The jongleur (or joglar, in Provençal) was an itinerant professional entertainer known chiefly in medieval France and Occitan, but also in Spain, Italy, and Norman England. The particular term was used as early as the eighth century, though jongleurs seem to have been known in France from the fifth to the 15th centuries. In the beginning the term referred to a professional entertainer of any kind, including jugglers (a term derived from jongleur), acrobats, dancers, actors, and musicians. By the 10th century, however, the term was used exclusively for musical entertainers.
   In Occitan, beginning in the 11th century, joglars would perform lyrics composed by the TROUBADOURS. Often the troubadour would mention the joglar’s name in the tornada, or ending envoi of the song, mentioning as well the song’s intended recipient—often through a senhal or pseudonym— who might be expected to reward the joglar for delivering and performing the song. One of Jaufre RUDEL’s lyrics ends:
   Without any letter of parchment
   I send this vers, which we sing
   in our plain romance tongue,
   to En Hugo Brun, by Filhol;
   (Goldin 1973, 105, ll. 29–32)
   Here Filhol is the joglar, who apparently was expected to memorize the song to perform for En Hugo, rather than carry it in written form. In another lyric tornada, BERNART DE VENTADORN writes:
   Garsio, now sing my song
   for me, and take it
   to my Messenger, who was there.
   I ask what counsel he would give.
   (Goldin 1973, 145, ll. 61–64)
   Garsio is the joglar, and the “Messenger” is the senhal for Bernart’s friend or patron, the addressee of the song.
   These kinds of tornadas became less and less frequent from the 12th through 13th centuries, which, as William Paden points out, may suggest that the means of delivery for the songs was changing from an oral to a written medium. The destruction of Occitan culture during the Albigensian Crusade in the 13th century may also have had something to do with this decline. In northern France the jongleur was employed to sing and disseminate the songs of the TROUVÈRES, but in northern France jongleurs also recited ballads, told stories and saints’ lives, and sang CHANSONS DE GESTE.
   The importance of jongleurs is chiefly a function of their wandering. Relying on the compositions of others, such as troubadours, jongleurs traveled among various courts and countries, disseminating vernacular songs and lyric poetry throughout western Europe. They provided one vehicle for troubadour poetry, particularly lyrics in the COURTLY LOVE vein, to migrate from court to court and even country to country.
   ■ Goldin, Frederick, ed. and trans. Lyrics of the Troubadours and Trouvères: An Anthology and a History. Garden City, New York: Anchor, 1973.
   ■ Harvey, Ruth E. “Joglars and the Professional Status of the Early Troubadours,” Medium Ævum 62 (1993): 221–241.
   ■ Paden,William D. “The Role of the Joglar.” In Chrétien de Troyes and the Troubadours: Essays in Memory of the Late Leslie Topsfield, edited by Peter S. Noble and Linda M. Paterson. Cambridge: St. Catherine’s College, 1984.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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  • Jongleur — Jon gleur, Jongler Jon gler, n. [F. jongleur. See {Juggler}.] [1913 Webster] 1. In the Middle Ages, a court attendant or other person who, for hire, recited or sang verses, usually of his own composition. See {Troubadour}. [1913 Webster] Vivacity …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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