By David Morse
Many occasions of the divided society from Elizabeth I to Charles I have been taken as an unmistakable signal that the realm was once coming into its final days. this article indicates how pervasive used to be this pessimistic temper and the way powerfully it affected English writing from Shakespeare to Milton.
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Additional info for England’s Time of Crisis: From Shakespeare to Milton: A Cultural History
There are lawyers that will not stick to undo twenty poor men, and merchants that make no conscience to eat out twenty others, that have their hundreds out at usury, their chests crammed full of crowns, and their coffers full of golden gods, or glistering angels, that will go by twenty poor, miserable, hungry, impotent or distressed persons, and yet not bestow one penny on them. 14 While some of the puritan preachers were particularly severe on the vagrants, vagabonds and masterless men who thronged the streets of London this was not the case with Henry Smith who 50 England's Time of Crisis laid the responsibility for their condition at the door of the wellto-do.
4 Initially Puritan discontent was directed against such 'heathenish practises's as the wearing of surplices and costly vestments, the use of the wedding ring in marriage and of the sign of the cross in baptism, and other matters of a ritual or ceremonial nature; but increasingly their criticism came to be focused on two targets in particular: the prayer book and the institution of bishops. They objected to bishops because they found no authority for the office in the Bible and because they were convinced that bishops were both the source of all corruption in the Church and the command The Corrupted Church 27 posts from which all resistance to their proposals were directed.
Like many present-day cities of the Third World there was an absolute break between the standards and amenities of the prosperous central areas and the ramifying, higgledy-piggledy suburbs beyond. The majestic structure of the cathedral of Old St Paul's and the tall, well-built houses of merchants and money-lenders that lined the wide, well-paved streets in the Strand and Cheap side were surrounded by a maze of narrow, tortuous alleys, crammed with people, merchandise, stray dogs, mendicants, carriages and carts, always muddy and strewn with refuse, inescapably 37 38 England's Time of Crisis putrefying to the nostrils, at night dangerous and menacingly dark.