Elizabethan leisure

Elizabethan leisure

In the Elizabethan era (1558-1603), there were a wide range of leisure activities entertaining both the nobility and the common classes. Among these leisure activities were animal fighting, team sports, individual sports, games, dramatics, music and the arts.

Blood sports

A range of pastimes which would now be considered blood sports were popular. Cock fighting was a common pastime, and the bets on this game could amount to thousands of pounds, an exorbitant amount of money in those days, and many respectable gentlemen lost all their money this way.fact|date=April 2008 Henry VIII had a Royal Cockpit built at one of his palaces.

Young boys on Shrove Tuesday would normally bring in their own fighting rooster and would spend the afternoon at school placing bets on which rooster would winFact|date=December 2007. The most famous cock-pit in London was in Drury Lane, and most towns and villages had their own pit.

There were other common animal sports: bear-baiting, bullfighting, and dog fighting [ [http://www.elizabethan-era.org.uk/elizabethan-sports.htm Elizabethan Sports ] ] , and cock throwing.


Various types of hunting were popular with the nobility or gentlemen. The stag, boar, roe, buck, badgers, otters, hares, and foxes were also hunted.

For the wealthier gentleman, hawking was a sport, but forbidden for women.Fact|date=March 2008 Much time was spent on training a hawk or falcon, and for keeping it in good condition.

Team Sports

Elizabethan style football was comparable to the present day sports of rugby union or rugby league. Two teams rushed against each other, trying to get the "ball" in through the goalposts. "Cudgels" was also a popular sport among young men [http://www.thearma.org/essays/wasters.htm] . A type of stick fighting it was effectively training for sword fighting, but using wooden wasters or simple cudgels.

Individual Sports

Running, jumping, fencing, jousting, archery, and skittles were also practised, with fishing as the most relaxing and harmless pastime.

Children enjoyed playing leap-frog, blind-mans-bluff and hide-and-seek, which are enjoyed by many children throughout Britain even today.


Elizabethans enjoyed playing cards, with a game called ‘Triumph’ (modern day Whist) being popular. Dice, backgammon and draughts were also played. Only men played these games as it was deemed inappropriate for a woman to gamble.Fact|date=March 2008

Music and dance

Music was greatly enjoyed throughout this era, as seen through quite a few family evenings including musical performances. Children were taught to sing and dance at a very early age and became used to performing in public during such evenings. Keyboard instruments such as harpsichords, clavichords, dulcimers and virginals were played. Woodwind instruments like recorders, crumhorns, flutes and stringed instruments such as lutes and rebecs were also widely used.

Court dances included the Pavane and Galliard, the Almain and the Lavolta, whilst among popular dances were the Branle, "The Barley-Break" (a setting by William Byrd is in My Ladye Nevells Booke), "Nobody’s Jig" (of which a version was set by Richard Farnaby) and the "Shake-a-Trot".


The theatre was an extremely popular pastime, with William Shakespeare's plays taking the lead in audience.fact|date=April 2008 Quite a few theatres were built in and around London at this time including "The Globe", "The Swan" and "The Fortune". Little scenery was used but props were used widely. The props were quite realistic, with innards of pigs being strewn across the stage when a man's body was shown to be cut open.Fact|date=March 2008


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