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 the 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 31 weeks there, 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. The album did not achieve a commercial impact in the U.S., making only number 175 in the Billboard 200.
As part of a series of Marillion's first eight studio albums, EMI Records re-released Script for a Jester's Tear on 29 September 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] and again in 2005 as a Japanese mini-LP replica.[nb 5]
A new 180g heavyweight vinyl pressing, identical to the original 1983 edition,[nb 6] was released 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.