Jean Froissart

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Froissart, Jean

 

Born circa 1337, in Valenciennes, Flanders (now in France); died after 1404, in Chimay, Hainaut Department. French chronicler and poet.

The son of a burgher, Froissart served at the court of the king of England and later at the courts of some great feudal lords of France. From his youth he composed verses and poems in the vein of chivalric courtly poetry, but he gained fame as a historian of the military campaigns of English and French knights and for his accounts of their tournaments, feasts, and plunderings. In his Chronicles he described the events of the period 1327–1400, particularly the Hundred Years’ War. In order to collect information, Froissart undertook journeys through England, France, Spain, and Italy. In explaining events prior to 1361, he used the chronicles of the Liège chronicler J. le Bel.

Faithful to those who were paying him, Froissart more than once changed his political orientation to conform to the interests of his patrons. The first edition of the Chronicles reflected his pro-English orientation; however, after Froissart went over to the French in 1370, he reworked the text, so that the second and especially the third editions had a pro-French bias. (Initially Froissart had drawn on the testimony of England’s allies; for the new editions he employed that of England’s enemies.) While celebrating the exploits of the knights of any nationality, Froissan was hostile to, and scornful of, the common people. The Paris uprising of 1357–58, the Jacquerie, and other popular movements were either condemned by him or were passed over in silence.

The Chronicles enjoyed enormous success among Froissart’s contemporaries and among later generations because of its picturesque use of language, lively dialogue, vivid portraits of knights, and artful description of nature, as well as for its abundance of facts, which were gathered from eyewitnesses and participants in the events described. Since the end of the 15th century the Chronicles has been published many times; it has been translated from French into Latin and the modern European languages. The work exerted a great influence on chronicle writing (especially English) during the 15th and 16th centuries.

WORKS

Oeuvres, vols. 1–28. Brussels, 1867–77.
Chroniques, vols. 1–13. Paris, 1869–1958.

O. L. VAINSHTEIN