As I was exploring F. Fellini’s movies, I met this one : The Clowns.
The 2 mains circus clown Archetypes are Whiteface and Auguste :
- Whiteface is the leader, vain, dignified, often stiff and pompous, but also sweet, good-natured. He laughed, but maybe cries inside…
- Auguste is the one “who get the pies in the face” and gets hit in the pants. He’s the fool, the humble, the loser…
Now here’s a little Shakespeare :
So you see me coming, right? The world’s a circus and humans are clowns. The master and the slave, the rich and the poor, the reasonable and the fool, the obedient and the rebel.
What does Fellini say? :
- Whiteface is mum, dad, the master, the artist, the beautiful : what one “has to do”.
- Auguste could be fascinated by this perfection, but it’s spread with such rigor and severity that he revolts and hosts a perpetual contestation…
Now we could play with examples. We can see Freud as Whiteface and Jung as Auguste. Who else do you see?
Of course you can use this for a single person : ourselves, for example. Like in old cartoons, the white angel and the red little devil with his pointy fork are arguing over one character’s head, it is a great metaphor for the clownery of life : we have inside fraternal enemies, we have two or more facets who want to exist.
If life is a play and we wear masks, it’s a whiteface mask. The genuine person is the Auguste, who wants and needs to exist! But it’s masked also, in the end…
It leads to this : what if there was an Auguste under a Whiteface you know? And the contrary, isn’t he frightening?
We can watch circus and see how the clowns are interacting. Whiteface is reason, but he’s sweet. Auguste is mocking, but he falls in every trap. Everyone has pros and cons, and they exist on the scene because they’re a couple, they’re together…
Thanks for reading!
If you wanted to follow up on this, check out Paul Bouissac, a circus studies researcher whose work on the semiotics of clowning might be of interest to you. Thanks for sharing.
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