Witty Fools and Foolish Wits
Many years ago, I had the opportunity to be in three productions of Twelfth Night, playing Orsino, Feste and Malvolio. Feste was by far the most challenging. With the love-sick Duke Orsino and the puritanical party-pooper Malvolio, motives are clear and the joke is invariably on them. But with Feste, you're never quite sure who the joke is on - himself? the person he is speaking to? the audience?
In Shakespeare’s plays, the rich and powerful are sometimes clueless, and the penniless “fools” are often the smartest guys in the room.
In my illustration I used a king and jester to represent the wise and foolish respectively. I then used text as a device to represent the quality of their thinking. In contrast to his outward appearance, the fools’ thoughts are rich and dense, forming an elaborate jeweled crown. Likewise, the king’s are sparse and simplistic, forming a jester’s hat.
The idea of the "witty fool" reminds us of Socrates' famous quotation "I know that I know nothing." Wisdom begins with knowing you're a fool, and we see this quotation as a challenge to engage the world with real curiosity, humility, and openness. As far as the arrogance and self confidence of the "foolish wit" - well let's just do our best to avoid that stuff, shall we?