“This is a bawdy tale. Herein you will find gratuitous shagging, murder, spanking, maiming, treason, and heretofore unexplored heights of vulgarity and profanity, as well as non-traditional grammar, split infinitives, and the odd wank.”
― Christopher Moore, Fool
Shakespeare parodies are a dime a dozen, but few twist familiar tropes like Christopher Moore. He’s previously tackled vampires, Death, and the life of Jesus (as told by the Savior’s best buddy, Biff), and his take on The Bard doesn’t disappoint.
Fool retells King Lear from the point of view of Pocket, the King’s jester, whose sarcasm and sharp wit keeps him on the edge of getting his neck stretched most of the time. Moore doesn’t feel the need to constrain himself to one play, however, as the witches from Macbeth make a cameo, and when Pocket journeys to Scotland, he traverses Birnam Wood, which also figures in The Scottish Play.
Moore’s Olde England may be muddy and rainy, but its definitely merry, particularly where sex is concerned. Pocket beds two of Lear’s three daughters, not to mention a variety of the kitchen staff. I guess all those Londonites crowding the tube had to come from somewhere. Pocket’s somewhat-requited love for Cordelia, the third daughter, gets derailed in the opening scenes of the novel when she is married off to Jeff, the King of France, but proves later in the book she is no damsel in distress who needs to be rescued by her dashing suitor. Pocket is a lot of things, but dashing isn’t one of them.
I picked the book as plane reading on a vacation to the U.K., figuring a novel set in medieval England would be the perfect prep prior to touring the Tower of London (I had recently seen a production of Richard III, so was already all set imprisoning boy princes-wise), was not disappointed.
A knowledge of Shakespeare is definitely not required to enjoy Fool. There is just enough Shakespearian phrasing to give the novel the right flavor, but not so much as to make reading an exercise in deciphering Sixteenth Century slang.
Pocket returns in The Serpent of Venice, where we will discover, I’m sure, that he is the true hero of Othello. I’m in.