In medieval times jesters entertained with a wide variety of skills, which could include songs, music, storytelling, acrobatics, juggling, and magic.
Much of the entertainment was performed in a comic style and many jesters made contemporary jokes in word or song about people or events well known to their audiences.
In Renaissance times, aristocratic households in Britain employed licensed fools or jesters, who sometimes dressed as other servants were dressed, but generally wore a motley (i.e. parti-coloured) coat, hood with ass's (i.e. donkey) ears or a red-flannel coxcomb and bells.
Regarded as pets or mascots, they served not simply to amuse but to criticize their master or mistress and their guests.
Distinction was made between fools and clowns, or country bumpkins. The fool's status was one of privilege within a royal or noble household. His folly could be regarded as the raving of a madman but was often deemed to be divinely inspired.
The 'natural' fool was touched by God. Much to Gonerill's annoyance, Lear's 'all-licensed' Fool enjoys a privileged status. His characteristic idiom suggests he is a "natural" fool, not an artificial one, though his perceptiveness and wit show that he is far from being an idiot, however "touched" he might be.