Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Crazy Elizabethans

The thing I find interesting about doing research is how much we no longer know, and what we have to do to relearn what might have been. For example, how did Elizabethan's view the world? We can guess, but we will never really know, because the Elizabethans, unless you're channeling Dr. Dee, are long gone.

For example what is the mindset that enables a person to fight another person with a rapier, oh, let's see because you thought their ruff was a bit too big. I mean, you know, in a few seconds you most likely will have a yard of steel sticking out of your chest, or worse (if it can get worse) your eye.

Does this mean our mindset today is that of cowards, while the Elizabethan mindset was that of heroes?

Hmmm, let me think, and therein is the rub. We think. Yet, some of the best thinkers lived in Elizabethan times. Gascoigne, Raleigh, Walsingham, Bacon, Burghley, Tyndale (I'm not going to say Shakespeare, because the only Shakespeare I know of was a grain merchant in Stratford. I mean John Donne get's a stand-up memorial, while Willy gets a worked over effigy of him writing on a book. Listen, there is no way Shakespeare, the grain merchant, could have written a play on a bag of produce.) I digress.

That's the thing, isn't it. The Elizabethan's while great thinkers were also a bit loony. Didn't Ben Johnson kill someone in a duel. "Just wait a second, let me finish this line...and then I'm going to slice you open. (Some time later, the blood soaked Johnson returns to his writing.)

Shakes, or the man called Shakes (sounds like James, James Bond, doesn't it.) had a writ taken out against him because he threatened to kill someone. It wasn't a: 'you spilled my mead, I'm going to kill you.' (Remember this is a time when public killings were a time to gather with friend and family and enjoy a day out at the gore.) If someone was afraid of Shakespeare, or the man called Intrepid, there was probably good reason.