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This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,

This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England....
Richard II., II. i. 40—50


The air of England is temperate, but thick, cloudy and misty, and Caesar witnesseth that the cold is not so piercing in England as in France. For the sun draweth up the vapours of the sea which compasseth the island, and distills them upon the earth in frequent showers of rain, so that frosts are somewhat rare; and howsoever snow may often fall in the winter time, yet in the southern parts (especially) it seldom lies long on the ground. Also the cool blasts of sea winds mitigate the heat of summer.

By reason of this temper, laurel and rosemary flourish all winter, especially in the southern parts, and in summer time England yields apricots plentifully, musk melons in good quantity, and figs in some places, all which ripen well, and

happily imitate the taste and goodness of the same fruits in Italy. And by the same reason all beasts bring forth their young in the open fields, even in the time of winter. And England hath such abundance of apples, pears, cherries and plums, such variety of them and so good in all respects, as no country yields more or better, for which the Italians would gladly exchange their citrons and oranges. But upon the sea coast the winds many times blast the fruits in the very flower.

The English are so naturally inclined to pleasure, as there is no country wherein the gentlemen and lords have so many and large parks only reserved for the pleasure of hunting, or where all sorts of men allot so much ground about their houses for pleasure of gardens and orchards. The very grapes, especially towards the south and west, are of a pleasant taste, and I have said, that in some counties, as in Gloucestershire, they made wine of old, which no doubt many parts would yield at this day, but that the inhabitants forbear to plant vines, as well because they are served plentifully and at a good rate with French wines, as for that the hills most fit to bear grapes yield more commodity by feeding of sheep and cattle. Caesar writes in his Commentaries, that Britanny yields white lead within land, and iron upon the sea coasts. No doubt England hath inexhaustible veins of both, and also of tin, and yields great quantity of brass, and of alum and iron, and abounds with quarries of freestone, and fountains of most pure salt; and I formerly said that it yields some quantity of silver, and that the tin and lead is mingled with silver, but so, as it doth not largely quit the cost of the labour in separating or trying it. Two cities yield medicinal baths, namely Buxton and Bath, and the waters of Bath especially have great virtue in many diseases. England abounds with sea-coals upon the sea coast, and with pit coals within land. But the woods at this day are rather frequent and pleasant than vast, being exhausted for fire, and with iron-mills, so as the quantity of wood and charcoal for fire is much diminished, in respect of the old abundance; and in some places, as in the Fens, they burn turf, and the very dung of cows. Yet in the meantime England exports great quantity of sea-coal to foreign parts. In like sort England hath infinite quantity, as of metals, so of wool, and of woollen clothes to be exported. The English beer is famous in

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Netherland and lower Germany, which is made of barley he and hops; for England yields plenty of hops, howsoever they also use Flemish hops. The cities of lower Germany upon an the sea forbid the public selling of English beer, to satisfy their own brewers, yet privately swallow it like nectar. But in Netherland great and incredible quantity thereof is spent. SE England abounds with corn, which they may transport, when a quarter (in some places containing six, in others eight bushels) is sold for twenty shillings, or under; and this corn not only serves England, but also served the English army in the civil wars of Ireland, at which time they also exported great quantity thereof into foreign parts, and by God's mercy England scarce ec once in ten years needs supply of foreign corn, which want commonly proceeds of the covetousness of private men, exeporting or hiding it. Yet I must confess, that daily this plenty of corn decreaseth, by reason that private men, finding greater commodity in feeding of sheep and cattle than in the plough requiring the hands of many servants, can by no law be restrained from turning corn-fields into enclosed pastures, especially since great men are the first to break these laws. England abounds with all kinds of fowl, as well of the sea as of the land, and hath more tame swans swimming in the rivers, than I did see in any other part. It hath multitudes of hurtful birds, as crows, ravens and kites, and they labour not to destroy the crows nd consuming great quantity of corn, because they feed on worms at and other things hurting the corn. And in great cities it is 10 forbidden to kill kites and ravens, because they devour the filth it of the streets. England hath very great plenty of sea and river fish, especially above all other parts abundance of oysters, mackerel and herrings, and the English are very industrious in st, fishing, though nothing comparable to the Flemmings therein. FYNES MORYSON, Itinerary 1617

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The English (a foreign view)

That island of England breeds very valiant creatures: their mastiffs are of unmatchable courage....And the men do sympathize with the mastiffs in robustious and rough coming on, leaving their wits with their wives and then give them great meals of beef and iron and steel, they will eat like wolves and fight like devils.


Henry V., III vii. 154-168

The English are grave like the Germans, lovers of shew; followed wherever they go by whole troops of servants, who wear their masters' arms in silver fastened to their left arms, and are not undeservedly ridiculed for wearing tails hanging down their backs. They excel in dancing and music, for they are active and lively, though of a thicker make than the French; they cut their hair close on the middle of the head, letting it grow on either side; they are good sailors, and better pirates, cunning, treacherous, and thievish; above 300 are said to be hanged annually at London. Beheading with them is less infamous than hanging. They give the wall as the place of honour. Hawking is the common sport of the gentry. They are more polite in eating than the French, consuming less bread, but more meat, which they roast in perfection. They put a great deal of sugar in their drink. Their beds are covered with tapestry, even those of farmers. They are often molested with the scurvy, said to have first crept into England with the Norman conquest. Their houses are commonly of two stories, except in London, where they are of three and four, though but seldom of four; they are built of wood; those of the richer sort with bricks; their roofs are low, and where the owner has money, covered with lead. They are powerful in the field, successful against their enemies, impatient of anything like slavery; vastly fond of great noises that fill the ear, such as the firing of cannon, drums, and the ringing of bells, so that in London it is common for a number of them, that have got a glass in their heads, to go up into some belfry, and ring the bells for hours together, for the sake of exercise. If they see a foreigner, very well made or particularly handsome, they will say, "It is a pity he is not an Englishman."

PAUL HENTZNER, Travels in England 1598 [Rye]

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Birth and Rank

How could communities,

Degrees in schools, and brotherhoods in cities,
Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
The primogenitive and due of birth,
Prerogative of age, crowns, sceptres, laurels,
But by degree, stand in authentic place?

Troilus and Cressida, 1. iii. 103-108

[Shakespeare's father applies for a coat of arms, Oct. 20, 1596. It is granted in 1599.]

Of Gentlemen

Ordinarily the king doth only make knights and create barons or higher degrees: for as for gentlemen, they be made good cheap in England. For whosoever studieth the laws of the realm, who studieth in the universities, who professeth liberal sciences, and to be short, who can live idly and without manual labour, and will bear the port, charge nga and countenance of a gentleman, he shall be called master, for that is the title which men give to esquires and other gentlemen, and shall be taken for a gentleman: for true it is with us as is said, Tanti eris aliis quanti tibi feceris. And (if need be) a king of heralds shall also give him for money arms, newly made and invented, the title whereof shall pretend to have been found by the said herald in perusing and viewing of old registers, where his ancestors in times past had been recorded to bear the same: or if he will do it more truly and of better faith, he will write that for the merits of that man, and certain qualities which he doth see in him, and for sundry noble acts which he hath performed, he, by the authority which he hath as king of heralds and arms, giveth to him and his heirs these and these arms, which being done I think he may be called a squire, for he beareth ever after those arms. Such men are called sometimes in scorn gentlemen of the first head.........


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Of Citizens and Burgesses

Next to gentlemen, be appointed citizens and burgesses, such as not only be free and received as officers within the cities, but also be of some substance to bear the charges. But these citizens and burgesses be to serve the commonwealth in their cities and boroughs, or in corporate towns where they

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