Shakespeare was born a citizen of the New Monarchy. He belonged to a generation of Englishmen who lived contentedly under the jurisdiction of Star Chamber and the Queen’s commissioners. The agents of the Privy Council were ubiquitous and their authority unquestioned. Her Majesty’s Government determined at discretion with whom her subjects were in a state of war or peace, what they should read or hear, how they should worship God, how and with whom they should trade. The man who in a Yorkshire tavern or from a pulpit in Devon uttered lewd words—which was the Privy Council’s official description of any criticism of the established order —did so at his own risk and peril. Nothing escaped the Queen’s Majesty, whose writ ran to good purpose in every hamlet and shire. A subject accepted his place; his only alternative was to be a master-less man or a vagabond. Each was content to abide by Her Majesty’s pleasure, to the loss of his goods, dignities, liberties or even his head. And if you should be condemned to a traitor’s death, you thanked God and blessed the sovereign.


Papal Legate Political Character Privy Council English History Public Person 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1946

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Palmer

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