A very important aspect of making reenacted characters come alive is that when we speak, we must remember that to us it is not the 21st century. Therefore we should say things like “the way I thatch a roof is. . .” indicating that we are doing this as a natural and modern practice. Modern for 1495 anyway. I can’t believe how many “reenactors” tend to forget this kind of thing or claim that it’s not important. To me it’s a very basic part of bringing the past to life in the present tense.
Only speak in the past tense when it is appropriate for your character such as “last week I was working on Isabelle’s roof when a merchant from Trier came into town…” Do not say things such as “back in 1495…”, or “the way they used to do this…”, or “before cars they used horses for…” as this will only say to the listeners that you are Bob from town in funny clothes talking about how it was done over 500 years ago.
This simple adjustment of your language use will make the visitor to our event feel like they have been transported back in time. And for goodness sakes do NOT talk about video games, airplanes, who you saw at the Perkins last week or anything that is not directly related to our task at hand.
True living history is only 30% costume. What really brings a character to life is the way you speak and carry yourself. No, it doesn’t necessarily mean having an accent, though that helps, but its the rhythm of your talking and the words you use.
Modern slang and phrases is the first dead giveaway that you’re not doing a top job. Practice reading Shakespeare, Chaucer, or other similar works. Don’t read them as dry literature, but find the life that lies within them. They have a beat and tempo that, once found, adds so much to the scribblings on the page. This is what you want to find and incorporate into your character.
Every bit as important is to practice reading out loud to a group. Some of you may find this embarrassing at first, but its imperative that you learn do it well. Its not as daunting as you would think with a little practice. By bringing your character to life, you have created your own little piece of the 15th century, and if we all make our little pieces, when we put them together, our picture will be truly outstanding!
Some Medieval Vocabulary
Afore = Before
Behoof = Benefit, Advantage, Use
Bull = A papel edict or decree
Charges = Troops
Churl = A peasant; a rude person
Cunning = Knowledge, Learning, Skill
Enjoin = To command
Fain = Glad, Pleased, Happy
Palfrey = A riding horse
Rascal = Dishonest person, Rogue, Rabble