Monday, December 05, 2022


What Fun!

Keith Thomas, The Ends of Life: Roads to Fulfilment in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 47, with note on p. 285:
'What more excellent spectacle can there be to them that are lords and conquerors?' asked Barnaby Barnes, who had served with the second Earl of Essex in France in 1591, 'than in the open fields to pursue their enemies in flight? To wound, slaughter and captivate them? To see their horses with the riders distressed? To see many of them which have received wounds neither to find surgery nor means of escape, some of them desperately to resist and presently to fall down? Lastly, to see the whole camp covered with weapons, armour, and dead bodies, and the ground dyed into purple with their enemies' blood?'18 What fun indeed!

18. Barnabe Barnes, Foure Bookes of Offices (1606), 183.
Id., p. 51, with notes on p. 286:
Among the many terms for effectiveness in battle, two of the most frequently employed in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were 'manhood' and 'manfulness'. 'So manly a man' was the Lord Montague, says the chronicler, that he spared no one.37 The Elizabethan hero Sir Richard Grenville, at dinner with Spanish captains, so as to show what he was made of, crushed the wine glasses, chewed, and swallowed them, the blood pouring out of his mouth.38

In the upbringing of boys, a high value was set on physical courage. James I's son Prince Henry was praised because, as a child, he wept much less than other boys when he fell over and hurt himself, and, at the age of 7, successfully beat up a boy who was a year older.39 The endurance of pain was a basic feature of contemporary boys’ education, for floggings and the teaching of grammar were inseparable.40 Grammar school boys were encouraged to engage in mock battles, and informal fighting between schoolboys was common.

37. The Historical Collections of a Citizen of London in the Fifteenth Century, ed. James Gairdner (Camden Soc., 1876), 224; OED, s.v. 'manhood'.

38. The Last Fight of the Revenge, ed. Edward Arber (1871), 92. For a similar feat, Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine the Great (published 1590), II.iii.1.

39. Thomas Birch, The Life of Henry Prince of Wales (1760), 384.

40. Keith Thomas, Rule and Misrule in the Schools of Early Modern England, Stenton Lecture (Reading, 1976), 9–12.

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