Peasant Festival (detail). Visscher. Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Acrobats, jugglers, pedlars, games, freaks, bookstalls, puppet shows, pickpockets, pigs and oxen roasted whole*, travelling troupes of actors, dancing*, music*, and the serious business of trading goods and gossip with one's neighbours.

In one of their competitive swearing-matches, Hal calls Falstaff "that roasted Manningtree ox with the pudding in his belly" (Henry IV, Part One, 2.4.457-8). At the annual Manningtree fair whole oxen were stuffed and roasted on a spit.

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[Video available on CD ROM only.]

Click here to download the audio file.

The video is of a dance performed in the Green Show at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, Oregon.

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Composers of the time, many of them anonymous, set the folk tunes and dances for small groups of instruments. The two examples here were arranged by Curtis Clark. The charmingly named "Rufty tufty"

Click here to download the audio file.

and a "Cobbler's hornpipe"

Click here to download the audio file.

More on music of the streets and fairs.

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One of the biggest fairs was held every August in Smithfield, near London: Bartholomew Fair. All London was there, as a contemporary ballad and a fine comedy by Ben Jonson show: the Dramatis Personae for the play includes a hobby-horse seller, a gingerbread-woman, a cutpurse, a ballad- singer (who works with the cutpurse), a pig-woman (selling pig roasted on the spot) -- and the kind of people who were called "roarers."*

Others in the cast include a tapster, a horse-dealer, a roarer (a young bully), a bawd, a "mistress o' the game," a madman, a beadle (a messenger or minor officer of the courts), a wrestler, a clothier, a corncutter, a number of puritans (severely satirized), a naïve justice of the peace, and a brace of gentlemen.

The play as a whole gives one of the most complete pictures of the life of ordinary people in the period.

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Room for company*: a ballad of Bartholomew Fair.

A folk song of the period celebrates the teeming life of Bartholomew Fair. It lists the seemingly endless variety of trades represented there, not excluding those that are less respectable. It is accompanied here by a simple pipe and tapping foot.

Listen to it:

Click here to download the audio file.

Click for the full text of the song.

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Footnotes

  1. A good mouthful

    In one of their competitive swearing-matches, Hal calls Falstaff "that roasted Manningtree ox with the pudding in his belly" (Henry IV, Part One, 2.4.457-8). At the annual Manningtree fair whole oxen were stuffed and roasted on a spit.

  2. A Renaissance dance

    [Video available on CD ROM only.]

    Click here to download the audio file.

    The video is of a dance performed in the Green Show at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, Oregon.

  3. Country music

    Composers of the time, many of them anonymous, set the folk tunes and dances for small groups of instruments. The two examples here were arranged by Curtis Clark. The charmingly named "Rufty tufty"

    Click here to download the audio file.

    and a "Cobbler's hornpipe"

    Click here to download the audio file.

    More on music of the streets and fairs.

  4. Roarers and bawds

    Others in the cast include a tapster, a horse-dealer, a roarer (a young bully), a bawd, a "mistress o' the game," a madman, a beadle (a messenger or minor officer of the courts), a wrestler, a clothier, a corncutter, a number of puritans (severely satirized), a naïve justice of the peace, and a brace of gentlemen.

    The play as a whole gives one of the most complete pictures of the life of ordinary people in the period.

  5. The patrons of Bartholomew Fair

    A folk song of the period celebrates the teeming life of Bartholomew Fair. It lists the seemingly endless variety of trades represented there, not excluding those that are less respectable. It is accompanied here by a simple pipe and tapping foot.

    Listen to it:

    Click here to download the audio file.

    Click for the full text of the song.