What was the social climate like during Shakespeare's time? How does it compare to the social climate of Romeo and Juliet?

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Even though the play is set in Italy, there are definite parallels between some of the social aspects of Romeo and Juliet and life in Elizabethan England during Shakespeare’s time. Men were considered to be in control of the household, which included making decisions for wives and daughters. In the upper class, fathers often chose their daughters’ husbands based on what would be an advantageous match for the family either financially or socially. There is some evidence that the young women had a little input into the choice, but not a lot.

Feuding was common, especially among the upper classes. They hoped to increase their property and power. Servants of the lords would carry on the feud in the streets, as they did in Romeo and Juliet.

Politically, England was strong and stable. They had just defeated the Spanish armada and Queen Elizabeth was a popular and decisive leader.

Aristocrats would have had education, but the average person did not. They practiced a trade or worked as servants or other low-paying jobs. There was a significant amount of unemployment.

Also, people of all social classes were extremely superstitious and believed in ghosts, witches, alchemy, astrology, fairies, etc. 

For entertainment, the people of the time enjoyed theater, fairs, festivals, and gaming activities like dice, cards, and horseracing. A major event, such as the Queen’s birthday, would require a full pageant that would be weeks in the planning, with games, spectacles, shows, music, feasting, and so forth. Wealthy aristocrats often held masquerades and lavish parties.

 

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