Medieval Entertainment & Chivalry




by: chris kazun


Music was incorporated into almost everything feasts, fairs, tournaments, church

Songs were about chivalry; singing of the lords

(feudal lord) virtues, and his achievements.

Written and performed by traveling troubadours and minstrels

Common instruments were lyre, guitar, harp, flute, drums, horns

Music at church was different

 mostly Gregorian chant

Indoor Games: Chess,

Alquerque (ancestor of

Checkers), Hazard

(ancestor of Craps),


Outdoor Games:

Skittles (bowling),

Archery, Horseshoes,

Quarterstaff contests,

Wrestling, Stoolball

(ancestor of Cricket or




Large, elaborate meal. Many people invited.

Often used to celebrate holidays and other special occasions.

Hosted by the lords in Great Hall of their castles/manors

Entertainment provided

Troubadours, minstrels, jesters, and jugglers would provide entertainment for guests between courses

Feasts Cont.

Many courses were served, each having multiple dishes.

 served on best gold and silver platters cooks molded pastries into elaborate scenes.

 food was decorated with edible paints

Blackbirds were sometimes hidden in pies

Each new dish was announced by trumpets and drums.

Courses at a


Began with light meats, soups/broths, moist fruits, and greens

Courses with dishes of heavier meats, fruits, and breads followed

Exotic dishes and delicacies were served in small portions – only to honoured guests

Sweets were last course

Cheese and wine was served throughout


Gathering of buyers and sellers during specific seasons, or by special appointment, for trade.

Usually during time of a saint’s feast day around the church or abbey

 except in England

 fairs were held on Village Greens or open land near or within towns.

entertainment was used to attract a crowd, singers, musicians, acrobats, stilt walkers and fools. Fairs included various contests such as archery tournaments.

Mystery Plays

Plays based on stories from Bible depicted such subjects as the Creation, Adam and

Eve, the murder of Abel, the Last Judgment, and the Life of Jesus

(miracles, passion, resurrection) church clergymen were the first to present plays of this type

One of the ways in which people learned the stories of their faith

In 13 th century the subjects of plays become increasingly nonreligious guilds (masons, smiths, tanners, grocers, butchers, etc.) steadily took over presenting plays

Their characters gradually came to be a conventional set

 famous figures of popular tradition (St. George and the Green Dragon, Robin

Hood, Maid Marian)

Other Plays

Animal Sports

Bear and Bull Baiting post set in the ground towards the edge of the pit and the bear or bull chained to it, either by the leg or neck. well-trained hunting dogs would then be set on it

Dogs replaced as they tired or were wounded or killed

Dog and Cock Fighting

Two roosters or dogs pitted against each other in a fight

 survivor wins.


Fable: a short story containing a moral; usually feature animals as characters

Extremely popular in the courts of nobles

Many were satires of society

Marie de France was one of the most popular of authors with counts, barons and knights, but especially with ladies

Probably of Norman origin, spent most of her life in England

 was connected to court of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine

 wrote more than 100 fables

1 st woman to write narrative verse in western vernacular

Christine de Pizan (1363 – ca.


Born in Venice

Married at 15 to a French courtier (died

10 years later)

Well educated (Latin, philosophy, literature, and sciences) as her father was a scholar and astrologer

Began her writing career to support herself and her 3 children

Doesn’t seem to have had any problem doing this; showing her works were very popular

Wrote both poems and prose

Many of her works contain arguments about equality of the sexes

Sought respect for women’s designated roles in her society

1 st


Female Writer

Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

Written at end of 14 th

 c.

Used Middle English rather than French or Latin

Influenced by Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio

Tells tales of 29 pilgrims traveling from London tavern to shrine of Thomas

Becket in Canterbury

The pilgrims travel together telling each other tales

One pilgrim (Harry Bailey) suggests each pilgrim tell 2 tales on way there and 2 on way back

The tale he judges to be best will get a meal at his tavern, paid for by the other pilgrims

Character are written with high amount of realism

Reflects society of the time (as well as changing societal ideas)

Including: courtly love, corruption of church officials, and importance of friends/companions, changing role/ideas about women

Published for first time in 1475; was popular almost immediately and has remained so


Military games given to chivalrous competitions.

Competed in by knights

Meant to keep them fit for war; also provided the excitement of war without the killing and maiming

Mock sword fights using blunted knives and swords

Large mock battles (melee) using blunted weapons


2 armoured knights ride their horses towards each other, holding blunted lances in attempt to knock each other of the horse.

Despite safety precautions the intense/ferocious competition led to bloodshed and animosity among combatants more often than not; death could also result

You had to be a noble to participate

Later even had to prove your bloodline

How the Joust worked

No set points system – decided at each individual tournament

Points based on quality of the strike.

Strike to chest or center of shield earned most points

Breaking a lance tip earned double points

 unhorsing an opponent earned knight a victory.

Length of match varied

 single pass - three passes

Code of Chivalry

The Code

Begins developing in the 12 th c. in the poetry of France

Set codes of social conduct / court etiquette

First developed in France

Required knights to act as men of honour and valour

 fight fairly, treat prisoners well, etc.

Uphold and defend Christianity, and be generous to the poor and weak

Ladies were to be respected, cherished and protected

 women seen as chaste and virtuous; inspiring goodness and ardent love

These values were in contrast to the way noblemen acted (multiple affairs, numerous illegitimate children)

Advent of these values of courtesy were attempt to remedy this

Remained more literary idealism than social reality

Though it did lead to a changing sense of the aristocratic ideal


Knightly code of conduct (way you were to behave) associated with ideals of knightly virtues, honor and courtly love

1. Duties to countrymen and fellow Christians:

 this contains virtues such as mercy, courage, valor, fairness, protection of the weak and the poor, and in the servant-hood of the knight to his lord. This also brings with it the idea of being willing to give one’s life for another’s; whether he would be giving his life for a poor man or his lord.

2. Duties to God:

 this would contain being faithful to God, protecting the innocent, being faithful to the church, being the champion of good against evil, being generous and obeying God above the feudal lord.

3. Duties to women:

 this is probably the most familiar aspect of chivalry. This would contain what is often called courtly love (platonic), the idea that the knight is to serve a lady, and after her all other ladies. Most especially in this category is a general gentleness and graciousness to all women. Never hit a woman.

Courtly Love

Code of Chivalry coincided with ideas of courtly love expressed in literature expression of knightly worship of an ideal embodied in person of the beloved

 lover was expected to serve his lady, to obey her commands, and to gratify her merest whims usually one of the assumptions of courtly love was that the lady in question was married

 establishing triangular pattern of lover-lady-jealous husband

Poems and literature recommended love at a distance (love without touching / contact without contact)

Those succumbing to physical temptation often depicted as going through at least as much suffering as joy

Saw advent of ideas of romantic love

Love was presumed to exist outside marriage

Between an man and woman who aren’t married, never could be, nor did they wish to be.

Shows increased sense of individual attitude

As love is based on individual needs/emotions rather than inherited social status or political power

King Arthur

Best known piece of literature incorporating chivalry

Knights oaths are taken very seriously (their word is and should be trusted without doubt)

Looked upon as loyal and honourable, and needing to remain so

Chrétien of Troyes was integral developing the Arthurian legend in the 12 th c.

Introduced many of the characters (Gawain, Lancelot,

Percival) and made the Holy Grail a major component

Courtly love seen in love triangle involving Lancelot,

Guinevere and Arthur

Lancelot and Guinevere have affair (one time conversation)


Write a Response encompassing the following:

Why did the ideas of chivalry develop?

Is chivalry dead?

Did it ever exist in reality or was it only seen in literature and fantasy?