The Performance of Victorian Medievalism

  • Barbara Bell

Abstract

The medieval performance structure that lay at the heart of the nineteenth-century embrace of medievalism was the tournament, and perhaps the key factor in the ease with which Victorians played at and played with the medieval tournament was the essentially performative and doubled nature of the original event. Louise Fradenburg’s account in City, Marriage, Tournament: Arts of Rule in Late Medieval Scotland1 of the way in which monarchs used the performance space of the tournament field variously for public entertainment, personal recreation, military training, political maneuvering, diplomatic dialogue, and settling serious disputes makes clear that role play and the taking on of symbolic and idealized personae were key elements in the construction of tournaments.2 Nineteenth-century authors, particularly Sir Walter Scott, understood and utilized this aspect of tournaments in shaping their narratives, and it was recognized and embraced by nineteenth-century participants in recreations.

Keywords

Europe Steam Expense Smoke Arena 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Louise O. Fradenburg, City, Marriage, Tournament: Arts of Rule in Late Medieval Scotland (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992).Google Scholar
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    At the last the general populace might have lost sight of the origins of the splendid spectacles that were the steam gallopers in full flow, but the fairground community remembered and in 1928, the American National Association of Amusement Parks passed a resolution in praise of a noted carousel maker who had recently died: The knights of old rode their magnificently caparisoned horses only in defense of themselves and their honor and to what they thought is [sic] their lasting way of fame. Our member produced a finer caparisoned horse than the world had known up to his time, and best of all, it was produced to give joy to the millions, and any man who made his fellow man happy, cannot be said to have lived his life in vain. Quoted in F. Fried, A Pictorial History of the Carousel (New York: A.S. Barnes and Co., 1978). The maker was William H. Dentzel.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Lorretta M. Holloway and Jennifer A. Palmgren 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Bell

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