint is dry,
    watercolors can require
    much waiting.
  4. You can make random effects
    by dipping your brush
    into any color,
    even though you will not know
    how they will look
    until applied and mixed on paper,
    how dark or light.
  5. Because watercolors
    are transparent,
    you cannot make any color lighter
    by overlaying one on another;
    you can only make it darker,
    though you can alter layers
    by painting lighter ones
    over darker ones.
  6. This is comforting
    because it takes away the fear
    that nothing can be changed
    once it is brushed onto paper.
  7. Counterchange
    means the lightness
    against the darkness.
    IMG_2418

 

 

 

 

 

 


Paradoxes & principles of painting:

  • Spontaneity can only be achieved
    through careful planning.
  • Creating spontaneity
    involves flexibility, trial, and error.
  • Do not be ashamed
    to use a ruler to be creative.
  • Following these rules
    will produce unique results.
  • To construct highlights leave the paper bare,
    since white does not absorb light.
  • Luminosity is light
    reflecting back from the paper
    through veils of color.
  • Masking, or scraping and scratching, through the layers of color
    are other ways to bring out the light.
  • Forms of all objects
    are determined by the light
    that falls upon them.
  • Shadowed forms are made
    wherever an object
    turns away from the light.
  • Too much overlay of shadows
    will muddy the divisions
    between light and shades.
  • The intensity of the light
    and the texture of the object
    will determine contrasting degrees.
  • Blending of colors
    gives varying effects,
    of either soft or hard edges.
  • In both cases,
    the boundaries and divisions must be retained,
    whether soft or harsh results.
  • Shadows are necessary
    to act as an anchor,
    tying each object to its place.
  • Shadows link objects,
    and seldom are gray,
    but are ablaze with the hues of many colors.

ORANGES color

The Christian’s Intellectual Life by Gaebelein

No Christian, however pious, will ever grow intellectually if he feeds his mind on trash, on the third-rate; if he never on his own reads some hard books, listens to some great and profound music, or tries to converse seriously about difficult subjects.

Turning from these th41YWS2AoRbL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_ings to the greatest Book of all, let me ask, What is the place of the Bible in our lives? Have we the fortitude to maintain inviolate a daily time alone with the Word of God? One may be an intellectual person without the Bible, but one will never be a Christian intellectual without it.

Finally, we grow in intellect in the broadest and deepest sense as we submit ourselves to our teacher. And who is that? As Bishop Stephen F. Bayne, Jr., said in a semicentennial address at the Kent School, “God Is the Teacher.” In the Christian college — and herein lies the inestimable value of a committed Christian college — the living God is recognized as the source of all wisdom and excellence. And how does he teach? Let me say it reverently. God is not a progressive educator. He teaches us daily, as we pay the price of hard thinking. He teaches us through his Word. He teaches us through teachers who in turn are taught by him. He teaches us through the discipline of trial and disappointment and suffering, and through our successes too. But most of all he teaches us through our Lord Jesus Christ. When God teaches us, he is always saying in and through and above whatever we are studying and learning for ourselves, or, in the case of us teachers, what we are teaching others, “This is my beloved Son; hear him.”

The intellectual life at its highest and best is above all else a Christ-centered life. It means having the mind of the Lord Jesus. It has a goal, the magnificent, lofty goal, as Paul said, of “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” Like the high priest of Israel who had written on the mitre over his forehead, “Holiness unto the Lord,” so the Christian student and scholar, dedicated the intellectual life, must have written over his mind, “Holiness unto the Lord,” as he seeks to ponder and dwell on the truth.”[1]

[1] Frank Gaebelein,”The Christian’s Intellectual Life,” A Varied Harvest, p. 97.