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Spektrum Shake-speare

Schule und Unterricht 123 NOBILITY NOT JUST A MATTER OF TITLE Characteristics I: Spending Being a nobleman or an aristocrat not only denoted you were a person of high social rank, but it also implied a certain attitude towards life. In order to be a real aristocrat you were expected to spend or waste money to a great extent. Sir Thomas Smith, an Elizabethan scholar, wrote: «… and in England no man is created baron, except he may spend of ye- arly revenue thousand pounds or one thousand marks. Vicounts, earls, mar- quesses and dukes more according to the proportion of the degree and ho- nour.»13 When in June 1586 the Earl of Oxford was granted by the Queen a pen- sion of 1,000 pounds a year to prop up his ruined estate, it was in all likelihood to allow him to spend according to his rank. Characteristics II: Learning Just as it is difficult for us to understand that social prestige in the 16th and 17th centuries was based on spending, it is equally difficult for us to realize that at the beginning of the 16th century the aristocracy was in its majority hostile to learning. A nobleman was supposed to be good at blowing the horn, skilled in hunting or training a hawk – this was enough to be properly educated.14 The ability to write was regarded as sufficient for the son of a nobleman. Due to the change in the social landscape, however, the aristocracy could no lon- ger afford to cultivate their negative view on learning, for in the long run they would have lost their influence and power. So, willy-nilly, they were forced to educate themselves and their children and keep playing an important part in the affairs of the state. 13 Smith, Sir Thomas, de Republica Anglorum, chapter 17. 1 mark = 2/3 pound, 1000 marks = 666.66 pounds. 14 Hexter, J. H., «The Education of theAristocracy the Renaissance» in The Jour- nal of Modern History, Vol. XXII, March 1950, p. 2.