Minstrel

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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. [1]

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th to the 15th century

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 Continent in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere

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.

Musician person who performs or composes music

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.

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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. [2] 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.

Troubadour composer and performer of Old Occitan lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages

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 language Romance language

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 Indo-European language of the Italic family

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. [3]

History of Anglo-Saxon England historical land roughly corresponding to present-day England

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.

Harp class of musical instruments

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 Capital of France

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.

Guild association of artisans or merchants

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 Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

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.

In literature

Minstrelsy became a central concern in English literature in the Romantic period and has remained so intermittently. [4]

Romanticism period of artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that started in 18th century Europe

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).

See also

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References

  1. Southworth, John (1989). The English Medieval Minstrel. Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press. pp. 3–4. ISBN   0 85115 536 7.
  2. A history of English literature: in a series of biographical sketches, By William Francis Collier
  3. Bahn, Eugene; Bahn, Margaret (1970). History of Oral Interpretation. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Publishing Company. p. 72.
  4. See, for example, Maureen N. McLane: Balladeering, Minstrelsy, and the Making of British Romantic Poetry (Cambridge, UK: CUP, 2011).