This chapter examines the proliferation of lay festive societies in northern France between about 1450 and 1560 even as the clerical Feast of Fools was struggling to survive in the face of various attempts to suppress it. According to Louis Petit de Julleville, the bourgeois fools were “the former celebrants of the Feast of Fools, thrown out of the church by shocked councils and reassembled in the public square…The [lay] confraternity of fools,” he concluded, was “the Feast of Fools secularized.” This chapter considers a number of facts that seem to contradict such a simple view of continuity between the clerical Feast of Fools and the entertainments of lay festive societies. It also discusses the amateur dramatic activities of lay festive societies as well as their varied relationships with the clerical Feast of Fools.
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