Daguenet le Fol : a lesser known representation of madness in the thirteenth century French Arthurian prose romances
Whilst critical material on the subject of the heroes and other major figures in the Arthurian romances abounds, little attention has been paid to those who, although playing relatively minor roles in individual stories, pop up again and again across a wide range of such romances. The aim of this study is rehabilitate one such character who has received little critical attention, Daguenet le Fol, whose appearances in the French Arthurian prose romances are brief, but he is unique in that he owes his identity to his madness - his folie. Daguenet, for most modern readers, is a character who, due to the scarcity and brevity of his appearances, seems worthy of little more than a passing mention. However it is precisely the brief yet recurrent nature of his involvement with the romances which makes him so remarkable. Daguenet's increasingly detailed and significant appearances bear witness to the fact that despite his apparently minor status, his relationship to folie caught the imagination of a number of medieval writers. By bringing together his appearances in four thirteenth century French Arthurian prose romances, the prose Lancelot, prose Tristan, Guiron le Courtois, and the Prophécies de Merlin, and looking at them in the chronological order in which they were composed, this study traces the evolution of the portrayal of that folie as different authors manipulate the material produced by their predecessors for their own ends, developing and adapting various aspects of Daguenet's character yet retaining an overall sense of continuity of his identity. Thus this study demonstrates the dangers of neglecting a wealth of characters whose potential to enhance our understanding of this body of work and the way in which it was composed remains largely untapped.