The Elizabethan Renaissance

The Elizabethan Renaissance

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This work is a contribution to social history and portrays the life of each class from the court downwards - nobles, gentry, the middle class, country folk - and their mentality, conscious or unconscious, to which their way of life gave rise, with its folklore and beliefs, customs and sport. In particular, the book throws fresh light ton the sex life of the time, A.L. Rowse draws on the unpublished casebooks of the astrologer-psychiatrist, Dr Forman, which provide fascinating insight into this aspect of Elizabethan life - in more intimate detail than that of Pepys or Boswell. The book's central section on sex, astrology and witchcraft also has much that is exciting and new, and is deeply revealing of the age of Shakespeare and more

Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 136 x 217 x 23mm | 346g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • facsimiles, portraits
  • 0141390050
  • 9780141390055

Review Text

A pastiche, but exceedingly well wrought of Elizabethan arts, manners, and mores: weddings, beddings, sports and games, food (England, by Continental standards, was eating a shocking amount and variety of meats), felicities and nut brown ale. Biographer of Shakespeare and Marlowe and a leading authority on Tudor England, Rowse is one of Queen Bess' most loyal courtiers - the leader of the golden days school of historians who see the reign of the Faery Queen as an age of unblemished prosperity, sweetness and light. His blind spots - e.g., the disdain and dismissal of the Puritans as noisy cranks - are once again in evidence but here, in the third volume of his Elizabethan trilogy (others are The England of Elizabeth and The Expansion of Elizabethan England), he can indulge his favorite people - the scholar-poet-scientist-aesthetes, lavishly and lovingly presented, best foot forward and mind m'lady's garter. Among the finds here is one Simon Forman, astrologer ("almost everyone believed in astrology"), who functioned as a psychiatrist-seer to a clientele which included servant wenches and bishops while enjoying in his more private moments erotic dreams of the Queen. Following the Queen on one of her summer "progresses" through her realm, Rowse is struck by the new standards of comfort for all but the lowest rank of society and the new preoccupation with visible monuments expressed in the extraordinary philanthropic efforts which built and endowed schools, hospitals, and almshouses. The basic themes - from the pedigree craze which bespoke the efflorescence of family pride among the gentry to the growing awareness of topology and the physical contours of land - are Jacob Burkhardt's. Rowse renders them in English garb muting the violence and lawlessness which accompanied, in the words of Sidney, "all the magnificent magnificences of all these magnificos." Divining social history from sonnets has its pitfalls and Rowse occasionally succumbs to the seductive but meretricious notion that people who wrote great poetry were great and noble at everything else. A benign and luxurious odyssey. (Kirkus Reviews)show more