Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Action Is Happening At The Court

As I continue to read about Women At Work In Medieval Europe, the next section I'm on discusses the lady 'bosses' of the time. One of the things it speaks of is the vast size and scope of running a castle and the various duties that accompany it.

On page 54, there is an illustration and the text describing it brings forth a wide variety of individuals; "Elegantly clothed and seated at the high table, the hostess, beneath a richly decorated baldachin canopy, greets the entertainers who regale the guests with music and mummery. sword-carrying musicians play a variety of fifes, flutes, recorders, shawms, drums, and stringed instruments. Bird-masked, armed entertainers mine and act a play. Most mumming preserved ancient fertility rites including beheadings and resurrections, as in Morris Dances. The lead mummer carries a baton or torch, and faces the ermine-collared Surveyor of Ceremonies who directs the feast, alternating courses with entertainments."

A lot of things going on in that picture. But the courts also have wide arrangements and functions. There is a lot of detail on the use and nature of medieval hunting, including the various birds and animals used for sport. There are the good deeds that these people in power are supposed to be committed to, the givings of alms to the needy. The going to the hospitals to look after the sick.

There is the arrangement of the court itself. It doesn't 'just happen' to so speak.

And in some instances, there is war, and that war requires someone to take charge. One of the examples listed in the book is the countess of Buchan defending Burwick Castle against attack by King Edward I.

These activities provide an 'in' if you will, to the life of the courts. Does one of the players have a known skill? He's summoned to the court to show it off. Want to make more of it than a simple skill showing? Have it become a competition.

Want to run it in a dark vein? The players are hired to act as assassins but normaly people aren't allowed weapons in the noble's feasts and courtyard. Only those entertainers have them. Time to do some undercover work.

With the many branches that can interweave themselves in the high life of the court, it makes a tempting local to introduce the characters.