Script for a Jester's Tear was preceded by the single "Market Square Heroes", released in 1982, with "Three Boats Down from the Candy" and the 17-minute-long epic "Grendel" as B-sides. None of these songs appeared on the original album, though A-side can be briefly heard during a short radio segment prior to "Forgotten Sons". All tracks are featured in the bonus disc of the 1997 remastered edition.
AllMusic critic John Franck has retrospectively given the album a 4.5 star rating. He called it "an essential work for any self-respecting first- or second-generation prog rock fan", but considered the "over-the-top" lyrics for "Chelsea Monday" to be a minor shortcoming.
Script for a Jester's Tear reached number 7 in the UK charts and spent there 31 weeks, the second longest chart residency of a Marillion album. It was certified Platinum by the BPI on 5 December 1997 for sales in excess of 300.000 copies. But the album failed to impress in the U.S. making only number 175 in the Billboard 200.
The album initially came out on LP[nb 1], 12" picture disc and cassette. The first CD edition[nb 2] was released in 1985. As part of a series of Marillion's first eight studio albums, EMI Records re-released Script for a Jester's Tear in 1997 with 24-bit digital remastered sound and a second disc containing bonus tracks[nb 3]. The remastered version was also made available without the bonus disc in 2000.[nb 4] A new 180g heavy weight vinyl pressing identical to the original 1983 edition[nb 5] was issued in 2012.
All individual writing credits are from the 1997 remastered edition[nb 3]. In the original 1983 version[nb 1] the whole band is listed as writers, arrangers, and performers; all lyrics are credited to Fish.