TOURNAMENT. Medieval tournaments had originally been serious exercises in martial training. As the introduction of firearms into warfare gradually made knightly armor obsolete, however, jousting lost much, although not all, of its practical rationale. The 1559 tilt at Paris in which French King Henry II received a fatal blow was already a somewhat archaic contest. Although tilts and other man-to-man encounters (often with blunted lances) continued to be held here and there into the eighteenth century, noncombative contests, such as runnings at the ring or at the head, became more common. With the decline of serious martial encounters, the medieval tournament tradition gave birth to several new theatrical genres that would flourish in early modern times.
The new genres, meant almost exclusively for courtly, aristocratic circles, may be said to have come into being by way of chivalric literature, whose popularity was undimmed by the progress of classical revival. Romances such as Sir Thomas Malory's Le morte d'Arthur (1485; The death of Arthur) and Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando furioso (1515–1533; The madness of Roland) included episodes of jousting or tilting at the barrier. Planners of new, less earnest tournaments began to imitate situations or plots like those of the romances, so there were many variations on chivalric themes. For example, at Whitehall in 1581, courtier and poet Sir Philip Sidney (1554–1586) and three other knights apparently acted out a prearranged failure to capture the Fortresse of Perfect Beautie, which symbolized Queen Elizabeth's virginity and integrity. In 1605, after a poetic debate between allegorical ladies representing Truth and Opinion, sixteen knights who supported the proposition that marriage is superior to the single life tilted on foot across a barrier with sixteen others championing the opposite view. This English contest was planned by the poet Ben Jonson (1572–1637) and the architect Inigo Jones (1573–1652) as the second part of a whole entitled Hymenaei: or the Solemnities of Masque and Barriers at a Marriage. On the first day of the grand 1664 entertainments at Versailles, remembered as Les Plaisirs de l'Île Enchantée (Pleasures of the Bewitched Island), a troop of actors and dancers, including the young King Louis XIV, interpreted a chivalric episode of Ariosto's Orlando. The Versailles entertainments were apparently inspired in part by others held two years earlier at the court of Bavaria, the planners of which had been, in turn, inspired by Italian examples.
Despite such cross-influences, the evolution of tournament forms varied enormously across Europe. There were dramatic or literary tournaments, operatic tournaments, and many hybrids of tournament and ballet, including horse ballets, in which specially bred and highly trained horses executed graceful movements that sometimes simulated combat. Two of the most elaborate performances of the last kind, both of them put on at the Medici court in Florence during 1616, are handsomely represented in engravings by the artist Jacques Callot (1592–1635). By now, the grandest theatrical tournaments, having been extremely expensive to produce, were usually recorded in engravings and published accounts. There were also books on the art of planning such fêtes, the best-known of them being Claude-François Ménestrier's Traité des tournois (1669; Treatise on tournaments).
See also Festivals ; Louis XIV (France) ; Prints and Popular Imagery ; Versailles .
Ménestrier, Claude-François. Traité des tournois, ioustes, carrousels, et autres spectacles publics. Lyons, 1669. (Photographic reprint with introductory notes by Stephen Orgel. New York and London, 1979.) Combined theoretical treatise and historical survey written by a scholar responsible for planning a number of courtly festivals in France.
Anglo, Sydney. The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe. New Haven and London, 2000. A detailed study of the theory and practice of martial training covering most of the early modern period, by an author who has also written extensively on tournaments. See especially Chapters 8 and 9.
Watanabe-O'Kelly, Helen. "Tournaments in Europe." In Spectaculum Europaeum: Theatre and Spectacle in Europe; Histoire du spectacle en Europe (1580–1750), edited by Pierre Béhar and Helen Watanabe-O'Kelly, pp. 593–639. Wiesbaden, 1999. Easily the most comprehensive and systematic general study. Includes an extensive bibliography and a multilingual glossary of terms applying to tournaments (pp. 595–596).
Young, Alan. Tudor and Jacobean Tournaments. London and Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., 1987. An illustrated scholarly survey covering the whole period of the English Renaissance, with a bibliographical chronology extending to 1626.
tour·na·ment / ˈtərnəmənt; ˈtoŏr-/ • n. 1. (in a sport or game) a series of contests between a number of competitors, who compete for an overall prize. 2. (in the Middle Ages) a sporting event in which two knights (or two groups of knights) jousted on horseback with blunted weapons, each trying to knock the other off, the winner receiving a prize.
Tournament ★★½ Le Tournoi dans la Cite 1929
Renoir's secondtolast silent film, in which Protestants and Catholics joust out their differences in era of Catherine de Medici. 90m/B VHS . FR Enrique Rivero, Suzanne Despress, Blanche Bernis, Gerard Mack, Jackie Monnier, Aldo Nadi; D: Jean Renoir; W: Jean Renoir.