ENGB33 Norton Introduction Notes
Life expectancy in early modern England was under 30 years old. Infant mortality rates
were high; poor parishioners versus aristocrats
World without a concept of anti-sceptics, or understanding/treatment of venereal disease.
Shakespeare was born in 1564, and baptised on April 26th. He died on April 23rd, 1616.
Theatres were closed because of the plague; restricting public assemblies may have
slowed down the epidemic, but public policies like killing cats and dogs may have made
the conditions worse because the bubonic plague was caused by fleas from black rats.
Food supply in England was scarce; the poor bore the burden through inflation, low
wages and rent increases.
Diet was seriously deficient; lower classes being protein deficient and upper classes
lacking in green vegetables and milk.
Population of England growing: 3.06 million in 1564 to 4.06 million in 1600.
10,000 people migrated to London from other parts of England, mainly because the
wages were 50% higher.
Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) : “The sheep are eating the people”practice of
enclosure: croplands farmed in common by rural communities were fenced by wealthy
landowners that turned them into pasturage.
In1614 a foreigner named Father Orazio Busino, the chaplain of the Venetian embassy,
visited the Fortune Playhouse. His visit was an ambiguous social situation because
women of both middle and upper class could go to the theatre, wear masks and mingle
freely with male spectators and other women of ill repute. Women were not allowed to
attend plays in Venice.
Late 17th Century the English imported silks, satins, velvet, embroidery, gold and
lacesatisfying the elites, and inspiring the middle class to dress elite.
Sumptuary laws were laws pertaining to the rank of aristocracy and their right to wear
certain of the most post precious fabrics. A conservative attempt to protect the existing
social order (“social mobility”).
East India Company, founded in 1600, brought pepper cloves, nutmeg, spices, textiles
Cloves were stuffed up noses in hopes of preventing the plague.
Stage acting was not regarded as productive contribution to the nation’s wealth.
Patent system was created to encourage skilled foreigners to settle in England in order to
make certain goods, which created monopolies.
Shakespeare’s Writing Life (1590-1613)
Queen Elizabeth I died in 1600. Her entourage would follow her to the play. Queen
Elizabeth was rumoured to have rotten teeth from her fondness of sugar, and she her
makeup was made from lead.
King James I succeeds Queen Elizabeth I in 1603.
The Dutch Arch at the Royal Exchange: goldsmiths would create arches which were
funded by merchants appealing to the King’s interest.