The Image of the Jongleur in Northern France Around 1200

The Image of the Jongleur in Northern France Around 1200

By John W. Baldwin

Speculum, Vol. 72, No. 3. (1997)

Introduction: In the pages of the Latin chroniclers writing around 1200 the jongleur appears as a gray, furtive shadow. His existence was acknowledged by the broad term joculator, but his functions were too suspect to deserve further comment. The clerical chroniclers associated jongleurs with other lay activities, such as making love, admiring feminine beauty, holding festivities, and fighting in tournaments, about which the less said, the better. In contemporary vernacular literature, however, the jongleur’s image springs into sharp focus and takes on vivid colors.

In the Roman de la rose of Jean Renart, for example, jongleurs swarm everywhere, at spring hunts, in courts and castles, at tournaments, and during the celebrations of marriages and coronations. From these crowds Jean treats his audience to a portrait of a single jongleur who bears the eponym Juglet:

He was intelligent and of great renown,
having heard and learned
many songs and many a fine story.

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