Daily life in the Elizabethan era differed according to social status and location, i.e. town or country. It usually consisted of fixed routines, like getting ready, cooking and eating meals, leisure etc. The day usually started at the crack of dawn, to make most of the daylight hours.
The servants were the first to rise, followed by the mistress of the house. Hand-maidens, or servant girls, helped the mistress get ready, and then woke the rest of the household. It was only after, the men and children left the house for work or schools that women could attend to their daily chores.
Everyday Life in the Elizabethan Era
What did people eat in the Elizabethan era?
People generally ate two meals a day: dinner at noon and supper around 6:00 in the evening. At a feast, guests usually sat on benches, with chairs reserved for the only most honoured guests. Commoners used wooden bowls and spoons at their meals and also ate with their bare fingers rather than spoons and forks. Salt was a rare commodity, and the meat was in short supply in most households.
The lower and middle classes generally ate grains and vegetables, while the nobility enjoyed eating meats and sweets. In general, Elizabethan cooking was generally sweeter than cooking today, although sugar was an expensive luxury. Meats were often cooked with fruits for flavouring. Desserts were commonly flavoured with dry fruits like dates and almonds.
Elizabethan era jobs
Jobs in the Elizabethan era were multiple, especially for the poor and middle-class. People would work as carpenters, blacksmiths, builders, farmers, millers, milkmen, labourers etc. They would also work as servants, nurses and maids in the houses of the rich families.
Women also had to work very hard. They would usually work as governesses, nurses, tailors etc. They were also expected to look after the domestic animals, cook, clean and do all the household works.
Elizabethan family life
Men were the head of the family and there will be final in the Elizabethan time. The women were regarded as inferior to men. In the Elizabethan era, marriages hardly had anything to do with love. People usually got married for money and status and to have heirs.
The women did not have any say in matters of their marriage. They were expected to obey the men in the family throughout their lives. Marriages were arranged by the family to suit their needs.
What was marriage like in the Elizabethan era?
Marriages did not have anything to do with love or romance, contrary to what was portrayed in literature. The Elizabethan people were extremely practical in these terms and arranged for marriages to gain more wealth, elevate their social status and to produce male heirs.
Children’s life in the Elizabethan era
Children’s lives were also different from the lives they have today. Boys were provided with education and sent to school while the girls were made to stay at home and learn household works. The boys learned about classical arts, languages, rhetoric etc.
However, the boys of the lower-classes often could not afford education and had to help the families in earning money. Children of the wealthy families were taught strict manners and scolded and punished if they broke the rules.
Religious beliefs in the Elizabethan England
There were two major divisions in the religious faith in the Elizabethan era – Catholicism and Protestantism. The favoured faith depended upon the wish of the monarch and the influence of the Church on him/her. There were several fights that broke out due to the convictions and beliefs put upon the respective faiths of people and it led to the executions of numerous people.
Queen Elizabeth I herself believed in Protestantism and England became a protestant state during her reign. Although she was not too strict in her laws regarding religion and did not execute people who followed catholicism, certain rules were still imposed, like fining people for not attending the church etc.
Elizabethan era relationships
It was believed that parents, in the Elizabethan era, were responsible to take all the decisions for their children. They knew best and would, therefore, arrange for everything. Marriages were arranged according to social classes of both the families.
The rich families consisted of extended family members who often lived in the same house.
Life in The Elizabethan Era Facts
Elizabethan era entertainment
The evenings were filled with leisure activities to relax after a tiring day. Plays were enacted in town squares followed by the actors using the courtyards of taverns or inns. Miracle Plays, re-enactments of stories from the Bible, were derived from the ancient Briton custom of Mystery Plays, in which stories and fables were enacted to teach lessons or educate about life in general.
Sports and games, included archery, bowling, cards, dice, hammer-throwing, quarter-staff contests, troco, quoits, skittles, wrestling and mob football. Hunting and Hawking were also important past-times, indulged by the nobility.
Since there was no electricity, people retired (went to sleep) by sun-down, i.e. 7.00-8.00 pm, to start afresh the next day.
Education in the Elizabethan era
In the Elizabethan era, education was usually only provided to the boys. They were taught classical languages, religion, theology, rhetoric etc. Children of the rich families were taught by private tutors at home and children lower-classes were sent to schools.
Grammar schools were the most common schools in the Elizabethan era.
Elizabethan era medicines
People in the Elizabethan era rarely called a doctor for their ailments. The lower-classes, especially, could not afford the expenses of a physician. Instead, they relied on the local “wise-women” for remedies. Various kinds of foods and herbs were prescribed for various ailments. Astrologers were also consulted for the cure of diseases.
Elizabethan era living conditions
The population of cities such as London were greatly divided in the Elizabethan era. There were rich and powerful people such as the nobles and aristocrats who would live a life of prosperity. There was also a middle-class that was growing and prospering, as well as a huge population of destitute lower-class that lived in impoverishment.’
They lived in the filthy, crowded streets of the city through which the sewage ran. Labourers in the Elizabethan England also lived in such poor condition and had to wander around for jobs to feed themselves. Many people were forced to become criminals.
Sanitation and medical conditions were not very well developed and hence, there was little help available for the sick and the elderly people. The average life expectancy of a person in Elizabethan times was around forty-five.