When I was in sixth grade, we studied medieval times with vigor unlike any other subject. I remember we filled notebooks with drawings of castles, coat of arms, lords, ladies, and knights in armor. We pretended we were ladies in distress while the boys jousted on the playground. We sat mesmerized as our teacher explained the devices of war and torture.
It was a particularly fun time. Margaret Hamilton, my teacher not the Wicked Witch of the West although, it was sometimes questionable, took an extra day to teach us medieval manners disguised as chivalry after the “devices of war” day, but I believe she enjoyed the fun, too.
A librarian first then author, playwright, and professional storyteller, Laura Amy Schlitz, faced a group of excited middle school kids at the Park School in Baltimore. She explains, “They were studying the Middle Ages and were going at it hammer and tongs. I wanted them to have something to perform, but no one wanted a small part. So I decided to write monologues instead of one long play, so that for three minutes at least, every child could be a star.”
The opportunity Schlitz seized is now the 2008, Newbery Medal winner, Good Master! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village. The children’s book illustrated by Robert Byrd contains 19 monologues and two plays for two actors. That is a total of 23 parts. If a teacher has a class of 25, and the bashful students help with costumes and scenery, everyone can take part.
The story revolves around a fictional medieval manor in 1255 England. The characters are the ages of the students performing and have names such as Hugo the lord’s nephew, Taggot the blacksmith’s daughter, Mogg the villein’s daughter, Thomas the doctor’s son, Nelly the sniggler, and Giles the beggar.
The story progresses as one monologue leads into the next. Some are light-hearted with sing-song quality such as Otho the miller’s son recites,
Father is the millerAs his father was of old,And I shall be the miller,When my father’s flesh is cold.
Lack-a-witNumskullMooncalfFool.That’s what they call me.That’s what they yell in the village when I walk through.
This is the perfect book for those teachers who want to extend the gallantry of medieval times.