A minstrel was a medieval European entertainer. Originally describing any type of entertainer such as a musician, juggler, acrobat, singer or fool, the term later, from the sixteenth century, came to mean a specialist entertainer who sang songs and played musical instruments.
In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.
Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.
A musician is a person who plays a musical instrument or is musically talented. Anyone who composes, conducts, or performs music is referred to as a musician. A musician who plays a musical instrument is also known as an instrumentalist.
Minstrels performed songs which told stories of distant places or of existing or imaginary historical events. Although minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others.Frequently they were retained by royalty and high society. As the courts became more sophisticated, minstrels were eventually replaced at court by the troubadours, and many became wandering minstrels, performing in the streets; a decline in their popularity began in the late 15th century. Minstrels fed into later traditions of travelling entertainers, which continued to be moderately strong into the early 20th century, and which has some continuity in the form of today's buskers or street musicians.
A troubadour was a composer and performer of Old Occitan lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages (1100–1350). Since the word troubadour is etymologically masculine, a female troubadour is usually called a trobairitz.
Initially, minstrels were simply treats at court, and entertained the lord and courtiers with chansons de geste or their local equivalent. The term minstrel derives from Old French ménestrel (also menesterel, menestral), which is a derivative from Italian ministrello (later menestrello), from Middle Latin ministralis "retainer", an adjective form of Latin minister, "attendant" from minus, "lesser".
Old French was the language spoken in Northern France from the 8th century to the 14th century. In the 14th century, these dialects came to be collectively known as the langue d'oïl, contrasting with the langue d'oc or Occitan language in the south of France. The mid-14th century is taken as the transitional period to Middle French, the language of the French Renaissance, specifically based on the dialect of the Île-de-France region.
Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian, together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to Vulgar Latin of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. In spite of not existing any Italian community in their respective national territories and of not being spoken at any level, Italian is included de jure, but not de facto, between the recognized minority languages of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Romania. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both standardized Italian and other regional languages.
Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.
In Anglo-Saxon England before the Norman Conquest, the professional poet was known as a scop ("shaper" or "maker"), who composed his own poems, and sang them to the accompaniment of a harp. In a rank much beneath the scop were the gleemen , who had no settled abode, but roamed about from place to place, earning what they could from their performances. Late in the 13th century, the term minstrel began to be used to designate a performer who amused his lord with music and song. Following a series of invasions, wars, conquests, etc., two categories of composers developed. Poets like Chaucer and John Gower appeared in one category, wherein music was not a part. Minstrels, on the other hand, gathered at feasts and festivals in great numbers with harps, fiddles, bagpipes, flutes, flageolets, citterns, and kettledrums. Additionally, minstrels were known for their involvement in political commentary and engaged in propaganda. They often reported news with bias to sway opinion and revised works to encourage action in favor of equality.
Anglo-Saxon England was early medieval England, existing from the 5th to the 11th centuries from the end of Roman Britain until the Norman conquest in 1066. It consisted of various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms until 927 when it was united as the Kingdom of England by King Æthelstan. It became part of the short-lived North Sea Empire of Cnut the Great, a personal union between England, Denmark and Norway in the 11th century.
A scop was a poet as represented in Old English poetry. The scop is the Old English counterpart of the Old Norse skald, with the important difference that "skald" was applied to historical persons, and scop is used, for the most part, to designate oral poets within Old English literature. Very little is known about the mythical scop, and its historical existence is questioned by some scholars.
The harp is a stringed musical instrument that has a number of individual strings running at an angle to its soundboard; the strings are plucked with the fingers. Harps have been known since antiquity in Asia, Africa and Europe, dating back at least as early as 3500 BC. The instrument had great popularity in Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, where it evolved into a wide range of variants with new technologies, and was disseminated to Europe's colonies, finding particular popularity in Latin America. Although some ancient members of the harp family died out in the Near East and South Asia, descendants of early harps are still played in Myanmar and parts of Africa, and other defunct variants in Europe and Asia have been utilized by musicians in the modern era.
The music of the troubadours and trouvères was performed by minstrels called joglars (Occitan) or jongleurs (French). As early as 1321, the minstrels of Paris were formed into a guild. A guild of royal minstrels was organized in England in 1469. Minstrels were required to either join the guild or abstain from practicing their craft. Some minstrels were retained by lords as jesters who, in some cases, also practiced the art of juggling. Some were women, or women who followed minstrels in their travels. Minstrels throughout Europe also employed trained animals, such as bears. Minstrels in Europe died out slowly, having gone nearly extinct by about 1700, although isolated individuals working in the tradition existed even into the early 19th century.
Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts.
A guild is an association of artisans or merchants who oversee the practice of their craft/trade in a particular area. The earliest types of guild formed as a confraternities of tradesmen. They were organized in a manner something between a professional association, a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society. They often depended on grants of letters patent from a monarch or other authority to enforce the flow of trade to their self-employed members, and to retain ownership of tools and the supply of materials. A lasting legacy of traditional guilds are the guildhalls constructed and used as guild meeting-places. Guild members found guilty of cheating on the public would be fined or banned from the guild.
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.
Minstrelsy became a central concern in English literature in the Romantic period and has remained so intermittently.
Romanticism was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature—all components of modernity. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, with romantic thinkers influencing liberalism, radicalism, conservatism and nationalism.
