Guest Author - Helen B. Wharton
In today's world the choices, for entertainment, are limited only by our imagination. Just think about all our electronic options to start with; television, movies, videos and DVD's radio, CD's, MP3 payers, computers and the internet, video games. None of these existed during the Renaissance, but that doesn't mean there was no entertainment available. Renaissance people were also limited only by their imagination.
Instead of movies and TV there were storytellers. At a time when few people could read or write, story telling was a way to teach lessons and preserve history; family history as well as community history. Families would sit around the fire at night and tell stories to each other. Some people made their living traveling from place to place and entertaining all the people in a manor with stories. Stories were also a way for people to learn about far away places, people and events.
People always had music. Even people who had no instruments could sing, and sing they did. Folk songs helped to make work lighter, religious songs reinforced beliefs, lullabies soothed children. Traveling musicians performed at fairs and banquets. Some instruments known in the Renaissance were the harp, lute, recorder, violin and bells.
Along with music, the Renaissance also had dance. The nobility usually danced in couples in such dances as the Volte and the Pavanne; these were stylized, courtly dances. Ordinary people enjoyed folk dances similar to today's square dances and jigs.
Plays were very popular and, the Elizabethan Era, synonymous with the Renaissance in England, produced William Shakespeare; arguably the best writer of plays in history. Christopher Marlowe and Ben Johnson were also creating great drama during the period. In large cities like London permanent theaters could be found, but traveling actors brought plays to smaller towns and out lying manors and castles. In addition to plays, poetry was very popular and, with the invention of the printing press, books became much more easily available and affordable.
Fiber arts such as spinning, weaving, sewing, embroidery and knitting not only produced necessary clothing and linens, but were also a means of creative expression for the women of the time.
Games of skill were enjoyed by all, participants and audience, alike. Jousting, archery, swordsmanship, wrestling and falconry are a few examples of these. An early form of "football" was also played by teams of men with a straw filled, leather ball.
Table games and games of chance were popular among the nobility and common folk. Knuckle bones and dice, as well as board games such as backgammon and chess were played. During the Fourteenth Century playing cards and card games were introduced into Europe and quickly gained popularity.
These are just some examples of how Renaissance people entertained themselves and each other. Any job that had to be done could be turned into competition among the workers. Some of the greatest artwork ever produced was done during the Renaissance. How many other examples of Renaissance entertainment can you think of?