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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: July ::
Just what did those Elizabethan schoolboys read?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1330  Wednesday, 28 July 1999.

From:           Yvonne Bruce <
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Date:           Tuesday, 27 Jul 1999 10:00:15 -0400
Subject:        shk 10.1328 Just what did those Elizabethan schoolboys read?

Re Mr. Markus' observation that Cicero's works were "extremely
somnolent":

Don't forget about the popular taste for sententiae and similitudes.
Biographies, natural histories, political tracts, essays-all got the
Elizabethan condensed treatment in order to make moral instruction and
social fluency as economical as possible. Self-improvement was
fashionable. Think about the extremely successful and extremely plastic
Mirror for Magistrates.

The Latin authors (and Plutarch) lent themselves to this treatment very
well: Plutarch's Lives, Suetonius' Twelve Caesars, and the numerous
epistles, moral lessons, and descriptions of duty (including Cicero's)
so crucial to a grammar school education.

The best overview of middle-class popular and pedagogical tastes remains
Louis B. Wright, Middle-Class Culture in Elizabethan England. Coppelia
Kahn also has an instructive introduction to Elizabethan schoolroom
Latin in the very recent Roman Shakespeare: Warrior, Wounds, and Women.

Best,
Yvonne Bruce
 

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