At Coventry, upon Saint Lambert's Day;
There shall your swords and lances arbitrate
The swelling difference of your settled hate.
--William Shakespeare from Richard II (1.1.204-206)
|Knights clashing in Knightdale, NC|
The Book Phantom took a Shakespearean field trip this weekend to the NC Renaissance Faire in Knightdale (how appropriate is that location?). The best feature of the fair is always the jousting. In Shakespeare's time, jousting had become less about martial training and more about pomp at court. On Queen Elizabeth I's Accession Day, tournaments were held for courtiers to honor the queen and to entertain the masses (even the public was admitted for a small charge). The queen had her own champion at these events. For 30 years, Sir Henry Lee fought for Her Majesty's honor. In later years, her champions were Sir George Clifford (who wore her token glove pinned to his hat flap) and Robert Dudley.
|Knights lancing the rings|
As the Renaissance progressed, jousting declined in importance, especially in England. The reasons are likely twofold: 1) the invention of the musket and use of gunpowder became more widespread, changing the skills a knight required in battle, and 2) the theater, with its costumes and pageantry, became the more popular form of entertainment for the people.