Sunday, March 01, 2009

Question from Mindy - Troubadors in Tudor times

I do not know as much about the common man in Tudor time as I would like, (maybe none of us do).
Troubador's were a very popular form of entertainment, and story telling in earlier reigns, but in the Tudor reigns I have not seen "troubador" mentioned in any context as being a current form of entertainment for royalty. Obviously troubadors fell out of fashion, but those of you who study the common people, might know if troubadors went to the marketfairs, individual homes, etc.


kb said...

This is not my area of specialty but ...

I am not aware of troubadors in Tudor England in the manner that you are thinking of medieval troubadors. There were however traveling companies of players that put on mystery plays and sang. Eventually these same troupes started performing original works by like Marlowe and Shakespeare to name the most famous. They performed in town squares and in tavern courtyards. They had to be invited by the city however as actors were generally thought of as troublemakers. So there were 'songsters' among the troupes but I am not aware of classical troubadors.

The suspicion that anyone wandering the countryside was likely a criminal meant that acting troupes needed the patronage of a powerful individual to vouch for them. Consequently, the 'Admiral's Men' were those actors under the protection of Charles Howard Lord Admiral, earl of Nottingham for example.

Actors also performed in private houses for the family and their guests. There is some slim evidence that women also patronized acting companies or took over the patronage of their husband's companies in their widowhood. For example there is a reference to the Countess of Leicester's men that were most likely Robert Dudley's troupe that she took over after his death.

Sorry that this doesn't directly respond to your enquiry but perhaps now that the ball is rolling someone else who knows more will chime in.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou kb. I knew the troubadors had fallen out of fashion, but I figured something had to have filled the void. It would make sense to have actors fill the void.

I googled troubadors, (stupid me,, AFTER I had wrote the question, which is a lesson to me). and I found out that the plague had pretty much marked the end of the troubadors.
I am assuming because death caught some of them. But I know that can't be the whole of the reason.

Back then people didn't understand what caused disease, they thought myabe air, bad humors, satan, witches, or other sources along those lines, caused disease. During the time of the Black Plague, a group of people walked from town to town, flagellating themselves, begging God to end the plague. Some people were persecuted because they were thought to have caused the plague.

So maybe the troubadors, most of them being highly intelligent, decided not to expose themselves to persecution and the risk of disease. Maybe, some of them quit the troubador profession, untill things calmed down. Being the world was so drastically different AFTER the plague had killed off anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 of the world's population (depending who does the estimating), there was just no interest in listening to stories of heroes, war, and legends being sung anymore.

Anyone have any ideas?

kb said...


I'd say there is ALWAYS a desire to hear tales of heroes and legends. Especially in troubled times. Remember that Hollywood's golden age was during the depression. The demand for stories to escape dismal reality was large.

I suspect it has more to do with the evolution of music and story telling. The composing and performing of music started to inhabit the space between the church cloisters and the itinerant troubador. Courts set the fashion and there were several talented and prolific musicians at court. Masques, revels and plays started to become part of court fashion. I know that Mary's court had a master of the revels and a revels workshop which kept a handful of craftsmen employed making costumes, masks, etc.

Against these flourishing artistic endeavors, troubadors might have looked a bit old-fashioned.

Anonymous said...

So true kb. I know from reading that during Henry VIII's time, several of the masques revolved around him rescuing maidens of somekind.. lol.

Then during Elizabeth's time, Shakespere of course came into focus with his plays that are still classics.

Mary's time sounds like an in-between stage, somewhere between Shakespere plays, and masques.

Pretty interesting actually when you think about how true Theater came into being,, all leading up to our modern movies today. I guess no matter what time period, people needed heros. And it all started with someone sitting by a fire telling a story. HISTORY IS SO AWESOME.