Just what did those Elizabethan schoolboys read?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1330 Wednesday, 28 July 1999.
From: Yvonne Bruce <
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
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.