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Character Name Variants: DaguenetBackground Essay Author: Scott O'Neil
Dagonet, most simply, is King Arthur’s court fool.  Also called Daguenet, and often carrying an epithetical surname such as “the Fool” or “the Coward,” the character is perhaps most interesting in that he did not begin his fictional existence as a fool at all.  Enid Welsford’s 1935 book, The Fool: His Social and Literary History, still the authority on the topic, discusses medieval fools in great detail from both an historical and a literary context, citing a staggering number of examples.  Dagonet is never mentioned by Welsford.  Through most of his early appearances, Dagonet was depicted as a knight who was foolish.  The character's modern interpretation, extending over a long literary afterlife, depicts Dagonet as a court fool who was knighted.  This iteration of the character was first established by the Prose Tristan and later expanded by Malory.

Medieval Dagonets

The earliest depiction of Dagonet appears in the early 13th century in the Prose Lancelot.  Dagonet stumbles upon Lancelot when the latter was in such a state of distraction that he nearly drowned himself.  Taking advantage of the situation, Dagonet grabs hold of Lancelot’s horse and declares the knight his prisoner.  When Dagonet returns to court with the “captured” Lancelot, the other knights are highly amused, since Dagonet “was of course a knight, but he was a witless fool and the most cowardly excuse for a man that anyone knew of, and people made fun of him for his wild boasts” (Lacy 111).  The depiction of Dagonet in the prose Lancelot does not even approach the level of his later life as the beloved fool of Arthur. ...

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