Courtly Pastimes

Gloria Allaire, Julie Human

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


The modern concept of passing leisure hours pleasantly would, in the Middle Ages, have fallen under the rubric of Sloth, a deadly sin. Yet aristocrats of past centuries were not always absorbed in affairs of state or warfare. What did they do in moments of peace, "downtime" as we might call it today? In this collection of essays, scholars from various disciplines investigate courtly modes of entertainment ranging from the vigorous to the intellectual: hunting, jousting, horse racing; physical and verbal games; reading, writing, and book ownership. Favorite pastimes spanned differences of gender and age, and crossed geographical and cultural boundaries. Literary and historical examples come from England, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy. Courtly Pastimes analyzes the underlying rationales for such activities: to display power and prestige, to acquire cultural capital, to instill a sense of community, or to build diplomatic alliances. Performativity - so crucial in social rituals - could become transgressive if taken to extremes. Certain chapters explore the spaces of courtliness: literal or imaginary; man-made, natural, or a hybrid of both. Other chapters concern materiality and visual elements associated with courtly pastimes: from humble children's toys and playthings to elite tournament attire, castle murals, and manuscript illuminations.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages256
ISBN (Electronic)9781000798852
StatePublished - Nov 25 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 selection and editorial matter, Gloria Allaire and Julie Human; individual chapters, the contributors.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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