What are the main characteristics of ballads and to whom do they relate?
The ballad is a form of sung poetry that is part of the European oral tradition. It is generally considered part of a "folk" tradition, meaning that it mainly evolved and developed outside the traditions of the church and the courts, being practiced in the villages and the countryside, with leading practitioners often being itinerant musicians. Ballads traditionally are a form of narrative poetry accompanied by music and divided into four-line stanzas with various patterns of repetition of a chorus or a refrain.
The ballad originated in France as a type of music to accompany dancing. In Britain and North America, there evolved three types of ballads, those that remained part of the folk tradition, those printed on broadsides, and literary imitations of the ballad form, originally made popular in the Romantic period. The written and literary forms appealed to an educated audience nostalgic for a folk or a pastoral tradition, while the oral folk tradition continued to be associated with rural or remote areas and an uneducated audience, whether in Northumbria on the border of England and Scotland or in Appalachia.