Medieval Entertainment – Arts Did Thrive in a Dark Time

The many forms of medieval entertainment do show the Middle Ages were in fact not the Dark Ages when it came to the human need to let oneself relax and enjoy the beauty of the arts despite being considered by many a time devoid of thought and reason lorded over by a conservative church that would allow no merriment.

Medieval entertainment takes many forms some considered artistic, others perhaps barbaric. When it comes to the arts, entertainment included music, chants and stories either written (in rare cases) or passed down through an oral tradition.

The elaborate music of the harp, recorder, dulcimer and more, brings court life to mind. Those who could afford medieval entertainment had no shortage of songs to hear or musical instruments to employ. The lower classes, too, had their share of music in the realm of entertainment. The stringed cittern was considered a “rustic” instrument and other more simple makers of music were used to entertain the masses.

In the courts of nobles, medieval entertainment often included musicians, poets and storytellers. As the period moved forward and the age of chivalry dawned, poetic and epic tales and love songs and more could be enjoyed by those living a courtly life.

In addition to songs, dance and other forms of light-hearted amusement, the medieval entertainment that is perhaps best known is the tradition of handing down stories from one generation to the next. Since peasants and many a wealthy man and woman were not able to afford the time or money necessary to learn to read, stories of the time were often told and retold. Thus, an oral tradition began. The ones who could reel in the crowds with their entertainment of masterful storytelling were almost always assured a fine meal and perhaps some spirits for their troubles.

In addition to music and stories, medieval entertainment also included the great tournaments. The jousts, battles among friendly knights, could create huge spectacles, entrancing both the courts and the commoners of medieval times. This form of entertainment was meant for the nobles, but depending on the lords in charge the lower classes, too, might have the privilege of watching these sporting events.

Speaking of sporting events, medieval entertainment also included the hunt when it came to royal circles. Since the nobles owned the free roaming game, hunting was a pastime of the rich and the rich alone. God spare the man caught poaching a deer in the lord’s forest for entertainment!

Despite its dark legend, the Middle Ages was not without its lighthearted pastimes. There was an appreciation for the finer things – music to soothe the soul; dance to lighten the heart; and stories to challenge the imagination. Medieval entertainment did exist and with it a bond with other times when humans behaved as humans do. After all, all work and no play would drive even the most devout of knights to distraction!