Activities & Entertainments

Bandes events are excellent venues for Elizabethan pastimes.  Outdoor entertainments occurred during the daylight hours, such as bearbaiting and attending plays at the theaters.  After sunset card and dice games and board games are popular.  Games of all kinds were very popular, both during the day and at night. A few of the more popular entertainments are as follows.


Games includes both indoor and outdoor activities. Indoor games can be card games, dice games, board games or others. The rules for all games in period were subject to local variation and could change from day-to-day, or even hand-to-hand, not unlike a modern poker game. If you are unsure of the rules, ask before it begins; you may discover that the others each have different rules in mind.

A Note on Gambling

Games are fun to play, and they indulge the extremely popular Elizabethan pastime of gambling. Elizabethans were known to gamble on any- and everything. People would bet on which way a fly would go once it took off from the table. To join in, the money changer will give you coins to game with.  Coins are purchased by the Company and distributed to members and guests. Periodically, members are asked to return some coins to refill the Company coffers.

Indoor Games

Think of the game Goose as Monopoly, except more cutthroat and played with your own money instead. Goose, like Monopoly, also requires a marker, which you provide. You should keep some small period item (button, pin, toy, etc.) in your pouch to use at the Goose board.


A trick-taking card game played with three cards to each player. Simple rules, no math involved. Whichever player takes two of three tricks, wins the pot. This is an easy and fun game for beginners to learn.


Similar to modern poker, this card game is fairly complicated, with period hands that do not exactly correspond to poker hands. Cheat sheets are used.

Other Games

Other popular indoor games include Shovegroat and Tables (backgammon).

Outdoor Games


Similar to badminton, this game is played with a cork “birdie” or shuttlecock and wooden paddles called battledores. There are usually several on hand to lend. This game can accommodate two to twenty (or more) players. “The more, the merrier” is our motto.


A period version of golf and similar to field hockey. The rules are still being worked out and are usually made up on the spot.


Similar to rugby or soccer, this is a game for the younger members of the Bandes.


One of the Elizabethan pastimes was to attend the bear garden and watch dogs try to tear the bear apart before it killed them. We pay homage to that with our own version involving a bear costume and pillow fights.

Other Games

Versions of croquet and bocce are also played. Many other games were played in period; you are encouraged to bring any you are familiar with and teach others to play.


Music was popular in period, and everyone would join in singing, regardless of ability. The Bandes have recreated that activity, with great enthusiasm, if not talent. New members will eventually learn the standards — Amaryllis, Jolly Broom Man, Of All the Birds. The Company has songbooks with lyrics, as well as a CD’s of songs. Ask the Education Officer for a copy of either.

You can use instruments from the period, although more often modern versions are what is available (guitars, rather than lutes, for instance). People who can play instruments are encouraged to learn the period songs and to introduce new ones as well. We do not sing or play songs written later than 1620 and therefore avoid most folksongs and 19th Century sea shanties.


While dance was a very popular pastime in period, sadly, the Company having lost its dancing master to an ague, doesn’t dance anymore. Should you be interested in dance, you can (try to) get everyone involved. Don’t be surprised if it turns into Camp-ball.

Entertainment Items 
  • Dice
  • Cards
  • Battledore
  • Musical instrument (period)
  • Company songbook

Low and Lusty Songs, The City Waites (1995) Many Elizabethan tunes, with music and voices.

Shakespeare’s Music, various artists (2000) A selection of 16th C. songs, with music and voices.

Tudors Lo, Country Sports, The Purcell Consort of Voices (1971) Music of the Elizabethan countryside.

1588: Music from the Time of the Spanish Armada, The York Waits (1995) Nice collection of popular and dance numbers.


Before the Mast: Life and Death Aboard the Mary Rose Julie Gardiner (Ed.) (2013). An archeological examination of the contents and personal belongings of the crew of the Mary Rose, an English warship that sank in 1545

Daily Life in Elizabethan England, Second Edition, Jeffrey Singman (2009). A general account of life in the period, heavily informed by living history, and geared towards living history use; includes patterns, songs, games, etc.

Francis Willughby’s Treatise on Games. Dorothy Johnson, David Cram, and Jeffrey Singman.  The best single source of period games.

The Renaissance Dance Book, Thomas & Gingell,  (1987). Among the best of all modern guides, it covers a selection of 16th-century dances. It comes with sheet music and an extremely good tape. Kelischek Workshop, RT1, Box 26, Brasstown, NC 28902.

The Compleat Gamester, Charles Cotton, (1930 [1674]). Rules for dice, card, and board games.Pleasures and Pastimes in Tudor England, Alison Sims (1999) Explores the full range of entertainments enjoyed at that time covering everything from card games and bear baiting to interior design.