In some portraits of Henry VIII there appears another, striking figure—a gaunt and morose-looking man with a shaved head and, in one case, a monkey on his shoulder. This is William or “Will” Somer, the king’s fool, a celebrated wit who reportedly could raise Henry’s spirits and spent many hours with him, often alone. Was Somer an “artificial fool,” a cunning comic who could speak freely in front of the king, or a “natural fool,” someone with intellectual disabilities, like many other members of the profession? And what role did he play in the tumultuous and violent Tudor era? Fool is the first biography of Somer—and perhaps the first of a Renaissance fool.
About the Author
Peter K. Andersson is senior lecturer in history at Örebro University in Sweden. He is the author of Streetlife in Late Victorian London and Silent History.