Cover image for How to behave badly in Elizabethan England [large print] : a guide for knaves, fools, harlots, cuckolds, drunkards, liars, thieves, and braggarts / Ruth Goodman.
How to behave badly in Elizabethan England [large print] : a guide for knaves, fools, harlots, cuckolds, drunkards, liars, thieves, and braggarts / Ruth Goodman.
Large print edition.
Publication Information:
Waterville, Maine : Thorndike Press, a part of Gale, a Cengage Company, 2019.

Physical Description:
489 pages (large print) : illustrations ; 23 cm
General Note:
"First published in Great Britain under the title How to behave badly in Renaissance Britain [in 2018]."--Title page verso.


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
942.055 GOO Large Print Book Large Print Collection

On Order



Every age has its bad eggs, rule-breakers and nose-thumbers, and Elizabethan England was particularly rank with troublemakers -- from snooty needlers who took aim with a cutting "thee," to lowbrow drunkards with revolting table manners. Acclaimed popular historian Ruth Goodman draws on advice manuals, court cases, and sermons to offer a colorfully crude portrait of offenses most foul. Mischievous readers will delight in this celebration of one of history's naughtiest periods, when derision was an art form.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

This entertaining, excellent book from Goodman (How to Be a Tudor) provides a window into the nitty-gritty of daily life for merchants, street sellers, and others listed in the subtitle in 1550-1660 England. Goodman writes conversationally about both pointedly bad behavior-for example clarifying in frank terms the meanings of insults based on body parts and functions-and contrasting attempts to keep up with trendy continental manners. She details the clothing and etiquette trends drifting in from Spain and France and the peculiarities wrought by the English Civil War and its effects on propriety. As in her previous work, Goodman's scholarship is exemplary, and she sets the record straight on modern misperceptions of 16th- and 17th-century life; despite stereotypes to the contrary, for example, cleanliness and surprisingly precise meal etiquette were standard for most people. Illustrations depict such phenomena as complicated bows and fights between women in which the goal was to uncover each other's hair-and imply the opponent was of loose moral character. Accessible, fun, and historically accurate, this etiquette guide will yield chuckles, surprises, and a greater understanding of everyday life in Renaissance England. Illus. (Oct.) c Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

