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Population of England and London (roughly)
Despite rampant disease, population in Shakespeare's time growing rapidly; from roughly 3 million in 1564 (year of Shakespeare's birth) to roughly 4 million in 1600. London's population soared from 60,000 in 1520 to 120,000 in 1550, 200,000 in 1600, and 375,000 in 1650, making it the largest and fastest-growing city in all of Europe.
In 1564 in Shakespeare's home of Stratford-upon-Avon, 254 people died of a total population of 800; the year before, some 20,000 Londoners died; by 1603, over a sixth of the city's population (36,000) died; plays were restricted or banned completely to a) avoid spreading disease, and b) to avoid making God angry
Throughout 16th and 17th centuries, many acres of croplands once farmed in common by rural communities were enclosed with fences by wealthy landowners and turned into pasturage; ensuing misery, displacement and food shortages led to repeated riots (some violent and bloody) and a series of government proclamations, although the process was never reversed (Thomas More in "Utopia" claimed that "the sheep are eating the people")
"social significance of fabric"
An important and profitable trade was developing called "New Draperies;" when the Earl of Kent in Shakespeare's King Lear insults Oswald as a "filthy worsted-stocking knave," Shakespeare's assuming his audience will be aware of the social significance of fabric; there was a virtual clothes cult that prevailed in England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries and their major shrine (outside the royal court) was the theater
Part of a conservative attempt to protect the existing social order from upstarts; gov't tried to put a check on the sartorial ambitions of the upwardly mobile by passing these laws to restrict everyone except the aristocracy from wearing certain precious fabrics (in the late 16th century, England was importing substantial quantities of silks, satins, velvets, embroidery, gold and silver lace, and other costly items to satisfy the extravagant tastes if the elite and those who tried to dress like the elite)
East India Company
Founded in 1600; brought pepper, cloves, nutmeg and other spices from east Asia, along with indigo, cotton textiles, sugar, and saltpeper from India; joint-stock companies were an important part of the burgeoning English market that were established to import goods
Thomas Smith's "four sorts"
"gentlemen, citizens, yeomen artificers, and laborers;" - Smith saw gentlemen as the most important class, followed by citizens (people who hold positions of importance and responsibility in their cities), followed by the yeomen (farmers with land and a measure of economic independence), and then the laborers (with no voice or authority) - part of England's culture of the Haves and the Have-Nots
Largest of the anti-enclosure riots in Shakespeare's time; involved some 16,000 peasants, artisans and townspeople who rose up in 1549 under the leadership of a Norfolk tanner and landowner, Robert Kett, to protest economic exploitation
Women in Shakespeare's time were limited in personal and economic freedom; both urban and rural communities had a fear of women who became too powerful and tried to exceed their political and social freedom, even by asserting their views too vigorously; preferred method of correction included public humiliation and physical abuse such as slapping, bridling and soaking by means of a cucking ("ducking") stool
Joseph Swetnam's "Arignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women" (1615) was a crude railing at women who fell short of their "duty" to be chaste, dutiful, shamefast and silent; inspired three fierce responses attributed to women; incident = most famous English skirmish on this controversy; social stigma attached to print and female authors particularly had to apologize for exposing themselves to the public gaze
Act of Supremacy
Formally declared the king to be the "Supreme Head of the Church of England" and required an oath from all adult male subjects confirming this; in 1536 and 1546, further acts made it treasonous to refuse the oath of royal supremacy or to remain silent; royal defiance of the authority of Rome was a key element in the Reformation
Remembered as the author of what is popularly known as Foxe's Book of Martyrs, an account of Christian martyrs throughout history but especially emphasizing the sufferings of English Protestants from the fourteenth century through the reign of Mary I; widely owned and read by English Puritans, the book helped mould British and American popular opinion about Catholicism for several centuries
Henry VIII's children (all four)
Edward VI (came to the throne in 1547 at 10 years of age; staunch Protestant and it was during his reign that the 42 articles of religion that became the core of Anglican orthodoxy were written; died in 1553); Queen Mary (returned country to Catholicism and initiated a series of religious persecutions that earned her the nickname "Bloody Mary;" died childless in 1558); Elizabeth (returned country to Protestantism; ruled during England's Golden Age); 4th = ???