In poetry, The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805) by Sir Walter Scott, Lalla Rookh (1817) by Thomas Moore, and The Village Minstrel (1821) by John Clare were three of many. Novels centring on minstrelsy have included Helen Craik's Henry of Northumberland (1800), Sydney Owenson's The Novice of St. Dominick's (a girl using a minstrel disguise, 1805), Christabel Rose Coleridge's Minstrel Dick (a choirboy turned minstrel becomes a courtier, 1891), Rhoda Power's Redcap Runs Away (a boy of ten joins wandering minstrels, 1952), and A. J. Cronin's The Minstrel Boy (priesthood to minstrelsy and back, 1975).
Courtly love was a medieval European literary conception of love that emphasized nobility and chivalry. Medieval literature is filled with examples of knights setting out on adventures and performing various deeds or services for ladies because of their "courtly love". This kind of love is originally a literary fiction created for the entertainment of the nobility, but as time passed, these ideas about love changed and attracted a larger audience. In the high Middle Ages, a "game of love" developed around these ideas as a set of social practices. "Loving nobly" was considered to be an enriching and improving practice.
A jester, court jester, or fool, was historically an entertainer during the medieval and Renaissance eras who was a member of the household of a nobleman or a monarch employed to entertain him and his guests. A jester was also an itinerant performer who entertained common folk at fairs and markets. Jesters are also modern-day entertainers who resemble their historical counterparts.
In medieval Gaelic and British culture, a bard was a professional story teller, verse-maker, music composer, oral historian and genealogist, employed by a patron, to commemorate one or more of the patron's ancestors and to praise the patron's own activities.
The minstrel show, or minstrelsy, was an American form of entertainment developed in the early 19th century. Each show consisted of comic skits, variety acts, dancing, and music performances that depicted people specifically of African descent. The shows were performed by white people in make-up or blackface for the purpose of playing the role of black people. There were also some African-American performers and all-black minstrel groups that formed and toured under the direction of white people. Minstrel shows lampooned black people as dim-witted, lazy, buffoonish, superstitious, and happy-go-lucky.
Óbidos is a town and a municipality in Oeste region. The town proper has approximately 3100 inhabitants. The municipality population in 2011 was 11,772, in an area of 141.55 square kilometres.
A skomorokh was a medieval East Slavic harlequin, or actor, who could also sing, dance, play musical instruments and compose for oral/musical and dramatic performances. The etymology of the word is not completely clear. There are hypotheses that the word is derived from the Greek σκώμμαρχος ; from the Italian scaramuccia ; from the Arabic masẋara; and many others.
Billy Kersands was an African-American comedian and dancer. He was the most popular black comedian of his day, best known for his work in blackface minstrelsy. In addition to his skillful acrobatics, dancing, singing, and instrument playing, Kersands was renowned for his comic routines involving his large mouth, which he could contort comically or fill with objects such as billiard balls or saucers. His stage persona was that of the dim-witted black man of the type that had been popularized in white minstrel shows. Modern commentators such as Mel Watkins cite him as one of the earliest black entertainers to have faced the dilemma of striking a balance between social satire and the reinforcement of negative stereotypes.
Primrose and West was the name of a blackface song-and-dance team made up of partners George Primrose and William H. "Billy" West. They later went into the business of minstrel troupe ownership with a refined, high-class approach that signaled the final stage in the development of minstrelsy as a distinct form of entertainment.
Bryant's Minstrels was a blackface minstrel troupe that performed in the mid-19th century, primarily in New York City. The troupe was led by the O'Neill brothers from upstate New York, who took the stage name Bryant.
"The Lay of the Last Minstrel" (1805) is a long narrative poem by Walter Scott.
"Miss Lucy Long", also known as "Lucy Long" as well as by other variants, is an American song that was popularized in the blackface minstrel show.
A "songster" is a wandering musician, usually but not always African-American, of the type which first appeared in the late 19th century in the southern United States.
Gusans were creative and performing artists - singers, instrumentalists, dancers, storytellers, and professional folk actors in public theaters of Parthia and ancient and medieval Armenia.
Oral storytelling is an ancient and intimate tradition between the storyteller and their audience. The storyteller and the listeners are physically close, often seated together in a circular fashion. Through the telling of the story people become psychically close, developing a connection to one another through the communal experience. The storyteller reveals, and thus shares, him/her self through his/her telling and the listeners reveal and share themselves through their reception of the story. The intimacy and connection is deepened by the flexibility of oral storytelling which allows the tale to be moulded according to the needs of the audience and/or the location or environment of the telling. Listeners also experience the urgency of a creative process taking place in their presence and they experience the empowerment of being a part of that creative process. Storytelling creates a personal bond with the teller and the audience.
An itinerant poet or strolling minstrel was a wandering minstrel, bard, musician, or other poet common in medieval Europe but extinct today. From a lower class than jesters or jongleurs because he did not have steady work, he instead roamed about to make his living.
Twoubadou music is a popular genre of guitar-based music from Haiti that has a long and important place in Haitian culture. The word comes from troubadour, a medieval poet-musician who wrote and sang songs about courtly love. Like the troubadours of old, the Haitian twoubadou is a singer-composer who accompanies himself on songs that tell about the bitterness and humor of love, often using risqué or suggestive lyrics.
Martin Best is an English singer, lutenist and guitarist, and composer. Best has been active mainly in early music including renaissance music, minstrel songs and the French troubadour traditions, in works related to Shakespeare, such as the sonettes and music to Shakespeare plays, and also in songs of the Swedish ballad tradition. He has often performed in constellations named Martin Best Consort and Martin Best Medieval Ensemble.
Music in Medieval England, from the end of Roman rule in the fifth century until the Reformation in the sixteenth century, was a diverse and rich culture, including sacred and secular music and ranging from the popular to the elite.