Is There a Minstrel in the House? Domestic Entertainment in Late Medieval England
This essay traces the recurring appearances of minstrels throughout the varied texts of Bodleian MS Ashmole 61, a late medieval household miscellany. From Sir Orfeo‘s portrait of a minstrel king whose redemptive performances can heal all wounds, to a unique stanza criticizing selfish minstrels added to a Lydgate satire, Ashmole 61’s texts continually circle around the image of the minstrel as a definition of entertainment’s relationship to domestic life. Moving beyond Ashmole 61, the argument considers discussions of minstrelsy and household life in PPl, Wynnere and Wastoure, and Middle English romances. Other domestic miscellanies (such as the manuscripts of Robert Thornton) offer further evidence. In all these texts, the minstrel appears crucially important for the imagination of domestic entertainment, and for the articulation of certain domestic ideals, such as generosity, the pleasure of surplus, familial sacrifice, and grace. (GS; from the journal’s webpage)
Philological Quarterly, 87 (2008), 51-76.