Fool Archetype

Learn all about the fool archetype, including definition, characteristics, examples and how it relates to the Jester archetype.

What is the Fool Archetype?

The fool archetype can be, but is not necessarily, the clown or jester which immediately springs to mind when one things of the archetype.

A fool is the individual who will bring comic relief and fun to any situation through their own seeming lack of any intelligence or common sense, though sometimes this in fact masks a willingness to undertake acts of self-deprecating with in order to amuse those around them.

They enjoy the simple, innocent and playful things of life as well as encouraging others to take pleasure in them too.

Fool Archetype Characteristics & Traits

  • The fool is one willing to cross cultural norms – to say the things others will not say or do things others wont without conscience or regret.
  • However, they are not necessarily unprincipled individuals and rarely set out to intentionally harm others.
  • The fool is a resilient individual, not caring what others think of them.
  • They are able to get back up easily when knocked down, finding fun and humour in the challenges which life throws their way.
  • They look at life as one long game, embracing every day as it comes.
  • Commonly the fool is an innocent individual, oblivious to the faux pas which they commit.
  • They speak the truth, even when this makes them unpopular, and sometimes mask it in humour to get away with their words.
  • They poke fun at the ego of those around them.
  • They thus challenge authority and become the conscience of others around them.

Fool Archetype Examples

Shakespeare’s plays contain a number of examples of the fool archetype, from Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Falstaff in four of the plays, most notably Henry IV, Part 1 and Part 2.

The archetype remains common in all forms of culture today.

In the US sitcom Friends both the characters of Phoebe Buffay and Joey Tribbiani contain many of the traits of the fool archetype.

Joey in particular is a largely innocent, not very bright man who speaks as he finds and bumbles through life from one disaster to the next to the great amusement of those around him. However, he is often an unexpected source of wise counsel to his more intelligent companions.

Further Reading

Further reading on the fool archetype includes:

  • Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World – by Carol Pearson
  • The Art of Living: Falstaff, the Fool, and Dino – by Starr Goode
  • York Notes Advanced: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – by Michael Sherborne
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