When Elizabeth came to the throne, the Wars of the Roses were long over and the Tudor monarchy was firmly established.  The Puritan revolution was still in the distance.  That storm was heralded by mutterings continually growing in volume during the hundred years that passed from the birth of Elizabeth to the quarrel of King Charles with the Scottish Parliament.  But, during the Queen’s own reign, these omens did not much disturb the national mind.  They are treated with levity by Shakespeare.  The reformation of the church in England was imposed upon the people by the power of the state and was, essentially, a working compromise.  It went further, perhaps, than the bulk of the people desired and it did not satisfy the reforming party.  Throughout the reign of Elizabeth, the Church of England was engaged with its enemies on two fronts: Rome and Geneva.  But this was, mainly, an affair of ecclesiastical politicians.  The people of England were not passionately involved in it and were free to give their minds to those great secular changes which are called the Renaissance.  The world, not the church, called the tune to which the age of Elizabeth danced and sang.

From: “The Age of Elizabeth” by Sir Walter Raleigh, in Shakespeare’s England: An Account of the Life and Manners of His Age, edited by C. T. Onions; 2 volumes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1916), 1:1-2.

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