I’ve been in the SCA and I’ve been to medievel and renaissance faires. These are popular misconceptions of the the Renaissance and Middle Ages were in Europe based on Victorian fantasies. Some are more authentic than others. Church and society were very different. Most people would be peasants and Catholic or Protestant. The SCA is a pseudo medievel theme party with bits of authenticity thrown in. They are not re-enactors like the Civil War buffs.
I’m not crazy about the way at ren-faires the performers accost you. It’s annoying and I don’t want to be immersed in their world. Most of them are carnie types. And it is often said that a ren faire is the last refuge of an out of work actor.

How would I do a medievel or renaissance faire? I’d have a little more authenticity to it. Especially in the costumes and crafts. To be authentic would be to pick a particular location and a particular time. Since there are different eras that appeal to people I’d probably have to create a multi-historical theme park. One area would have Vikings, another a Scottish village, another an old English village. If I were to include pirates I’d have to go up to the 18th century. I’d probably do an Arthurian/Robin Hood middle ages section. Then I’d do an Elizabethan/Tudor era village. The pirates would be contemporary with the Scots era because that’ when they’d get to wear kilts in the Jacobite era. I could mix the Vikings in with the Irish.

It’s all about entertainment. Alas most don’t care. I think authentic history can be portrayed in an entertaining manner. People should know that overall we are better of than those who lived during the Black Death or the Thirty Years War or the Spanish Inquisistion. If the historians and re-enactors are passionate it will come through. It’s nice to have a window on the past and though it is a pleasant fiction at least we can see how differently people lived.

It’s OK if ren-faires are fantasies as long as people are told they are and do not even begin to portray things they way they really were.