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Art. 75, Le jongleur d’Ely e le roi d’Angleterre: Introduction

Abbreviations: AND: Anglo-Norman Dictionary; ANL: Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (R. Dean and Boulton); BL: British Library (London); Bodl.: Bodleian Library (Oxford); CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; CUL: Cambridge University Library (Cambridge); DOML: Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library; FDT: French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages (Sinclair 1979); FDT-1French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages, . . . First Supplement (Sinclair 1982); IMEV: The Index of Middle English Verse (Brown and Robbins); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MWME: A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500 (Severs et al.); NIMEV: A New Index of Middle English Verse (Boffey and Edwards); NLS: National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh).

The Jongleur of Ely and the King of England is a performance text that starts off as joking banter, that is, as quick repartee between a clown and a straight man. It is full of delightfully agile puns and wordplay. It then devolves into a satiric monologue on backbiting, and it closes with a light moral lesson on following moderation in all things. The cogent message delivered to the king is that one must know how to govern oneself. The piece is set up as a dialogue between a jongleur and a king, placing it in the tradition of the Marcolf and Solomon dialogues — rustic wisdom delivered bluntly to powerful authority (Ziolkowski 2008; Bradbury 2008; Bradbury and Bradbury). Often, because of its persistent comic air, scholars categorize it as a fabliau, though it lacks the developed plot and extremely bawdy humor one expects from that genre. In MS Harley 2253 its closest cousin is the interlude-dialogue Gilote and Johane (art. 37). Nolan discusses it in the context of the Harley fabliaux (arts. 75a, 82, 84, 87), and Reichl 2000 positions it as a Harley debate poem beside arts. 9, 22, 35, 64. In the context of booklet 6, it comes amid several works that ascribe authority to a wise individual: Saint Bernard, Urbain the Courteous, Daniel (or David), Hending (named as Marcolf’s son), Thomas of Erceldoune, and Saint Louis (arts. 74, 79, 85, 89, 90, 94). The jongleur who speaks words that seem cryptic and silly, yet turn out be truthful and pure, belongs with these types of truth-tellers. He speaks to an open-minded king who can glean wisdom from what he hears, to the benefit of all society.

The king and the jongleur in this Anglo-Norman poem are both English. R. Dean dates the item’s composition in the thirteenth-century (ANL 195). Its exists in Continental versions, where it is known as La riote du monde. An Anglo-Norman analogue, a longer work in prose, survives in a manuscript and a fragment. For further discussion of the work, see Bloch, pp.1–21; Reichl 2000, pp. 231–33; Nolan, pp. 292–94, 296–307, 310–11; Corrie 2003, pp. 72–76 and Butterfield, pp. 242, 254–59.

[Fols. 107va–109vb. ANL 195. Nykrog, no. 126. Långfors, p. 368. Vising §268. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 12. Layout: Double columns. Meter: Octosyllabic couplets. Editions: Montaiglon and Raynaud 2:242–56; Ulrich, pp. 275–79. Edition: Ulrich, pp. 275-79. Altered Edition: Montaiglon and Raynaud 2:242–56 (see Holbrook). Other MSS: None. Anglo–Norman Analogue: La riote du monde in prose: Cambridge, Trinity College MS O.2.45, pp. 331–36 (ed. Ulrich, pp. 279–89); Stratford-upon-Avon, Gild Records, Div. XII, No. 206 (ed. Brereton, pp. 95–99). Old French Version: La riote du monde in prose (ed. Ulrich, pp. 279–89). Translations: None.]

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