Filling the Time
As we know, there is nothing as dangerous as a bored nobleman (unless it's an idle soldier). These are some of the ways—besides hunting—that a courtier might fill his or her time.
Gossip, of course. But, like flirting, you can do that anywhere, especially while doing almost any of the following.
Tennis is popular. It's played indoors or in a high-walled outdoor court. (The grass court comes into use in 1591.)
The ball is made of leather and stuffed with hair.
In one version, there are no rackets; you hit the ball with the palm of your hand over a tasseled rope stretched across the center of the court.
Other sports include bowls (lawn bowling) for which Henry VIII set up an alley at White Hall. Bowling alleys exist about London for ordinary people, too.
Also shuttlecock (like badminton), archery, billiards, hunting and riding, wrestling, and political maneuvering.
Pall Mall has probably not yet come to England, but is popular in France and Scotland. It is not exactly croquet, so you can do what you like with the mallet and balls in the prop box.
Attend the theatre. Remember, this is in the afternoons, since there is no artificial lighting.
Young gentlemen of appearance can, for an extra fee, have their chairs put right up on the stage.
There is a different play every day; perhaps 4-6 plays in a repertory season.
There are no playhouses until 1576; the performance is very likely in an inn yard.
Ladies may attend, but are usually veiled or in masks.
Have the players in. Have them bring the play to your house. Count the silverware before they leave. Make sure you know who their patron is. Try to avoid Richard II (with its deposition scene) and other controversial works, just in case. Do not sell tickets.
13 March 2010 mps