In Victorian times, a simpleton was another word for an idiot — a person without much common sense or intelligence.

We have all heard of the expression “village idiot” – every village had one – and the nursery rhyme:

Simple Simon met a pieman
Going to the fair;
Says Simple Simon to the pieman,
Let me taste your ware.

Says the pieman to Simple Simon,
Show me first your penny;
Says Simple Simon to the pieman,
Indeed I have not any.

Simple Simon went a-fishing,
For to catch a whale;
All the water he had got,
Was in his mother’s pail.

Simple Simon went to look
If plums grew on a thistle;
He pricked his fingers very much,
Which made poor Simon whistle.

Today, we are a lot kinder to people who have “learning difficulties” but in those times the word simpleton was commonly used.

Mel’s performance of Tobias Ragg (Toby) as a simpleton is very moving.

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