On His Having Arrived at the Age of Twenty-Three Historical Context

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Seventeenth Century

The years between 1576 and 1642 are often described as the golden age of English poetry, drama, and theatre, although the period was not golden for those who lived through it. For one hundred years, farmers had been displaced by enclosure acts that fenced off agricultural land for pastures, resulting in inflation and unemployment in the countryside. Crop failures, the threat of war abroad, and the sometimes brutal religious strife that enveloped the country, had shaken English society by the time Elizabeth assumed the throne in 1558. The Elizabethan regimen produced relative stability, but the queen's failure to name a successor brought discontent and the threat of civil war even before her death. Initially, James I's rule was greeted with enthusiasm, but religious, class, and political divisions intensified with time. Rural unemployment drove many people to London, making it the largest city in Europe. Civil problems led to widespread...

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This section contains 671 words
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Poetry for Students
On His Having Arrived at the Age of Twenty-Three from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.