The Findern MS contains the physical remnants of a social ‘game of love’ played by a group of family and friends in the neighborhood of 15th century Derbyshire. These gentry scribes collected their favorite canonical works to be used as entertainment in their own right, but also as beginning points for debates pursued in their own love lyrics. These strands of poetic conversations were then added into the MS’s blank spaces. Looking at the gentry’s playful literate practices (corporate copying, reading, singing, debating, and composing) offers the careful reader a glimpse into the uses that 15th century male and female readers made of the Chaucerian tradition, and offers new readings for a corpus of lyrics that are generally analyzed without this manuscript context.
Medieval social games often portrayed the status and skill of the aristocracy, and the gentry later developed a taste for such activities as well. To date, there has been no comprehensive investigation of the relationship between medieval social games and their materiality within English manuscripts. Focusing on game-texts and their circulation in lay manuscripts, including MS Digby 86, the Book of Brome, and MS Fairfax 16, I argue that the notion of entertainment was a complex space of play within an emerging textual community in England. This paper aims to identify the root of recreational trends that appear in the later Middle Ages and provide an increased understanding of how literary games were played, performed, and operated as sites of engagement for both poets and readers.
A Banquet in the medieval sense was not just a splendid dinner with many hot dishes, presented by servants to diners who were sitting at tables, but a (mostly) cold buffet with self-service of the guests who might walk around, arranged after a dinner in a separate room or in the late 15th century also as an event in itself. ‘Le Banquet des Voeux du Faisan’ of Philip the Good Duke of Burgundy in the town of Lille on Sunday February 17, 1454, was a banquet in this technical sense. For the behaviour of the guests and the logistics of the feast this element of self-service made all the difference.