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 that damn Muddy Rag #11 The Origin of the Mud Show®
2003 Edition 
The Officious Newsletter of the Sturdy Beggar™ Appreciation Society
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The Origin of the Mud Show® at Renaissance Festivals
By Billy Billy vonBilly
Billy Billy vonBillyHowdy.
If you are like lots of normal average folks, when you first heard there was a Mud Show® at your neighborhood Renaissance Festival you might have quickly assumed that mud "wrestling" was involved. If you did indeed happen to see our little comedic piece you might have noticed that we did not mud wrestle. However, there are lots of folks who make the "mud wrestling" assumption and then dismiss us as too base or anachronistic. We may be base, but we are far less anachronistic than many of the features and entertainment at your local Faire. As most of us surmise, the festivals of this century that portray "ye olde Renaissance Faires" cannot be true representations of a Renaissance (i.e., Elizabethan) faire. If we were to truly speak and interact with all the paying patrons in this manner, you would have no idea what we were saying and doing most of the time. Not to mention that if all the participants were to be truly in character we would have no idea what the paying patrons were saying, let alone tolerate how they were behaving.

Fact is, these Renaissance faires were seldom held in villages, they were mostly held in the fields of a wealthy nobleman. These noblemen would profit from renting the land to all the folk who wished to do business at the faire. Depending on the faire, and exact decade, they would consist of horse traders and vendors, from cloth to pewter. There would be entertainment from the upper-crusted Sturdy Beggars*, which would draw people of most classes, to the lower crust of Sturdy Beggar, the cut-purses, pick-pockets and forgers who would dart through the crowds. Many times the lower-crust Sturdy Beggar would work in tandem with your upper-crust Sturdy Beggar. Most performances would have the pick-pocket mingling with the crowd. The more captivating the entertainment was, the better conditions were for fleecing the crowd. Furthermore, there is no documentation that Queen Elizabeth would be found in attendance at these faires. She and her court would avoid such places for fear of the plague and for security's sake. Another anachronism that is not only widely accepted, but its presence is insisted upon, is Jousting. It is true, jousting, which had already seen its day, was indeed being performed for The Queen Elizabeth I, but only on her lands and as a historic entertainment for her and the nobility's amusement.

Anyway, since our Sturdy Beggar Mud Show® was quite raucous, we were quite popular with the cut-purses and their ilk. Truth be told, at most of these faires we were not performing n the mud… you see, most everyone at the faire already lived in the mud. At one of our performances at Holyrood Faire at Durrest near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, the Lord Mayor (fill-in-the-blank-with-the-Lord-Mayor’s-name-of-whatever-town-we-are-in) happened to be in attendance. Other than our medium of barf and dung, His Lordship "liked our spirit." He said, "My lads, we are having a royal festival in our town to celebrate the Queen's arrival to our shire. We would desire your entertainment, but for the gentle nature of our fine citizenry, we would insist your performance be in something less base. You, fyne Sturdy Beggars, would be most welcome… however, your cut-purse partners in grime would be only shown the hospitality of our fyne stockades." We said, "Fyne, why not," and here we are at (fill-in-the-blank-with-whatever-Renaissance-Festival-we’re-performing-at).

I hope this explains to everyone that we don't mud wrestle, and that we are as “period,” if not more so, than a lot of the “authentic” attractions at your neighbor hood Renaissance Festival.

*In 1572 the government passed an “Act for the Punishment of Vagabonds, Jugglers, Tinkers, Chapmen, Peddlers, Fencers, Bear-wards and Common Players,” who were to be adjudged "sturdy beggars,” meaning the able-bodied unemployed, who were to be whipped back to their parish of residence unless they were licensed by two justices of the peace or were accredited employees of a peer of the realm. There was at once a rush of players seeking acknowledgment and the liveries of the nobility.

(For additional origin o’ the Sturdy Beggars material, see “that damn Muddy Rag #5, summer ’95 – “A Short Historie of the Sturdye Beggars” and “An Accurate Accounting of the Appellation Sturdy Beggars.” We also suggest clicking on the enormous link below!)

Why Are The Sturdy Beggars? And How Is A Mud Show?

that damn Muddy Rag #11 designed & executed by B. H. Lumpyn, L13 11/02 editor: B. H. Lumpyn
scribes du jour: B.B. vB, L13, B. H. Lumpyn, D. S. Fubar
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