Clown Deputy

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The Clown Deputy appears in the Graveyard Scene, Scene 19, to tell the Sexton the coroner's court verdict in the death of Ophelia.


The Clown Deputy is an officer of the court, doing his duty, in Scene 19. He is there officially.

He is not a man well educated in law, or educated in law at all. His job is like that of the bailiff in a modern court, a man who's there to keep order (which is important) but who is not expected to participate in the legal proceedings.

As far as the law goes, the Clown Deputy has heard a lot of it thrown around in court, but he can't follow it, and usually doesn't care to. That's why he's persuaded by the Clown Sexton in their dialogue, even though what the Sexton says is idiotic. The Clown Deputy doesn't know any better, himself.

So, the Clown Deputy is somewhat along the lines of Dogberry in Much Ado about Nothing, but a much more subdued character here, and playing straight man. He's proud of his position, but not good at it.

Coroner's court deputy can't be a full-time job for him. Most of the time he's doing his "day job," whatever it may be. He serves the court when something happens so the court needs him. His day job would be, oh, anything respectable that you'd find a citizen of the town doing, that doesn't require higher education.

It's important to know he can't have anything to do with the church, as his occupation. There is an element of secular authority versus church authority in the argument between the Clown Deputy and the Clown Sexton in the Graveyard Scene. It's quite subtle, but in a small way we're seeing church vs state there, in the persons of the deputy and the sexton.

  • Costume - The Clown Deputy is dressed as what he is, a minor law enforcement officer. As part of his uniform, he carries a weapon. It's better as some kind of club, and not a sword, for him. He's authorized to put a bruise on an irate citizen, but not to kill. One important note is that he must not be dressed in a way to suggest a church officer. There is that church vs state aspect to the interaction of the Clown Deputy and the Clown Sexton, and making the Clown Deputy look "churchy" would undermine it. Whatever else, he must look secular. In casting, he should be a rather large fellow who looks like he'd be at home in a tussle, but not in the best of shape, heavy in the middle.


He's anonymous. I have not found a way to deduce his name from the dialogue.


The Clown Deputy's significant line is:

  • Scene 19#004 (the) crowner hath sat on her, and finds it Christian burial. - identifies who he is. He is the man sent to tell the Sexton this, therefore, he is a deputy of the coroner's court.

He plays the straight man in the passage, so he doesn't get the best lines. I don't think any of his lines is a well-known quote.

Themes and Motifs

The Themes and Motifs most immediate to the Clown Deputy are:

Duty, Death, Truth, and Talk (gossip.)

The Clown Deputy is there doing his duty. It's because of a death obviously. The Clowns argue about the truth of Ophelia's death. Since neither knows the truth, they end up with a conclusion based on talk, which is only the gossip going around among the local parishioners in the church.

On Stage

The Clown Deputy appears in Scene 19 only.

© 2014 Jeffrey Paul Jordan

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