The medieval times were a bleak period of human history, but that certainly didn’t mean that the people didn’t like to enjoy themselves. Though money wasn’t a commodity for everyone, people certainly knew how to relax and have a good time. Across the board, from the wealthy to the poor, there were common pastimes even some that overlapped and allowed the classes to enjoy time together. Frequently the entertainment would be held in the common area of the castle or town, allowing all to gather to enjoy some time away from the grind of their daily lives.
Among the nobles and the wealthy, it was not uncommon to hold feasts as a form of entertainment, though the lower classes, other than serving the food, were largely excluded from these events. The wealthy individual would open their castle to their other wealthy neighbors, often around holidays or other special occasions. Music and other forms of live entertainment, such as dancing, juggling, jesters, food and drink were also enjoyed at these feasts and it was not uncommon for there to be gifts exchanged among those in attendance.
Tournaments were also another common form of entertainment held throughout the land where knights and nobles would come together to compete with all being welcomed as spectators. There would be a variety of games such as sword play, jousting, horseback riding and fighting. All walks of life from the nobles to the common peasants would gather to watch and cheer for their favorite participant. Music, storytelling, jugglers and food could also be found at these events. As was the case at the feasts, it was common for people to enjoy their drink – mead or wine for the upper class and ale for the lower classes. To this end, taverns were also a popular escape for entertainment of differing varieties, some moral, some not so much so.
Music was a very important part of medieval society, not just for entertainment, but for society as a whole. Musicians and traveling minstrels could be found at feasts, tournaments and around castles and towns. While these musicians often lived close to or below poverty, traveling minstrels were a mainstay of medieval life. Music was also a source of entertainment through the church. Not that the church was anything less than a cornerstone of the medieval life, but choirs and priests incorporated song into their services through instruments and hymns allowing the population, wealthy and poor, to enjoy when in attendance at the church.
The performing arts were also a large part of medieval society. In many ways, the theater was almost common place in medieval society. Like the traveling minstrels, traveling performers were a constant. It was common for these performers to create new works, generally drawing their themes from biblical reference. They would perform in the town or castle square for all who saw fit to attend, then would rely on the contributions of the audience for their earnings.
Nobles and the wealthy would sometimes have performers as their employees to provide regular entertainment whenever they desired.