Turns out medieval people were just as funny as modern folk (Picture: PA)
Kings, priests and peasants were all at the mercy of medieval comics, a rare manuscript from the 15th century has revealed.
The ‘mad and offensive’ comedy was unearthed at the National Library of Scotland by Dr James Wade who said it poked fun at everyone, high and low.
It was written by a household cleric who copied the jokes from an unknown minstrel performing around Derbyshire in about 1480 – all while the Wars of the Roses raged.
Dr Wade had a ‘moment of epiphany’ when he noticed the scribe had penned: ‘By me, Richard Heege, because I was at that feast and did not have a drink.’
‘It was an intriguing display of humour and it’s rare for medieval scribes to share that much of their character,’ the Cambridge University academic said.
The minstrel openly encouraged their audience to get drunk, and one funny scene is eerily familiar to Monty Python’s Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog sketch.
‘Manuscripts often preserve relics of high art,’ Dr Wade said. ‘This is something else. It’s mad and offensive, but just as valuable.
Dr James Wade uncovered the hilarious manuscript from the 15th century (Picture: PA)
‘Stand-up comedy has always involved taking risks and these texts are risky, they poke fun at everyone, high and low.’
Dr Wade said the manuscript shows public entertainment was flourishing at a time of growing social mobility.
‘People back then partied a lot more than we do today, so minstrels had plenty of opportunities to perform,’ he said.
‘They were really important figures in people’s lives right across the social hierarchy. These texts give us a snapshot of medieval life being lived well.’
The manuscript offers a rare insight into the medieval sense of humour (Picture: PA)
Dr Wade believes the secrets have been hiding in plain sight because previous research has focused on how the manuscript was made and overlooked its comedic significance.
He added: ‘Here we have a self-made entertainer with very little education creating really original, ironic material.
‘To get an insight into someone like that from this period is incredibly rare and exciting.’
Many minstrels are thought to have had day jobs, including as ploughmen, but went gigging at night and weekends.
Some may have travelled across the country, while others stuck to a circuit of local venues as Dr Wade thinks this one did.
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Kings, priests and peasants were all at the mercy of medieval comics.