Everyday Life in London 1580-1616
- Stephen Porter
15th November 2009
Everyday life in the teeming metropolis during William Shakespeare's time in the city (c.1580-1616), the height of Queen Elizabeth I's reign. Shakespeare's London was a bustling, teeming metropolis that was growing so rapidly that the government took repeated, and ineffectual, steps to curb its expansion. From contemporary letters, journals and diaries, a vivid picture emerges of this fascinating city, with its many opportunities and also its persistent problems. By far the largest city in the country, it was the centre of government, the law and the church, the focus of politics and culture. It had a vigorous economy, with a range of industries and a lucrative trade in luxury goods for the courtiers and wealthy citizens. Growth produced overcrowding and high mortality, with shockingly high death tolls during the periodic plague epidemics, yet London attracted an endless stream of people, who were absorbed into its diverse communities and economic structures. Here the first playhouses were built, patronised by large audiences, who were treated to a rich and varied diet of plays to keep them, and the court, entertained. The London that Shakespeare knew was an expanding, changing and exciting city.