Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The seventeen short skits of varying quality herein were created for school children...well specifically for one of those private schools with "The" before its name. You know, the ritzy titzy kind were it's a-okay if little Johnny skips his other classes for the rest of the day because he refuses to leave off the catapult-esque contraption he's working on for Ms. Schlitz's project on the Middle Ages. And when he fires rocks at the girls and breaks a window he is not suspended or even given the slightest reprimand. Yes, the kind of school I wished I'd gone to... (sad Jay face)
Because the skits were created to be performed by students, the characters telling their tales are generally - though not entirely - young. There's plenty of sons and daughters of tradesmen, craftsmen, farmers, minor lords, and beggars, or barring that, they tend to be apprentices. The knowledge imparted, such as crop rotation, is the sparest summary of the basic sort of stuff you'd learn in an introductory history course for the time period. I have no complaints about this and only mention it so you're aware that Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! was created for the pre-highschool age. For instance, one skit does touch - and in a quite touching way - on the hardships of motherhood amongst the poorer classes but without delving into the graphic details of childbirth.
And now here are the complaints...
So apparently Medieval folk were very poetic. Even peasants were writing rhyming verse? Some of these lowly, uneducated folk can really string together some clever lines! Ridiculous. Another issue is that Schlitz (every time I write that I swear I can smell godawful stale beer) cheats. In order to make a point or relay information, she occasionally puts words into the mouths of people who'd never say them. It's especially noticeable in the upper class characters who essentially call themselves thieves, saying that they know they are cheating the peasants, when it's very likely they thought nothing of the kind, but rather that they were doing their duty as befit their rank. Taxation, for instance, was their right. Without that money how could they govern? It was the way of things and so why would they think any other way?
Aside from such complaints and my tepid 3 star rating, this is good for what it is. If you have a dozen or more kids you need to put on a play for or have a junior-high aged child you're home-schooling, this just might be what you're looking for.
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