I didn't enjoy this volume as much as its earlier companion `The Elizabethan Renaissance: the Life of the Society'. Rowse, to be sure, covers the ground well, and with his usual eye for detail, whether discussing the writing of Sir Philip Sidney, the music of Byrd and Tallis (for which he clearly had a very appreciative ear), or the `domestic arts' of embroidery, tapestry and tableware. He is interesting, too, on the contributions of Bacon and others to the new `scientific' understanding of society. But some chapters were over-long and perhaps guilty of making too much of rather modest achievement - English painting under Elizabeth looks narrow and unambitious when set beside the flowering of European art at the time, for example. Rowse sometimes lacks the necessary objectivity, too: he clearly can't stand the Puritans, and spends much of the final chapter (on `mind and spirit') telling us so. As a result, we learn next to nothing of the true tenor of this particular aspect of the intellectual life of the time - which is a shame. Overall, then, good in parts - but patchy and occasionally opinionated.
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51 of 51 people found the following review helpful
A Great Book!1 Mar. 2001
Richard S. Guier
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The Elizabethan Renaissance: The Life of the Society by the renowned historian of Elizabethan England A.L. Rowse is a fascinating look at life in this most remarkable period. Unlike many "social histories" which deal primarily with the upper classes of society, Mr. Rowse gives equal time to all, from the Court and the landed gentry to the middle and lower classes, examining in great detail all elements of life. He presents a complete portrait of human nature of this time, with chapters on customs, religion, sport, food, sanitation, sex, and a noteworthy examination of the Elizabethans' obsession with what we now call "New Age," featuring such topics as astrology, witchcraft, sorcery, and alchemy. It is a truly entertaining book, filled with facts and "trivia," that makes the Elizabethan world come alive. Although some passages can be rather dense--it helps tremendously to have at least a basic knowledge of the major personalities--it is a must read for anyone interested in the Elizabethan period.
5 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Disappointed20 Aug. 2009
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I was so disappointed in this book. The chapters sounded so interesting. The photos were good, but the writing was so dull. I tried several chapters and found them all to be just blah, blah, blah. I love this period and have several books about the Elizabethan era, but this book did not have one page I found interesting. I am returning the book.