A Character Creation How-To
First things first, as a performer at renaissance faire you need to come up with a character concept: who you are, what you do, where you belong in the social strata of the world. In order to do this you need to do some research into the time in order to get an accurate picture of what you need. But how lucky you are that I've decided to put in the time and the work to help you with this. Below are several items that will contribute to helping you create your character. I hope this helps.
While you are filling out the "Who Am I?" worksheet, these are some good questions to be thinking about. These questions would be very useful in creating a more detailed background sketch for your character. Think long and hard about these questions because these will set the stage for how your character would act/interact, etc...
How to Choose a Name That Suits You
Your faire name is the persona you wish to portray at faire. It says a lot about who and what your are. For instance a midwife may name herself Sarah Birthright, or a butcher Simon Longwurst. In some instances the name you have at faire is chosen for you if you are playing an historical character. Since you don't have to choose your name you have the added responsibility of researching your character. There isn't any one particular place where you can find all that you need to know about your "persona" and will require time and effort on your part.
When choosing a name, you need to decide if you're going to be historical, common, or humorous. Use your imagination and try to make it appropriate. It may be a variation on your "real" (i.e. Mundane) name: a woman named Moore chose the name Bestmoore. Historical characters are all over the literature that we read, you need only to choose one, research it, and create the appropriate garb. If you are, instead, going for historical accuracy you would choose a common name. Did you know that 70% of the women in any town were named Elizabeth, Joan, Margaret, Anne, Alice, Agnes, Mary, Jane or Katherine? And approximately 70% of the men in any town were named John, Thomas, William, Richard, or Robert? Rather dull, but in the time period the pool of names that were available was considerably smaller. (See "List of Common Names") If you don't care to be overly historically accurate you can go for a humorous name. For example, William Bates would be called Master Bates (which is one of the most overdone character names in the world if you ask me). Be creative, please! And all those overly sexy and/or disgusting names are nowhere near as funny as you think they are.Where Babies' Names Come From
(from: Faire Names for English Folk: Late Sixteenth Century English Names)
If you were born in Elizabethan England, your parents would name you when you were baptized. Usually this was just a few days after your birth. It was not, however, your parents who actually presented you at the church; it was your godparents: ideally, two women and a man if you were a girl, two men and a woman if you were a boy. It was very common for parents to try to get godparents who were higher in social status than themselves, such as local nobles or prominent people in town. Many parents also asked the baby's grandparents, aunts or uncles to serve as godparents. One reason the choice of godparents was important is that you would most likely be named after one of them. According to Scott Smith-Bannister's recent study about 75% to 85% of children were given the name of a godparent, in the cases where we know both the children's and the godparents' names.
His data also show that if you were not named for a godparent, you would probably be named after a parent or another close relative. You were especially likely to get the name of a particular godparent or relative if they had a lot of money or status. You and the person you were named after were referred to as "namesakes." Thus, parents clearly did choose a child's name with care, but not (as we do today) just because it was a name they had heard and liked. Usually only godparents' and parents' names were considered as possibilities.
Check out:Faire Names for English Folk: Late Sixteenth Century English Names
List of Common Elizabethan Names
Names are listed with the typical version first and variations thereof in italics afterwards.
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