Nay, 'twill be this hour ere I have done weeping; all the kind of the Launces have this very fault. I have received my proportion, like the prodigious son, and am going with Sir Proteus to the Imperial's court. I think Crab, my dog, be the sourest-natured dog that lives: my mother weeping, my father wailing, my sister crying, our maid howling, our cat wringing her hands, and all our house in a great perplexity, yet did not this cruel-hearted cur shed one tear: he is a stone, a very pebble stone, and has no more pity in him than a dog: a Jew would have wept to have seen our parting; why, my grandam, having no eyes, look you, wept herself blind at my parting. Nay, I'll show you the manner of it. This shoe is my father: no, this left shoe is my father: no, no, this left shoe is my mother: nay, that cannot be so neither: yes, it is so, it is so, it hath the worser sole. This shoe, with the hole in it, is my mother, and this my father; a vengeance on't! there 'tis: now, sit, this staff is my sister, for, look you, she is as white as a lily and as small as a wand: this hat is Nan, our maid: I am the dog: no, the dog is himself, and I am the dog—Oh! the dog is me, and I am myself; ay, so, so. Now come I to my father; Father, your blessing: now should not the shoe speak a word for weeping: now should I kiss my father; well, he weeps on. Now come I to my mother: O, that she could speak now like a wood woman! Well, I kiss her; why, there 'tis; here's my mother's breath up and down. Now come I to my sister; mark the moan she makes. Now the dog all this while sheds not a tear nor speaks a word; but see how I lay the dust with my tears.
When daffodils begin to peer, With heigh! the doxy over the dale, Why, then comes in the sweet o' the year; For the red blood reigns in the winter's pale. The white sheet bleaching on the hedge, With heigh! the sweet birds, O, how they sing! Doth set my pugging tooth on edge; For a quart of ale is a dish for a king. The lark, that tirra-lyra chants, With heigh! with heigh! the thrush and the jay, Are summer songs for me and my aunts, While we lie tumbling in the hay. I have served Prince Florizel and in my time wore three-pile; but now I am out of service: But shall I go mourn for that, my dear? The pale moon shines by night: And when I wander here and there, I then do most go right. If tinkers may have leave to live, And bear the sow-skin budget, Then my account I well may, give, And in the stocks avouch it. My traffic is sheets; when the kite builds, look to lesser linen. My father named me Autolycus; who being, as I am, littered under Mercury, was likewise a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles. With die and drab I purchased this caparison, and my revenue is the silly cheat. Gallows and knock are too powerful on the highway: beating and hanging are terrors to me: for the life to come, I sleep out the thought of it. A prize! a prize!
Name: The Fool
Dramatis Personae: Launce; Autolycus.
Astrology: Uranus, Air, Planet Earth
Hebrew Letter: TAV
Text & Context: The Hebrew letter tav is the alphabet's ultimate letter, 22. It represents a seal stamping the completion of the human being, a completion of the work. The central Sephirah on the Tree of Life, with its 22 paths, is Tiphereth, which begins and ends with tav. Signifying teaching, tav also begins Torah, the same essential word and meaning as dharma. The stories of the Torah drape the inner knowledge, the deeper transcendental Truth, the consciousness of the soul. Tav is the seal of this synthesis, analogous to Christ's synthesis of the Old Testament's Ten Commandments into two: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. [Matt. 22]" Tav is an intersection, the eye of the storm, being itself, where past and future cross. As it begins and ends the word tarot, tav begins and ends the Tarot.
Uranus is the god of the sky, son and consort of Gaia, Mother Earth. Ouranos cognates with PIE words meaning "to rain", suggesting he is the rain-maker, and "to urinate", suggesting he takes the piss. The etymological roots of the name also suggest "one standing on high", while the modern spelling of Uranus in English may suggest an ass. Ouranos is the Great Awakener, the god of great potential, the generator of shock, revelation and change. Ouranos' genitals were severed by his son Saturn and thrown in the ocean where, foaming, Aphrodite Urania was born. This goddess of celestial love is associated with Al-Lut, Mithra, and Athene.
According to orthodox dating, Launce and Autolycus are the first and last fools respectively in the Shakespeare canon. Launce represents the classic clown, whose own naiveté is epitomized in his devotion to his roguish dog, Crab. The dog's currish behavior mimics that of Launce's master, Proteus, while Launce's misplaced affections mirror those of the abused Julia. When Crab urinates in polite company, it is Launce who bears the blame. If, like Hamlet, Crab could go backwards, he would barc.
Autolycus of The Winter's Tale, on the other hand, is the incorrigible moonlighter, professional reprobate, snapper-up of unconsidered trifles. He is an accomplished tale-spinner and singer, whose mask wearing furthers the art vs. nature trope found not only in Winter's Tale but throughout Shakespeare's oeuvre. A vagabond peddler of hack verse and inadvertent instrument of Providence, Autolycus also represents the author himself.
Seen together then, Autolycus and Launce encapsulate Shakespeare's journey, from journeyman to demigod. As they bookend the Major Arcana of the Shakespeare Tarot, so they bookend the library of Shakepeare's world. In them, the end-papers of the tome that backs the Shakespeare Tarot, may be seen all the fools that populate Shakespeare's books. The hopeful pages both at the center and outside the wooden O. As Lear's Fool said of his king, though it may befit us all, "Now thou art an O without a figure. I am better than thou art now. I am a fool. Thou art nothing."
Subtext: The Fool exists in a liminal space, outside the usual constraints all other characters of a given play are limited by. Often The Fool is able to comment on the characters, their actions, and the play itself as if from a height or distance not known by anyone other than the author himself. In this, The Fool may be seen as the author's touchstone, his envoy to the audience, a foil for fiction itself.
In his youth, the Earl of Oxford was a renown jouster. He participated in many of Queen Elizabeth's Accession Day tilts. The name Launce may be an allusion to this, as may the names Launcelot and Shakespeare. Thomas Nashe, in his various allusions to Oxford, refers to him as Pierce Penniless, and Will Monox with "his great dagger".
de Vere was also a self-professed fool, playing one for the queen and court, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. As he said of himself, "Alas! 'tis true, I have gone here and there, And made my self a motley to the view."