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Daily Life in Shakespearean Times

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Rachel Lee

on 1 November 2013

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Transcript of Daily Life in Shakespearean Times

Daily Life in Shakespearean Times
Living Conditions and Diseases
Living conditions during these times were poor. The streets we all full of garbage, manure and human waste from people emptying their chamber pots out their windows. There was no drainage or sewer system so everything was muddy and smelled bad all the time. Unless you were rich your house was small and crammed together with all the other houses in the city. Though not even the rich could avoid the black plague that ran rampant through the streets of London because people did not bathe regularly and rodents were everywhere. Other diseases people had to worry about daily were smallpox, syphilis, typhus, and malaria along with all your common colds. Since there were not really any antibiotics for diseases, people often died once they got sick and there was not much that could be done to prevent it. This makes living your daily life in Shakespearean times very unpleasant.
By Sabrina Burnett, Rachel Lee, Lindsay Wright, Atle Koellmel, Luna Hoyek, and Trevor Biggin
Fashion at the time was characterized by fancy trim, bright colors and luxurious fabrics. People showed their wealth and social class through their clothing, and many people spent more than they could afford. As to social class and clothing, the only differences between rich and poor is that the rich man wore diamonds and rubies where the poor man wore beads of coloured glass. Someone who was rich would also purchase clothing more often. People of high social rank often built the hair into towering masses on the crown of the head, but as a rule the hair was dressed plain, though frequently covered with jewels. The Elizabethan women, as well as men, dyed their hair, not to hide the fact that it was turning gray, but to please a passing fancy. There was no attempt to conceal the practice, nor was the same colour always used. In fact, the colour of the hair was made to harmonize with the garments worn upon any particular occasion. People who did not care to dye their hair wore wigs.

Food in these times varied on social status and wealth. The people of high social status ate many different kinds of meat, such as beef, mutton, veal, lamb, chicken and ducks. Since meat was a sign of wealth, the poor rarely ate it. The people of lower status ate mostly bread, cheese, milk and small portions of fish and vegetables and occasionally fruit. In this era, England was exposed to new foods such as teas, coffee, chocolate and the potato imported from South America. Of course, these foods were only for the rich. Since water was not clean people therefore drank wine and ale. The rich consumed both wine and ale and the poor only drank ale. It was important in this era for the food prepared for the nobility, especially for feasts and banquets to have a great visual effect. Most commonly, peacocks were eaten and their feathers used to decorate cooked foods.
Social Status
Social status rankings were very important
There was the Royal family, then the nobility, there were few nobles and the queen would rarely grant people that social ranking. In Shakespeare's time there were around 55 noble families. The nobility title was hereditary. Being a noble often brought debt instead of profit, they had to maintain huge households. They also had to entertain at their own expenses.
The next level of social status was the Gentry which included knights, squires, gentlemen and gentlewomen who did not work with their hands for a living. During Queen Elizabeth’s reign they became the most important social class. They were also the most wealthy, unlike the nobles who were born with their social status, they made money being landowners.
The middle class included the merchant and the yeomanry, they could live comfortably but illness or bad luck could make them lose their ranking thereby making them peasants.
The last level of social status, also the largest, was the peasantry. They were mainly land workers who did not own their own land.
The jobs in Shakespearean times were based on which social class you were born into. The lower class of people usually worked the unappealing jobs, like being a cottar, or worked in the workhouse and were paid with the tax money collected from the people who owned land in the parish. Usually people who were born in the castle worked within the castle as butlers, knights, chefs, etc. Being a blacksmith was considered to be an important job since they supplied the army with their weaponry. Since this was a time during the Renaissance, being in the arts, sciences or literature was a great job, especially if you were a famous writer like Shakespeare, or being an actor. Another important job in this time was being in the medical field, like being a doctor, apothecary, herbalist, barber or physician. Even though barbers mainly cut hair, they were also surgeons, dentists and blood letters. Apothecaries were basically a poor man's doctor. They were priests who treated patients with herbs.
People had many options to entertain themselves, but rich people had more opportunities than poor people. Feasts were large, elaborately prepared meals, usually for many persons and often accompanied by court entertainment; they often celebrated religious festivals. Banquets were ceremonial dinners honoring a particular guest. People went to Fairs, like The Annual Summer Fair. Plays, starting as plays enacted in town squares followed by the actors using the courtyards of taverns or inns (referred to as Inn-yards) followed by the first theaters (great open air amphitheaters built in the same style as the Roman Coliseum) and then the introduction of indoor theaters called Playhouses. Mystery Plays were performed, re-enacting stories from the Bible. Festivals were celebrations, and were often church festivals. Dancing was enjoyed by the Upper Classes, Royalty and Nobility included the Cinque-pace, Galliard, Pavane, Roundel, Tordion and the Volta. Jousts and Tournaments were a series of tilting matches between knights. They played games and sports which included archery, bowling, cards, dice, hammer-throwing, quarter-staff contests, quoits, skittles and wrestling. Animal Sports included Bear and Bull baiting, and Dog and Cock fighting. Hunting was for noblemen, who often used dogs. Hawking was a sport followed by the nobility with hawks.

Examples of Elizabethan Era Clothing
Elizabethan Era Kitchen
Lower Class
A Play
The Black Plague
Full transcript