This site is intended to be a learning aid for the casts of Renaissance Faires and Festivals. Here you will find lots of information covering History, Costume, and Dialect, plus some handy tips on how to survive a Faire Day. It is designed for use in a theatrical setting rather than in a re-enactment or scholarly setting. I have verified the accuracy of the information found here as much as possible, but please keep in mind that there is a certain amount of artistic license involved. In other words, don't quote this site in your history papers without checking the info yourself!
Also, I should mention here that although I have been greatly influenced by my work at various shows, none of them are in any way responsible for any of the content on this site. All opinions and attitudes expressed here are my own (except of course for those on "external" links, which belong to the authors of those pages, and should appear in their own browser windows). If you have a beef with this site, I want to know, so write to me! I'll be happy to read any reasonable critiques or suggestions you may have.
The site is divided into several sections: History, Character Research, Costume, Dialect, and Survival. Each section will contain both original material and links to other sites which have additional information. To move around the site, just click on any of the links in the navigation frame at the top (or at the bottom of the page, if your browser does not support frames).
But first, some basic information about the premise of a Festival day that everyone needs to know...
Most Faires and Festivals (I use the two terms interchangably) take place in little villages somewhere in England. This makes a certain amount of practical sense, since it's a darn sight easier to build a village than a full-blown city like, say, London.
Some shows are "tent Faires," meaning that they have primarily non-permanent buildings. Sometimes these shows use the premise of a village, but they are more likely to think of themselves as market faires.
There are a few shows that are non-English, but they are a distinct minority in the US, for obvious cultural and linguistic reasons. For this reason, I'm concentrating on the English setting here.
Ah, philosophy! The purpose of a Renaissance Festival is to entertain our customers by creating the illusion of a Sixteenth-century village. Everything we do is in the service of that illusion. The more we know about the Period, the stronger that illusion becomes, and the more we entertain our guests. This site is intended to help you find as much information as possible to help you in that mission.
Well...That depends on the show. Shows generally fall into five categories:
A brief word about historical accuracy: depending on the show, we may not be bound to a particular year. At most shows, we have a window of historical time that spans about a century-and-a-half. This gives us quite a bit of leeway as to the specifics of our costumes and characters. However, we have to be careful not to interpret this leeway as a license to commit anachronisms. Our guests come to see the Renaissance, so let's give them the Renaissance! Some anachronisms are inevitable, though. Here is a set of guidelines for the uses of anachronism.
All right, now that you know the basic situation, let's get down to business. Pick a section, and dive right in!