Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/26

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6
THE ELIZABETHAN PEOPLE

to cater to this quality that produced in the individual play (the form of literature most directly addressed to the people at large) a variety of motive and emotion so different from our present conception of unity.

If one attempts to characterise the present nations of the earth, one instinctively thinks of those qualities generally shared by most of the individuals and that mark them as different from the individuals of other nations. In the present chapter there is no attempt to describe those qualities that are to be found practically unchanged in other periods of English development; rather to describe characteristics that were shared by the majority of the nation then, and not, or, at least, not so significantly, at other periods of national life. I find thus three peculiarly national characteristics: 1, Credulity; 2, Savagery; 3, Imitation.

Since the first step taken by Henry VIII. in the religious reform of the English ecclesiastical system, change had followed change with kaleidoscopic contrast. The result of the divorce of Katharine, of the destruction of the monasteries, of the new role played by "The Defender of the Faith" was, perhaps, secondarily religious, primarily political. The most far-reaching effect upon the people of these changes is to be found in