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The Elizabethan World Picture Paperback – October 12, 1959

ISBN-13: 978-0394701622 ISBN-10: 0394701623 Edition: First Paperback Edition

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 116 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; First Paperback Edition edition (October 12, 1959)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394701623
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394701622
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 0.4 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #222,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

E. M. W. Tillyard (1889-1962) was a fellow, and later became master at Jesus College, Cambridge University. He has best known for his argument that Elizabethan literature did not represent humanism, but instead a theological bond that allowed the medieval view of the world order to continue. Some of his works include Shakespeare’s Early Comedies, The Epic Strain in the English Novel, and The Miltonic Setting: Past and Present.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 21 customer reviews
A must-read book.
RC
Tillyard's book should be mandatory for anyone who thinks they understand Shakespeare -- or who wants to understand Shakespeare.
Robert James
I used it as a reference in college for a lit. class.
Susan F. Ehrlich

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Ian M. Slater on October 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
Shakespeare and his contemporaries not only wrote in a form of English which is no longer familiar (and may not mean the same thing when it looks familiar), and needs notes on words and grammar to be completely understandable. Like Dante, they lived in a mental world which is now remote and foreign. No matter how universal Shakespeare, or Ben Jonson, or Christopher Marlowe, may seem, it is easy to miss the points of their statements, take the commonplace for the original, the new for the ordinary, and generally impose our own thoughts on their words.

This was in fact the common practice in the eighteenth and nineteenth century (with some honorable exceptions), but some of the great scholars of the Victorian Age began to try to restore the intellectual context of an epoch that was no longer entirely medieval, but not really modern. Their approach gradually filtered down to students through articles and commentaries. Or, as in this case, an independent introduction to the subject.

For over half of the twentieth century, E.M.W. Tillyard's handy summary of "The Elizabethan World Picture" gave countless undergraduates, and many curious readers, a short introduction to an often unfamiliar world. A world in which your health rested on a proper balance of humours, which were not your reaction to jokes, but substances flowing through your body. A world in which the Four Elements (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water) were part of a hierarchy beginning with God, and including all the ranks of human beings. A world which was beginning to crumble, as the Eternal Truths of Christianity became contingent on political events, and which needed reassurance, even in popular entertainment.

Tillyard was an interesting critic (he had a famous debate on critical theory with C.S.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Princess Artemis on January 31, 2002
Format: Paperback
I don't know enough about the Elizabethan time to know what this book may have left out, but I found it utterly fascinating.
People today seem so proud of their own scientific views and look down on older ones as so obviously out of date, but they fail to recognize that given what the people of the time had access to, their worldview was just as consistent with the then known facts as 'ours' is today.
Some day the prevalent worldview may become blatantly wrong according to new facts, and maybe some day people will read about it and be as fascinated by 'our'worldview as I am by the Elizabethan.
This book does a wonderful job of describing the fantastically interconnected parts that make up the Elizabethan worldview, and I find it something worth using to understand and read things written at the time and to remember as metaphor for today.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 11, 1998
Format: Paperback
Although this book is short and readable, it contains a lot of general information about the Elizabethan world picture. The book doesn't get bogged down in scholarly details, and can be read and understood at the junior high level and above. You needn't be interested in Shakespeare to read this; however, any reading of him, or his contemporaries, will be a fuller reading after looking at this book.
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27 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Joost Daalder on April 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
When I was a student some four decades ago this book was often regarded as having proved unequivocally that the simplistic hierarchical view of the world presented by Tillyard as Elizabethan was indeed that; that all Elizabethans, without question, fully held the beliefs he imputed to them.
What is clear is that a number of Elizabethans did hold such beliefs, and that Tillyard does prove as much. But anyone reading e.g. Shakespeare's *Richard II* with Tillyard's book in mind could see that it did not "work": that Shakepeare is divided in his response to events. Richard may see himself as protected by "divine right" - by God himself - but the play leaves one in doubt whether he actually is. Yet Bolingbroke's actions - although Richard gives him the throne too readily - can easily be seen to be those of a usurper. Such complexities cannot be resolved by an appeal to Tillyard's book, and shows its very severe limits: an intelligent Elizabethan like Shakespeare could obviously see beyond Tillyard's "model"!
However, the influence of Tillyard's book been enormous, and much modern (or should that be "post-modern"?) nonsense that would see Shakespeare as purely "subversive" or providing "Shakespearean texts" which serve as a "site" for "conflict" within his society can either be refuted by knowledge of Tillyard's model or be seen as nothing other than a modification of it, whereby the model remains structurally intact but has different values assigned to it (along the lines of "we all know that the Elizabethans thought hierarchically, but you - a right-winger - approve of such a view whereas I, as a left-winger, don't").
Readers interested in the Reniassance who don't own a copy should get one, as this remains a very important text to refer to, containing much valuable and unreplaced information. - Joost Daalder, Professor of English, Flinders University, South Australia
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Robert James on August 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Shakespeare is the one writer in English who can claim without dispute universality: translated into every language on the face of the planet, performed year after year in countless theaters, spoken by lovers stealing his best lines in numberless trysts. But unless you read this book, you really have no hope of understanding Shakespeare. First published more than half a century ago, Tillyard to this day is utterly readable and dead-on correct about the way the Elizabethans viewed the world. What almost everybody misses about Shakespeare is that he was essentially a conservative, dedicated to supporting the government which allowed his plays to be performed; this book explains why all of Shakespeare's plays support the established order, and crush anyone who would defy that order -- even in the comedies, the order of the world is restored to where it belongs. Tillyard's book should be mandatory for anyone who thinks they understand Shakespeare -- or who wants to understand Shakespeare.
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