New York Review of Books Review

"anyone who has ever tried to learn a new language knows that it is the rude words that somehow stick in the memory." Oh, how I wish Ruth Goodman could be my French tutor. But settling in for one of her history lessons is better than second best. Especially since her latest book is based on the theory that "bad behavior can be so much more illuminating than the world of the respectable conformist." And if you don't believe her, another new etiquette guide, by Cecelia Tichí, has just turned up, offering further proof that sliding around the naughty edges of society can be as informative as it is entertaining. The historical periods Goodman and Tichí describe in "How to Behave Badly in Elizabethan England" and "What Would Mrs. Astor Do" are separated by several centuries and a very large ocean, but each turns out to be deeply hierarchical, conspicuously consuming and obsessed with what the neighbors might think. And each has nurtured some apparently timeless human foibles. Although 21st-century Americans aren't likely to be hauled into court, as some 16th-century Britons were, for deploying a pungent epithet like "a turd in your teeth" or engaging in the criminal offense of "scolding," Goodman need hardly remind us that "manners, power and insult are intricately linked." As its subtitle suggests, Goodman's book - complete with extensive chapters on rude gestures, disgusting habits and outright violence - is the more intimately in-your-face volume. This will come as no surprise to readers of her previous books, "How to Be a Victorian" and "How to Be a Ttidor," or to fans of her rambunctious BBC historical re-enactments, most notably "Ttidor Monastery Farm," in which she experienced the full-on drudgery and muck of being a medieval peasant. Tichi, who teaches American studies and English at Vanderbilt, adopts a more detached approach to the Old Money-Robber Baron clashes that shaped our country at the turn of the 20th century. But you can sense the delight she takes, after laying out some of the rigid proscriptions that ruled New York society ("A lady will not cross a ballroom unattended"; "A lady never sits in the aisle seat if she is with a gentleman"), in pointing out that even a snob like Caroline Astor ("1 have never entertained a foreigner in my life unless he comes to me with a letter of introduction") had to adjust her standards to accommodate her own daughter's divorce. Although Elizabeth 1 ruled Britain's aristocracy as Mrs. Astor aimed to rule her Four Hundred, the realms they inhabited were dominated by men - and men, all the way down the social ladder, were sticklers for maintaining a proper pecking order. Goodman spends many pages attempting to master the techniques for a staggering number of bows and styles of walking that could, if deployed ineptly, result in sniggering at best and ostracism at worst. In some cases, they simply appeared weird: "The high fashion walk of the 1620s gent" - which, she explains, was adapted to accommodate that period's extremely widetopped boots - "made him look like he was suffering from the advanced stages of venereal disease." Goodman is pleased to identify elbowing as the Renaissance counterpart of manspreading and wonders if our own urban gang culture can illuminate that earlier era's "urgent need for visible respect." You might, though, have a moment of doubt when she goes on to describe one of 17th-century London's notorious menaces, a group of upper-class louts who took their name from a Latin poem by Virgil. Or when she introduces a rampaging band of soldiers from a slightly later period whose depredations included forcing women to do their laundry. Gilded Age men had fewer sartorial and social restrictions, as long as they maintained a certain facade. Mr. Astor's yacht was reportedly the scene of wild parties, but his wife, who never set foot on it, merely dismissed inquiries with a blithe "The sea air is so good for him." Yet even a kingpin could outplay his hand, as evidenced by Tichi's account of the exploits of the newspaper heir James Gordon Bennett Jr., with whom, she remarks, "nothing quiet was ever associated." A collector of showgirls and hürler of insults, Bennett was still, by virtue of his wealth and status (at one point serving as commodore of the New York Yacht Club), deemed a most eligible bachelor. This came to an abrupt halt when, after overindulging at the punch bowl, he stopped by the home of a young woman he was courting and urinated in the fireplace - or, as eager rumor later had it, the piano. In any case, the courtship was swiftly ended and Bennett began wearing chain mail under his shirt, lest he be assaulted by an outraged member of the woman's family. A duel with her brother ensued, both shots missed and Bennett fled to Europe. That was not, however, the last of his misdeeds. Years later, during a polo match at Newport, he became incensed by the lackluster play of a teammate and bashed the poor man in the head with his mallet, rendering him senseless. "The matter was hushed up," one observer noted, "as so many scandals were in that day." Definitely a bad role model. And so, Goodman gleefully suggests, was a man associated in later eras with highbrow theatrical entertainments: William Shakespeare. "Admittedly, he wasn't the very worst example," she allows, "but taking your words from the playhouse was very bad form. Butchers quoted 'Hamlet,' not gentlemen.... A comprehensive knowledge of something like Shakespeare's 'King Lear,' after all, was indicative of multiple afternoons spent at the playhouse idly enjoying oneself in the company of common citizens, right next door to bearbaiting and brothels." And that scene in "Hamlet" where the prince faces Ophelia "ungarter'd," with his doublet "all unbrac'd" A man's bare shins "were as far down the actual nudity road as the play could go without censorship, but it was still sufficient to add a frisson of shock to the scene." Thank goodness no one told Mrs. Astor. auda becker is an editor at the Book Review.

Library Journal Review

In previous books, Goodman (How To Be a Victorian; How To Be a Tudor) re-created Victorian and Tudor life as an immersive experience. Here, the author focuses her attention on the nonconforming members of the Elizabethan era. Arguing that one can discern more about a society from what was singled out as unacceptable, Goodman shows how many of the insults and conflicts of the time centered on reputation and honor, as a good name was currency in Elizabethan society. Covering issues such as physical violence, offensive speech, and impolite gestures, this latest work addresses the ways in which one could be set apart from society, either intentionally or unintentionally. While some sections can be a bit overly detailed, the work as a whole stands as an enlightening and entertaining read that defines the class structures of the period and the pitfalls to be avoided. VERDICT Similar to Daniel Pool's What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, this work demonstrates Goodman's mastery of etiquette in 19th-century England. An informative social history for most readers.-Stacy Shaw, Denver © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.