Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/27

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7
THE ELIZABETHAN CHARACTER

the lesson it taught them regarding the extent of their own strength. Not only was the incubus of mediæval monasticism removed; it was removed in such a way that England realised herself sufficient to cope, strength against strength, with the mighty power of the Papacy. This was a great and a new idea.

The lesson taught by Henry VIII. was retaught on a far grander scale when all the influence of Rome and all the power of Spain combined in the "Invincible Armada." William the First conquered England. He superimposed upon the soil a new nation and a new language. By the time of Chaucer, however, England had swallowed up the invader and his language. England had emerged from the gloom of the long contest triumphant. May we not safely fancy a similar result had Philip II. triumphed over Howard and Drake? Again, the victory of 1588 is important politically only in the second degree. Its lasting effect is recognised to-day in the fact that by making continental travel safe, tourists were enabled to bring home precious manuscripts and a knowledge of older and more perfect learning that, when published and conned, directly gave birth to Shakespeare and his fellows.

England had learned her own strength. She was becoming master of the ancient learning with