Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/39

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19
THE ELIZABETHAN CHARACTER

avoid the disgrace of breeching, which his mother or mother-in-law (I know not whether) would need have put him to, for losing his money at tennis."

To learn the manners of the Elizabethans one must read the contemporary plays. Nothing more clearly indicates the cruel temper of the people than the incidents they tolerated in these plays. Hired murderers are common adjuncts, not alone in plays of an early setting, but in such a play of contemporary crime as Arden of Feversham, where the murderers wrangle over the amount paid, which is specified in definite terms. Titus Andronicus affords a beastly illustration of brutality. Lear's eyes are gouged out in the presence of the audience. Piero's tongue is plucked out in Antonio and Mellida. (Part 2, act V. sc. ii.) Charles is hired to kill Orlando in the daintiest of comedies; and few Elizabethans could have felt that the mad-house treatment of Malvolio was even a serious joke.

This callousness to what we should call the finer sensibilities was manifested also in the popular sports. One such pastime was bear-baiting. So popular, in fact, was this sport, that one of the objections urged aginst the growing vogue of the theatre was that the new sport drew the crowd away from the exhibitions at the bear-garden—the first sign that the attractiveness of baiting had