Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/52

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and the Christmas revels. After all, despite the cruel punishments, the baiting of bears, cock-fighting, and the branding of criminals, the England of Elizabeth was a merry, wholesome England, hardly even to be fancied in these prosaic times.

To this credulous people, whose savage nature was undergoing a rapid progress of refinement, must be attributed the open mind and the willing heart. Not only were they ever ready to believe, but they were also always quick to do what others were doing. The very nature of their national life and character bred in them an aptness of imitation.

We find this quality illustrated in the literature of the time. Whether or not one accepts Mr. Sidney Lee's theory of regarding Shakespeare's Sonnets, one cannot deny the long array of facts cited to prove that the sonnet literature of the age of Elizabeth, taken as a whole, is a narrow mass of plagiarised imitations of foreign models. Not only is the form copied, at least so far as it was understood, but also the ideas, the mode of expression, even, at times, the very words are but a stolen translation, with no credit given to the original writer. The same facts are true, to a certain extent, of the drama. Shakespeare himself