A medieval Jester had to be a well rounded performer as well as telling jokes Read more about the Medieval Jester >>
A Minstrel was a well rounded entertainer, commonly a singer and musician. Read more about the Medieval Minstrel >>
Mummers were travelling actors, that could sing, dance and were skilled in mimicry and acrobatics Read more about the Medieval Mummers >>
Strolling Players were bands (groups) of medieval entertainers that were actors, singers, acrobats and more. Read more about the Medieval Strolling Players >>
Great entertainment was provided to medieval people all year round, there were always plenty of opportunities for entertainers to perform at religious events, banquets, fairs, festivals, tournaments, mystery plays, etc.
Some entertainers such as Minstrels were servants to a particular Castle and others such as Troubadours could be seen travelling around medieval Cities, Towns, and Villages.
The Medieval Mummer was what is known today as an amateur actor, they usually re-enacted religious plays at special times of the year such as the harvest of Christmas, and performed in front of everyday people as well as nobility and royalty.
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.
Mummers made a living by travelling around the country, performing shows at special events and on special occasions such as fairs and during holiday periods.
Mummers often wore elaborate brightly coloured costumes, animal-style head coverings 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 expressions and hands to great effect to make the act more visual.
There were basically two types of Medieval Musicians, Minstrels, and Troubadours.
The Troubadour was a travelling musician who was always on the move, sometimes they would travel from village to village, or to a certain part of a country whilst others would travel to the biggest cities and foreign countries.
The Troubadours mainly sang about chivalry and courtly love, romantic Ballard’s were all the rage in medieval times and the Troubadours enjoyed entertaining royalty and nobles.
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 who were thirsty for knowledge.
Medieval minstrels loved to perform and although they were initially just servants employed as castle or court musicians 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 had acrobatic skills.
Minstrels were known all throughout Europe in Medieval times and often travelled from one country to another, they were known by different titles, in Germany, they were known as Minnesingers and in France Jongleurs and the Irish called 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 as the medieval period progressed and they were eventually replaced by them.
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 threat 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 another as they feared that they would spread the disease, so they were banned from 1572 and only actors that were controlled by Noblemen were allowed to perform.
Jugglers were not that well respected in medieval times mainly due to the Church’s attitude towards them, this meant that they mainly performed in places such as markets, fairs, and public houses.
Acrobats walked tight ropes and did flips and other stunts to entertain the crowd, using their bodies and special skills to entertain.
Jesters in Medieval Times were similar to clowns of today in that it was their 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 dare tell.
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.
A Mage was the name for a Medieval magician who performed magic and tricks to the Medieval Crowds.
Waits please also see our Medieval Musicians page