Authentic 11th Century Pageantry in Nine North American Locations
Realistically set in 11th century Spain, attendees are part of a Medieval Times show, representing guests invited by royalty to a festival and feast to watch knights compete on horseback and battle on foot. Royal guests are entertained by a falconry demonstration, an equestrian show and medieval games, all leading up to the main event – an authentic tournament for the Battle of Champion.
Medieval Times Pre Show
Castle doors open 90 minutes prior to the Medieval Times show’s start time, and plenty is offered to keep guests entertained leading up to the show. Within the Hall of Arms waiting area reside gift shop areas, a medieval torture museum, weaponry and artifacts, and bars with specialty and souvenir drinks. Knighting ceremonies take place pre-show as well.
Medieval Times Show
Upon entering the castle, guests are appointed a specific knight to root for – any of six, each representing a different region of medieval Spain – and receive a crown for their knight. Multicolored, stadium-style seating spans out surrounding the central show grounds, in black and white, blue, red and yellow, yellow, red and green knight sections.
Through various authentic dinner courses, royal guests cheer on their knight, as they are taken back to the 11th century with accurate weaponry and costuming, and “Hollywood-caliber” special effects. The characters and storyline change every few years to keep the excitement fresh, but an action-packed show is always a given.
The Medieval Times Dinner
Dinner is an important part of the Medieval Times experience, as the feast was an integral part of the medieval tradition it is based after. Being as true to the 11th century as possible while still producing a great show, no utensils are served with the meal, forcing guests to eat with their hands, medieval style.
The meal starts with a bowl of tomato bisque soup, a slice of garlic bread and a cold beverage. Upon the king’s request to “let the feast begin,” the servers bring out roasted chicken, spare ribs and herb-basted potatoes for guests to enjoy as they watch the show play out in front of them.
For non-meat eaters, a vegetarian option is available and includes a large Portobello mushroom cap stuffed with whole grains, rice and beans; a skewer of roasted vegetables; and hummus served with pita chips. For dessert, each guest receives the “pastry of the castle” and coffee. Alcoholic beverages are available as well.
Medieval Times Tickets and Current Promotions
The Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament take place at nine castles throughout North America, including Kissimmee, Florida; Buena Park, California; Lyndhurst, New Jersey; Schaumburg, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Hanover, Maryland; and Atlanta, Georgia. Regular admission to Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament varies depending on the property visited but runs anywhere between about $50 to $60 for adults and about $30 to $35 for children.
Several upgrade options are offered at each location. For an extra $20 per person, the King’s Royalty Package includes VIP first-row, all sections or second-row, center section seating; a framed group entrance photo with King Philippe; a behind the scenes DVD; a commemorative program; and a cheering banner for your assigned knight.
For an extra $10, the Royalty Package gives guests preferred seating in the second and third rows; a cheering banner for your knight; a behind the scenes DVD; and a commemorative program. Lastly, the Celebration Package offers preferred seating in the second or third row; a slice of cake; a framed group photo; a behind the scenes DVD; a commemorative program and a cheering banner for an extra $16 per person.
Discounted promotions are often offered as well. For shows through June 30, 2010, tickets can be purchased for as little as $30 each when four admissions are bought at once. Three admissions can be purchased for $100 total, or two for $75. Through April 18, when one adult ticket is purchased, a second adult or child admission is free. A free upgrade to the Royalty Package is available through March 31 with each full-priced admission.
Year ’round, folks celebrating their birthday can receive free admission with a paid admission if signed up online more than a week prior to their birthdays. Discounts are available for tickets purchased online and over the phone, and cannot be combined. Visit Medieval Times for discount codes and information.
The mystery plays generally date from the High Gothic era, and their high point came in the 14th and 15th centuries. Modern revivals have shown the power that these sacred dramas still retain.
In England, the plays were usually performed by the guilds, from which came the word ‘mystery’ – the Latin word mysterium meaning ‘occupation’, ie. the guilds.
Characteristics of the Mystery Plays
The plays dramatized sacred history from the Creation to the Last Judgment, including along the way Old Testament stories such as the Flood, Nativity plays, and episodes from Christ’s ministry, as well as the passion and resurrection.
All the surviving plays use homely and often outspoken language to make biblical stories real to ordinary people. They often had enormous casts – in York, many hundreds of people took part in performances.
The Surviving Cycles of English Mystery Plays
It is possible that many towns had their own versions of the mystery plays, but only four cycles of mystery plays have survived. The longest is the York cycle, which contains 48 episodes. It probably dates from the last quarter of the 14th century and is therefore probably the earliest cycle, though it has later additions and alterations.
The town of Wakefield, in Yorkshire, had its own cycle of mystery plays, 32 in total, of which five were borrowed from the York cycle and others probably written by a single author, dubbed the ‘Wakefield Master’. Both the York and Wakefield plays share the same robust humor and earthy realism.
The Chester cycle comprised 25 plays, of which only 24 remain. Compared with the two Yorkshire cycles, the Chester plays have a simpler and more austere tone.
The fourth surviving group, consisting of 42 plays, is known as the ‘N-Town’ plays. Originally these were thought to have come from Coventry, but seem in fact to have been probably a touring cycle of East Anglian origin, performed by traveling players who were probably professional actors.
How the Mystery Plays Were Staged
The plays would have been performed on pageant wagons, large wagons with two tiers, with the performance up above and the lower tier used as a dressing room. The wagons would have been hauled from one location to the next.
Often the plays would have been performed in a single day. In York, with its cycle of 48 plays, probably performed at 16 different stations, the plays would have started at first light and continued well after dark. At Chester, however, the plays were probably performed over three days in five different locations.
Modern Revivals of the Mystery Plays
In 1977, to great acclaim, the National Theatre staged The Mysteries, an adaptation of the Wakefield cycle with elements of some of the other cycles, and since then a number of other revivals of these ancient and powerful plays have taken place.