Games and Pastimes

During Shakespeare's time he was not the only famous person alive. One other was Queen Elizabeth who the Elizabethan Era is named after. During this era, which spanned form 1550 to 1650, the people needed ways of entertainment. One form of entertainment was games and pastimes.The three main types of games and pastimes were sports, gambling, and dice and board games.

Sports were the first type of games and pastimes. Most of the sports that people played during this time period are still around today such as archery, tennis, hunting, bowling, football, and wrestling and fencing. Archers would shoot at targets called butts with long bows and cross bows (Emerson 209). Archery was so popular that ,by law, it had to be practiced by healthy males under age 60 (Picard 225). Tennis was played with a ball made of fabric scraps and stuffed with hair which was hit with a gloved hand (Fitzpatrick 140). The favorite target of hunters were red deer, but was only allowed to be hunted by the noble and rich. The gamekeeper would release the deer then later release dogs to track it. Once the deer was found it was trapped and killed (Fitzpatrick 141). Bowling was played on cut grass called bowling greens. One type of bowling was Kayles in which you threw sticks at wooden pegs to knock them down. Another version was where you threw a bone at other bones to knock them down (Fitzpatrick 140). Football, or soccer, was played between two villages in which the field stretched for miles and often had forests and rivers on it. The goal was to kick a wooden, leather, or inflated animal bladder ball into the opponent's village. The game caused many injuries which resulted in the introduction of coaches and referees (Hood 114). Wrestling and Fencing are the next two sports. Men would wrestle each other or pin a women to the ground until she gave them a kiss. Fencing matches caused injury and sometimes ended in death. In 1613 a law was put into place that if there was a death during a match the killer would be punished with death (Fitzpatrick 141). Another part of sports was the Cotswold Games, in which the played these sports and others like hammer throw, jumping competitions, and shin kicking ( Emerson 211). Other sports played were handball, swimming and Dung-in-a-Mire which involved pulling a cart of horse dung different distances (Olsen 313). Just like today, sports during the Elizabethan Era were a major part of the peoples' games and pastimes.

The second part of games and pastimes during the Elizabethan Era was gambling. In 1567 a grand lottery was held in London, England. There were 400,000 tickets up for sale at ten shillings a piece for five months. In the end the winner received 5000 pounds, 3000 in money and the rest in armour, household items, and hangings. These winnings are equivalent to 2 million current US dollars. If all of the tickets had been bought the winner could have recieved 100,000 pounds, or 40 million US dollars. Since the winner of the first lottery got so many winnings and more could have been won, more people particapated in the next lottery, which was held 18 years later in 1585 (Picard 226-227). The Elizabetan Era people also gambled on cad gaes like One and Thirty and Maw. Even the nobility gambled during this era. In a period of four years Lord Nort lost 70 pounds or 28,000 US dollars, to Queen Elizabeth in dice and card games (Picard 212). The last type of gambling was gambling on animal fights. The three main animal fights were bull baiting, bear baiting, and cock fighting. The people of Elizabethan England would sit, watch, and gamble on these fights.Gambling was a way to pass time during the Elizabethan Era so it is a part of the era's games and pastimes ( Picard 219-220).

Elizabethan card Gambling Game

Just like sports and gambling, dice and board games were a part of Elizabethan games and pastimes. Three Elizabethan board games that still exist today are chess, checkers, or droughts, and backgammon, or tables. Chess and checkers were played the same way that they are today (Emerson 309-310). Backgammon is the game that is now different from then back then. There was toady's version and a version called Tick-Tack which was played with pegs and holes (Olsen 312). Another popular board game was Nine Men's Morris, which was like a complex version of tick-tack-toe. Each player took turns placing one of their nine pieces, or men, on the board. Once all of the pieces had been placed the players took turns moving a piece. The objective was to get a mill, three pieces in a row. When a person got a mill they could remove one of their opponents pieces. To win you had to get your opponent down to two pieces or make them not able to move (Olsen 313-313). People also played dice games. The dice were made of gold,silver,ivory,wood,or bone. For every dice game you had to roll a certain number.The most popular winning numbers to roll were 3,5,9 and doubles adding up to 10 or more. In order to make easy money people would use weighted dice that were rigged to roll high or low numbers. The person would either use the dice or frame someone and accuse them of using the dice and collect their winnings (Olsen 309). Other games people played were Troll-My-Dames, in which you rolled balls down a platform into holes, and Billiards which was like Croquet but on a table (Olsen 312). The Elizabethan people also played shovel grout, which was like shovel board but on a table, and Alquerques, which was a strategic game (Elizabethan England Life Website). These many different dice and board games were the third part of Elizabethan London's games and pastimes.

Nine Mens Morris

Shakespeare was alive during the Elizabethan Era which occurred between 1550 and 1650. During this this time period the people of England had many ways of entertainment. One way was through games and pastimes. These games and pastimes ranged anywhere from cock and bear baiting to simple dice and card games. The three main types of games and pastimes were sports, gambling, and dice and board games.

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By: Zach Brechbiel