Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/33

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.


13
THE ELIZABETHAN CHARACTER

out 'fast,' the signal usually given upon such occasions." (Stow, Strype's ed., vi. p. 250.)

For further illustrations turn to Romeo and Juliet. The opening situation, which contains the rallying cry of the London 'prentices, "Clubs, clubs!" describes such a scene as every auditor in the Globe play-house had often witnessed in the streets of London. When we come to the brawl that culminates in the death of Mercutio and Tybalt, we may pause to reflect that in such a brawl died Shakespeare's only rival for dramatic fame, Christopher Marlowe.

There are two other manifestations of this spirit of the age that are particularly illustrative. One is the severity of the laws, and the cruelty of the punishment inflicted; the other concerns certain sports and pastimes.

"The greatest and most grievous punishment used in England" writes Harrison in 1587, "for such as offend against the state, is drawing from the prison to the place of execution upon an hurdle or sled, where they are hanged till they be half dead, and then taken down, and quartered alive; after that, their members and bowels are cut from their bodies, and thrown into a fire provided near at hand and within their own sight, even for the same purpose."

In spite of Smith's testimony thirty years later,