Life in Elizabethan England Next

More Things To Do

Still bored? Here are some more activities to usefully occupy your days at Court.

Lute Master Take lessons. There are plenty of professional fencing masters and dancing masters. (Sometimes they're the same people.)

Dancing lessons are important to keep up on the latest dances and latest steps, which you are expected to know.

You might find a master to keep up your skills at the lute or virginals or other refined instrument.

Brush up your French, Italian, or Spanish. Castiglione says one should be seen to be good at these languages.

Embroider. Like gossip, you can do this nearly anywhere. Ladies may gather in the garden, or in the Queen's Privy Chamber, or some other well-lighted room to do this. You might do it while watching a friend take a lute lesson or sit for a portrait.

Play cards, chess, tables (backgammon) or draughts (i.e., checkers, pronounced DRAFTS). Card games include Primero, Taroccho or Trumps, and many others.

Sing. Like dancing, this has to be practiced, especially since some madrigals are quite difficult. The English are famous as sight-readers.Says William Byrd:

First, it is a knowledge easily taught and quickly learned where there is a good master and an apt scholar.
2. The exercise of singing is delightful to nature and good to preserve the health of Man.
3. It doth strengthen all parts of the breast, and doth open the pipes.
4. It is a singular good remedy for a stuttering and stammering in the speech.
5. It is the best means to procure a perfect pronunciation, and to make a good orator.
6. It is the only way to know where Nature hath bestowed the benefit of a good voice, which gift is so rare as there is not one among a thousand that hath it: and in many that excellent gift is lost because they want [lack] Art to express Nature.
7. There is not any music of instruments whatsoever comparable to that which is made of the voices of Men, where the voices are good, and the same well sorted and ordered.
8. The better the voice is, the meeter it is to honour and serve God therewith: and the voice of Man is chiefly to be employed to that end.

Omnis spiritus laudet Dominum
    Since singing is so good a thing,
    I wish all men would learn to sing. — William Byrd, Psalms, Sonnets, and songs of sadness and piety, 1588.

Prepare a presentation. Such as an elaborate masque. One must rehearse, after all.

Visit your tailor. This can take hours, especially if you take along some friends.

Sit for a portrait. The painter will make several visits, or you may visit him. You approve his sketches and his progress, and promise to pay the bill. A miniature by Hilliard will set you back about £40.

Visit the bear pit. Bear baiting consists of letting a pack of crazed hounds loose on a chained bear, and watching from a safe distance while the beasts fight. Very popular. Almost as good as a public hanging. Even the Queen thinks this is great fun. One of the most famous of these bears is called Sackerson.

Practice riding at the ring and other tourney sports.

::  Still More Things To Do
::  Games
::  Filling the Time
::  The Hunt is Up ::  Now Merrily to Horse
::  A Cry of Hounds

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13 March 2010 mps