Elizabethan Age 1558-1603 The Elizabethan Age Most of Shakespeare's career unfolded during the monarchy of Elizabeth I, the Great Virgin Queen from whom the historical period of the Bard's (BARDpoet) life takes its name as the Elizabethan Age. Elizabeth came to the throne under turbulent circumstances in 1558 (before Shakespeare was born) and ruled until 1603. Under her reign, not only did England prosper as a rising commercial power at the expense of Catholic Spain. Crime and Punishment • ELIZABETHAN CRIMES OF THE NOBILITY Elizabethan England was split into two classes - the Upper Class, (nobility and courtiers) and everyone else! Punishment would vary according to class. The Upper class were well educated, wealthy and associated with Royalty and high members of the clergy Upper Class Crimes • • • • • • • • High Treason Blasphemy Sedition Spying Rebellion Murder Witchcraft Alchemy ELIZABETHAN CRIMES OF THE COMMONERS Many crimes committed by commoners were through sheer desperation and abject poverty. The most common crimes were: • • • • • • • • • Theft Cut purses Begging Poaching Adultery Debtors Forgers Fraud Dice coggers Theft for stealing anything over 5 pence resulted in hanging - a terrible price to pay for poor people who were starving. Even such small crimes such as stealing birds eggs could result in the death sentence. Poaching at night resulted in the punishment by death, whereas poaching during the day time did not. Begging was a serious crime during the Elizabethan era. As their punishment beggars would be beaten until they reached the stones that marked the town parish boundary. Those who were caught continually begging could be sent to prison and even hanged as their punishment. • • • • • • • • • • • • • Hanging Burning The Pillory and the Stocks Whipping Branding Pressing Ducking stools The Wheel Boiling in oil water or lead (usually reserved for poisoners ) Starvation in a public place Cutting off various items of the anatomy - hands, ears etc The Gossip's Bridle or the Brank The Drunkards Cloak EVEN TRAVEL AND ACTING IN ELIZABETHAN ENGLAND WAS A CRIME WITHOUT A LICENCE! People did not travel around a lot during the Elizabethan era. It was a crime to travel without a license. This law ensured that the spread of disease, especially the plague, was contained as much as possible and that the poor and the homeless did not travel from one village to another village. Actors Elizabethan Actors were treated with as much suspicion as beggars. An actors standing in Elizabethan England was only slightly higher than a beggar or a thief! When plays started to become more popular rich nobles, or high ranking courtiers of the land, acted as their sponsors. It was soon decreed that licenses should be granted to legitimize certain Acting Troupes. Education Boys were educated to be literate members of society. The language of literacy throughout Europe was Latin, and students were expected to be proficient in it. Boys started grammar school at the age of six or seven. Their typical school day ran from 6:00a.m. to 5:00p.m. Classroom discipline was strict, and often involved corporeal punishment. Formal schooling was not encouraged for girls unless they were the children of nobility. For those who were educated, schooling focused primarily on chastity and the skills of housewifery. Young girls from wealthy families were often placed in the households of acquaintances where they would learn to read, write, keep accounts, and manage a household and estate. Religion Religion was central to the society for which Shakespeare wrote. Queen Elizabeth made attendance at Church of England services mandatory, even though many church-goers had to travel long distances. People who did not attend—for any reason except illness—were punished with fines. The Sumptuary Laws -! The Elizabethan Sumptuary Clothing Laws were used to control behavior and to ensure that a specific class structure was maintained! English Sumptuary Laws governing the clothing that Elizabethans wore were well known by all of the English people. The penalties for violating Sumptuary Laws could be harsh - fines, the loss of property, title and even life! Elizabethan Medicine and Illnesses Elizabethan Medicine was extremely basic in an era when terrible illnesses such as the Bubonic Plague (Black Death ) were killing nearly one third of the population. Just the sight of an Elizabethan Physician in his strange clothing, especially the weird mask, was enough to frighten anyone to death! All of his body is completely covered from head to foot, even his face by the ghastly mask. Stout boots and gloves covered his hands and feet. Elizabethan Physicians wore long dark robes with pointed hoods, leather gloves, boots, and the most bizarre masks featuring long beaks which were filled with begamot oil. Amulets of dried blood and ground-up toads were worn at the waists of the Elizabethan Physicians. It was their custom to douse themselves with vinegar and chew angelica before approaching a victim. Although this might sound pointless today, these precautions would have protected the Elizabethan Physician. The bizarre and gruesome Physician masks would have acted as protection against contracting the disease through breathing the same air as the victim. Neither rats nor fleas could easily penetrate these defense. There were open sewers in the streets which were also filled with garbage. This was occasionally removed and waste was dumped into the nearest river such as the Thames. Diseases were easily spread in this unsanitary environment where fleas, lice and rats all flourished. There was no running water, this was obtained from water pumps ( a main cause of the spread of typhoid ). But the Physicians clothes probably saved his life and prevented him contracting the illnesses and diseases of his patients such as the plague and typhoid. The underlying cause of many of the Elizabethan illnesses was the lack of sanitation, especially in large towns or cities such as London. The Beliefs of the Elizabethan Physician Medicine was basic. Physicians had no idea what caused the terrible illnesses and diseases. Physicians paid attention to a patients bodily fluids, called Humours, which explains the reason why patients where subjected to 'bleeding'. Elizabethan Medicine Elizabethan medicines were basic, to say the least. Letting blood was conducted by cupping or leeches. Bubonic Plague was treated by lancing the buboes and applying a warm poultice of butter, onion and garlic. Various other remedies were tried including tobacco, arsenic, lily root and dried toad! Head Pains were treated with sweet-smelling herbs such as rose, lavender, sage, and bay. Stomach pains and sickness were treated with wormwood, mint, and balm. Lung problems given the medical treatment of liquorice and comfrey. Vinegar was widely used as a cleansing agent as it was believed that it would kill disease.
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