Those who refused to attend regular Sunday services at their parish churches; were fined heavily by Elizabethean gov't, who were trying to cautiously move the large numbers of English men and women still loyal to their Catholic roots back to the Protestant settlement
An English Lutheran who printed a translation of the New Testement on the European continent and smuggled it into England in 1525; it was prohibited outright to translate the Bible into the vernacular and the Latin Vulgate (that could only be read by priests and learned scholars) was the only version permitted; this was part of fierce Protestant opposition to put the Bible into the hands of the laity; although Tyndale was later seized, the printing press made it extremely difficult to eradicate books for which there was a popular demand, and the Bible became the single most important book of the 16th century
"the king's two bodies"
As England's crowned head, Elizabeth's person was mystically divided between her mortal "body natural" and the immortal "body politic;" while the queen's natural body was inevitably subject to the failings of the human flesh, the body politic was timeless and perfect; in political terms therefore, her sex was a matter of no consequence, a thing indifferent
Elizabeth was used to getting her way in all things and wouldn't stand for being disobeyed; Protestant John Stubbs ventured to publish a pamphlet strictly denouncing the queen's proposed marriage to French Catholic Duke of Alencon, Stubbs and his publisher were arrested and had their right hands chopped off; absolute authority of English monarch
Queen's own physician, who was tried in 1594 for an alleged plot to poison the queen; called a "Jew" and laughed at on the scaffold - unsure whether Elizabethean's usage of "Jew" refers to a people, a foreign nation, a strange set of practices, a living faith, ect; the English and "Otherness"
The Principles of Navigation
English men and women in the 16th century experienced an unprecedented increase in knowledge of the world beyond their island; accounts of the exploits of Sir Walter Raleigh and others were published in this volume; "perhaps most nations learn to define what they are by defining what they are not;" travel books, sermons, political speeches, ect., were how the English people learned about the "others" outside of their island
James I believed that hundreds of witches were involved in a 1590 conspiracy to kill him by raising a storm while he was at sea; published this book in 1597 while king of Scotland - it was a learned exposition of the malign threat of Satan's helpers to his godly rule; after he came to the English throne in 1603, he somewhat moderated his enthusiasm for the judicial murder of "witches," who were, for the most part, defenseless, poor women resented by their neighbors
Plays depicting the great Biblical stories, from the Creation to Christ's Passion and it's aftermath; called "mystery plays" either because they were performed by the guilds of various crafts (known as "mysteries") or because they represented the mysteries of the faith
Like "mysteries," morality plays addressed questions of the ultimate fate of the soul by dramatizing allegories of spiritual struggle (characters of Vice, Mercy, Discretion, Good Deeds); Shakespeare recognized the power of these dramas, in part because of the extraordinary comic vitality of the evil characters and because of the poignancy and terror of an individual's encounter with death
Lead comedian in the Queen's Company from it's founding in 1583 til his death in 1588;
Extreme critic of the theater; wrote a book that attacked the "sinful, heathenish, lewd, ungodly Spectacles;" in the eyes of Prynne and other antitheatricalists, stage plays were part of a demonic tangle of obscene practices proliferating like cancer in the body of society
Master of the Revels
An official in the lord chamberlain's department (whose role had hitherto been to provide entertainment at court); was given an expanded role to regulate and censor printed and acted material, including theater, whose companies would have to submit their plays for official scrutiny (on occasion, they received implicit and explicit protection against the continued fierce opposition of the local authorities)
In the conventional stage of Shakespeare's time, boy actors were used for female roles; the first recorded appearance of an actress was that of a Desdemona in December of 1660; Mary Saunderson played Ophelia in 1661; THEATRICAL INNOVATIONS
The Spanish Tragedie
Written by Thomas Kyd, an English dramatist and one of the most important figures in the development of Elizabethan drama; a controversial finding may reveal him to be the author of a Hamlet play that predates Shakespeare
John Shakespeare, and his jobs
Shakespeare's father = a successful glover, landowner, moneylender and dealer in wood and other agricultural goods; served in local gov't; later arrested for debt after falling on hard times (some speculate that his problems may have stemmed from adherence to Catholicism, since those who remained loyal to the old faith were subject to increasingly vigorous and costly discrimination)
Shakespeare would have studied Latin, as it was at the core of the curriculum at the time; his works are laced with echoes of many of the great Latin texts, and he seems to have had a particular fondness for Ovid's Metamorphoses; he draws on his knowledge of the Latin classics with unpretentious ease, intelligence and gusto
Queen Elizabeth was fond of going on "progresses," triumphant ceremonial journeys around her kingdom; it is quite possible that a young Shakespeare would have participated as a spectator in such an elaborate celebration of charismatic power; a form of spectacular political activity that may have influenced Shakespeare
"the Theater State"
A state that manifests its power and meaning in an exemplary public performance; professional companies of players, like the one Shakespeare belonged to, understood well that they existed in relation to this Theater State and would, if they were fortunate, be called upon to serve it; such theatrical performances would have given great pleasure to the monarch and conferred prestige upon those who commanded the plays
Robert Greene and the "upstart crow"
Greene accused Shakespeare of being an upstart, a plagiarist, and an egomaniacal jack-of-all-trades, as well as a popular success; London theatrical scene=highly competitive and Greene was not the only London playwright to make an envious remark about him
Lord Chamberlain's Men
Theater company of which Shakespeare was a part; dominated the theater scene and the shares were quite valuable
Wrote a book of jumbled reflections that are now the single most important piece of evidence as to the dating and composition of Shakespeare's original plays; Meres provides a date by which 12 of Shakespeare's plays had definitely appeared, but unfortunately provides no clues as to the order of appearance of these plays, and there are no comparable lists
The Tudor myth
The ideological justification of the ruling dynasty as a restoration of natural order after a cycle of violence (the violence, the Tudors claimed, was divine punishment unleashed after the deposition of the anointed king, Richard II, for God will not tolerate violations of the sanctified order); scholars have observed the presence of this myth in Shakespeare's plays
Work of Dutch humanist Erasmus, published in 1512; taught readers how to cultivate "copiousness," or verbal richness, in discourse; power of language; Shakespeare was the supreme product of a rhetorical culture, a culture steeped in the arts of persuasion and verbal expression
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