An Imposter Among Shakespeare’s Fools: The Tempest’s Trinculo


  • Lily Polenchuk University of Alberta



Shakespeare, The Tempest, King Lear


The plays of William Shakespeare often feature a fool who resembles the historic jester of the Elizabethan era. Overtime, the Shakespearean fool developed into a powerful character who challenges and questions both the other characters in the play as well as the audience. This article analyzes the fool known as Trinculo from Shakespeare’s The Tempest who I argue does not amount to the great Shakespearean fool archetype. The criteria for a true Shakespearean fool is drawn from the work of Robert Bell, who studies the progression of Shakespeare’s clown character, and the work of Roberta Mullini, who analyzes the traits of Shakespeare’s fools. When Trinculo is compared to these outlined standards, such as prophetic ability and powerful speech, he falls short. Trinculo’s lacklustre character is especially apparent when compared to King Lear’s Fool in King Lear. King Lear’s Fool excels in the necessary qualities that Trinculo does not. Rather than serving as mere comedic relief, King Lear’s Fool drives the plot forward with his capacity for knowledge and awareness of the audience. Trinculo, on the other hand, embodies Shakespeare’s early, underdeveloped clown characters who exist purely to amuse the crowd and nothing more.