Medieval Entertainers provided great entertainment in Medieval Times and there was plenty going on all year round, Banquets Religious Feasts, Fairs and Festivals, Jousts, Mystery plays, Games and Sports. Some entertainers such as Minstrels were servants to a particular Castle and others known as Troubadours could be seen travelling from village to village.
A medieval minstrel was a well rounded entertainer, but the main part of a minstrels act was singing and music. Some Minstrels travelled around and other minstrels were employed by Barons. Read more about the Medieval Minstrel >>
Medieval Mummers originated in ancient times and became very popular medieval entertainers, Medieval Mummers were travelling actors, that could sing, dance and were skilled in mimicry and acrobatics Read more about the Medieval Mummers >>
For Medieval musicians like Troubadours, Trouveres, Minstrels, Jongleurs, and Waits please see our Medieval Musicians page
The Medieval Mummer was what is known today as a Amateur Actor, they usually re-enacted religious plays at special times of the year such as the Harvest of Christmas time and performed in front of Kings, Queens and everyday people. The art of mummery as it is known goes all the way back to ancient times and became popular in England in the 15th century.
The Mummers made a living by travelling the country, performing at special events and at special occasions such as fairs and during holiday periods, these amateur actors often wore elaborate brightly coloured costumes and animal heads were often worn, they would sometimes play a musical instrument and were often accompanied by other entertainers such as Jugglers, minstrels and other types of entertainers, they were very popular entertainers in Medieval times.
Mummers were also known as mimes as they did not speak, using their facial expression and hands to great effect to make the act more visual.
Troubadours were Medieval Musicians
Medieval Entertainers – Minstrels and Troubadours
There were basically two types of Medieval Musician which were know as Minstrels and the Troubadours.
Troubadour – A Travelling Medieval Musician
The Troubadour was a travelling musician who was always on the move, sometimes they would travel from village to village in a certain part of a country whilst others would travel to the biggest cities in different countries.
In the time of the Crusades the Troubadours would often travel with wealthy people who wanted to see the Holy land along with the Knights Templar who offered protection.
The Troubadours mainly sang about chivalry and courtly love, romantic Ballard’s were all the rage and the Troubadours enjoyed entertaining royalty and Nobility, but as well as this they also were a great source of news as they travelled so much they were able to spread information that they had discovered from one area to the next and they told stories about distant lands and historical events to people that were thirsty for knowledge.
Minstrels – Great Medieval Entertainers
Medieval minstrels loved to perform and although they were initially just servants employed as a castle or court musician they began to travel far and wide performing ballads and poems mainly about myths and legends, they mainly travelled from town to town but could also travel overseas. Many Minstrels were singers or musicians whilst others tried to have more of a well rounded performance and would be able to juggle or have acrobatic skills.
Minstrels were known all throughout Europe in Medieval times and often travelled from one country to another in which they were given different titles in Germany they were known as Minnesingers and in France Jongleurs and the Irish used to call them Bards.
In summary a Minstrel could be considered a Medieval Poet and Musician who sang his poems whilst playing a stringed instrument for accompaniment, the difference between a Troubadour and a minstrel decreased a the medieval period progressed and they were eventually replaced by them.
Strolling Players – Travelling Medieval Actors
Strolling players were travelling actors that operated in Tudor times and gave special performances such as Robin Hood in a theatre group, however these travelling acting groups were quickly disbanded by the English Government as they were seen as a treat due to the rebellious messages of their acts, also the Government was concerned about the spread of the black death at this time and they did not want people travelling from one area to the next as they could spread the disease, so they were banned from 1572 and only actors that were controlled by Noblemen were allowed to perform.
Jugglers – Medieval Entertainers
Medieval Harlequins played the part of a mute in Medieval Plays
Jugglers were not that well respected in medieval times mainly due to the Churches attitude towards them, this meant that they mainly performed in places such as markets, fairs and public houses.
Acrobats – Medieval Entertainers
They walked tight ropes, did flips and other stunts to entertain the crowd, using their body and special skills to entertain.
Jesters – Medieval Entertainers
Jesters in Medieval Times were similar to clowns of today in that it was there job to make people laugh, however it was usually the Jester’s job to entertain Royalty mainly nobles and kings and not medieval people in general.
In this respect they served another important purpose, as when they told jokes or sang funny songs they sometimes told the King unpalatable truths that nobody else would tell the King.
This gave them a reputation of being fools as they were willing to take the risk of telling these truths or half truths, in a way this was quite risky as some Kings throughout history were not really known to have a good sense of humour.
Mage – Medieval Entertainers
A Mage was the name for a Medieval magician who performed magic and tricks to the Medieval Crowds.