Frivolity

Medieval Entertainment was extremely important to people who lived in the Medieval era. Medieval entertainment was popular whenever there was something to celebrate! A betrothal, wedding, victories and festivals. Court entertainment was regular, often a nightly occurrence combined with feasts, jousts and banquets. But the poor people enjoyed entertainment from travelling minstrels and troubadours, tournaments, dancing and trained animals, mummers (dancers), mystery plays, jugglers and strolling players.

Types of Medieval Entertainment and were as follows:

  • Feasts - A large, elaborately prepared meal, usually for many persons and often accompanied by court entertainment. Often celebrated religious festivals
  • Banquets - A ceremonial dinner honoring a particular guest
  • Jousts/Tournaments - A series of tilting matches between knights
  • Mystery Plays - Re-enacting stories from the Bible
  • Festivals - Celebrating the lives of Saints
  • Fairs - The Annual Summer Fair was often a bawdy affair
  • Games and Sports - Sports and games which included archery, bowling, dice, hammer-throwing, quarter-staff contests, quoits, skittles and wrestling
  • Animal Sports - Including Bear and Bull baiting. Dog and Cock fighting
  • Hunting - Sport followed by the nobility often using dogs
  • Hawking - Sport followed by the nobility with hawks

Entertainers

  • Jesters - A fool or buffoon at medieval courts
  • Mummers - A masked or costumed merrymaker or dancer especially at a festival
  • Minstrels - Travelling musician who sang of legends
  • Troubadours - Travelling musician who sang of courtly love
  • Strolling Players - Travelling actors
  • Jugglers - Also used tricks, deception, or fraud

Religious Feasts, Fairs and Festivals

Feasts, Fairs and Festivals were all common occurrences and were celebrated during specific times of the year most of which were dictated by the Church and religious festivals. A calendar of Medieval entertainment in terms of religious feasts, fairs and festivals is detailed as follows:

  • January - Twelfth Night Religious festival and feasts celebrating the visit of the Wise Men, or Magi, following the birth of Jesus
  • February - St Valentine's Day, the Medieval festival celebrating love - singing, dancing and pairing games
  • March - Easter celebrated by the Mystery plays depicting the crucifixion (Good Friday) and the resurrection (Easter Monday)
  • April - All Fool's Day. The Jesters, or Lords of Misrule, took charge for the day and caused mayhem with jokes and jests.
  • May - Summer festival celebrating May Day when a Queen of the May was chosen and villagers danced around the maypole
  • June - Midsummer Eve, the Mummers entertained at the 'Festival of Fire' reliving legends such as St George and the Dragon. Bones were often burned leading to the term 'bonfire'. The summer Solstice was June 23rd
  • July - Swithin's Day falls on 15th July. Legend says that during the bones of St Swithin were moved and after the ceremony it began to rain and continued to do so for forty days
  • August - Lammas Day was celebrated on August 2nd. The ' loaf-mass ' day, the festival of the first wheat harvest of the year. Houses were sometimes decorated with garlands. Candle lit processions and apple-bobbing was featured!
  • September - 29th September was when Michaelmas celebrated the life of St Michael and the traditional food on Michaelmas was goose or chicken
  • October - October 25th celebrating St Crispin's Day. Revels and bonfires and people acted as 'King Crispin'
  • November - The Day of the Dead - All Souls Day or All Hallow's Day (Halloween) when revels were held and bonfires were lit
  • December - The feasts and Christmas celebrations

The Feasts, Fairs and Festivals were all held at the same time of year giving Medieval people something to look forward to in their everyday lives.

Dances

Medieval dance music dates from the 12th and 13th centuries. The carole was the most popular dance-song which could be danced in a circle, in a chain, or as a processional. Our modern Christmas Carols are derived from this practice. Names of famous Medieval dances enjoyed in Medieval entertainment include the following:

  • Cinque-pace
  • Galliard
  • Pavane
  • Roundel
  • Tordion
  • Volta