Dagonet the Coward, Dagonet the Craven, Dagonet the Fool
Dagenet, Daguenes, Daguenet, Daguenez li Coars, Danguenes de Carlion
A witless knight introduced in the Prose Lancelot. He becomes Arthur’s beloved fool, or court jester in Malory and Tennyson. Arthur
loved him passing well, and made him knight with his own hands.
Sir Griflet called him
the best fellow and the merriest in the world.
Palamedes says that Daguenet went insane after his wife was abducted by Helior of the Thorn, whom Daguenet eventually killed. Daguenet was a somewhat Walter Mittyish knight, imagining and presenting himself as a fearless warrior when in fact he was prone to flee at the slightest provocation. He would damage his own shield so that it looked as if he had been in combat.
Other knights used him to play jokes on their enemies. Kay sent him after La Cote Male Taile on the latter’s first quest, thus depriving La Cote male Taile of the honor of defeating a true knight in his first combat; although La Cote bested him, the clash lent Maledisant ammunition for further raillery:
Fie for shame now art thou shamed in Arthur's court, when they send a fool to have ado with thee, and especially at thy first jousts.
In another episode, some of Arthur’s knights identified Daguenet as Lancelot to King Mark. Later, joining a party of some half-dozen knights of the Round Table, Dagonet takes the suggestion of the wounded Mordred, dons Mordred’s armor, and rides after Mark with such a fierce comical show that he makes Mark ride for dear life, screaming, into the forest. Palomides happens along in time to rescue Mark.
Dagonet appears adventuring about the countryside in the long rambling books of Tristram. Once, riding alone with two squires, Dagonet meets Tristram in a fit of madness. The madman ducks Dagonet and the squires in a nearby well, to the merriment of nearby shepherds who have been feeding Tristram. Dagonet and the squires, thinking the shepherds put Tristram up to it, begin to beat them, whereupon Tristram kills one of the squires. Escaping to King Mark, Dagonet warns him against going near
the well in the forest, for there is a fool naked, and that fool and I fool met together, and he had almost slain me.
Gawaine adopted Daguenet’s name as an alias during one of his adventures, telling Lore de Branlant that he is Daguenet li Coars. In the Prophecies de Merlin, Daguenet assumes administration of Arthur’s court during the False Guinevere episode, and the place falls apart. Daguenet kills Fole, Arthur’s treasurer, when the latter reproves Daguenet for expending all of the funds in the royal treasury.
Dagonet is occasionally depicted with his own shield. The design of his shield can differ, but it often incorporates playful or comedic imagery, reflecting his role as a jester.
Tennyson makes exquisite use of Dagonet in the idyll The Last Tournament.
Lancelot do Lac | 1215-1220
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Vulgate Merlin | 1220-1235
Le Livre d’Artus | Early 13th century
Palamedes | c. 1240
Prose Tristan | 1230-1240
Les Prophecies de Merlin | Richart d’Irlande, 1272-1279
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470
Idylls of the King | Lord Alfred Tennyson, 1859-1886