In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the main performers of music were the minstrels or bards, singing ballads and telling epic tales wherever they went. Many courts had a different sort of entertainer as well, a jester or fool, whose role was to amuse the gentry. Oftentimes there were theater performers, puppeteers, and even acrobats who would travel and earn their way by performing. Redwall, too, has its performers: occasional groups of traveling actor-musicians; some wandering storytellers; the rare true bard.
Another name for a minstrel is bard, and indeed a more common term among fantasy stories. They were typically well-educated in the arts, and had excellent memories. It would be common for a minstrel to be able to read and write. There were court bards, who stayed at a single court and played for that court alone, but more common were the traveling minstrels. These wandering bards would travel from court to court, performing in exchange for room, board, and sometimes clothing. Generally, the minstrel would pay the lord of the castle or manor so that he could perform for the peasantry. In court, the bard usually sang epic ballads, love songs, and the like. These songs were often sung in French. Among the commoners, songs were typically more politically centered, and sung in common English. Minstrels were usually very respected by the lords, because of the bards' great power among the minds of men. If mistreated by some lord, they might compose songs that showed that lord in a none-too-pleasing light, and the songs might live on past the minstrel or the lord. If treated well and their respect gained, the minstrel might compose a song that showed the lord in a more favorable light.
Redwall has its own minstrels, although they normally travel in groups such as the Rambling Rosehip Players. Aubreita, in Martin the Warrior, could perhaps be considered a minstrel, as she did wander about telling stories and singing songs.
|Although bard has become synonymous with minstrel, I found a site full of info on bards as defined as a Celtic poet/musician... What is a Bard?|
Jesters, also called fools, were often far more intelligent than they acted. They usually stayed with one lord, entertaining him and amusing his court. The jester was an acrobat and a comedian both. He would often juggle and perform acrobatic feats, all in a clowning manner, but was also expected to be very witty, good with puns and able to twist words around. The court fool could be a subtle political weapon of his lord as well, by poking fun at someone the lord wished to humiliate. Few could blame a fool for being foolish, after all, and insulting was his job, and so...
A jester typically wore colorful, silly-looking clothing with tassels and bells.
For More Information:
|Minstrels and Jesters|
|What is a Minstrel?|
|What is a Bard?|
|What is a Troubadour?|
|The Art of Storytelling|
|More on the Art of Storytelling|
|The Bardic Arts|
|Center for Puppetry Arts|