Elizabethan Era, the similarities and differences this era has to our present day.

Elizabethan Era, the similarities and differences this era has to our present day.


Elizabethan education was generally for boys of the upper and middle classes. However, upper class girls, often members of the Nobility were also given an education. To me this is a similarity because up until the civil rights movement it was the same here in the US. Another similarity was the basic principles of childhood. These basic elements included respecting their mother and father, asking their parents blessing, having table manners, and having education start in the home.

Some inventions created during the Elizabethan era we still use today, we have just perfected them. Some of these inventions include the telescope, pocket watch, bottled beer, flush toilet, thermometer, and even the frozen chicken!
New scientific methods arose during the Elizabethan era thanks to people like Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Vesalius, Harvey, and their fellow workers. In the Middle Ages students had mostly been satisfied to accept what Aristotle and other philosophers had said, without trying to prove their statements. Kepler, for instance, was the first to disprove the Aristotle’s idea that, as all perfect motion is circular therefore the heavenly bodies must move in circular orbits. Similarly, the world had to wait many centuries before Harvey showed Aristotle’s error in supposing that the blood arose in the liver, went thence to the heart, and by the veins was conducted over the body. The new scientific method rested on observation and experiment. Students learned at length to take nothing for granted, to set aside all authority, and to go straight to nature for their facts. We are still using these scientific methods in the present day.

Another similarity which I am sad to say it is a similarity is the serious lack of sanitation in Elizabethan days, especially in big cities. Streets were filled with rotting garbage, sewers were blocked and rivers were contaminated by domestic waste. Epidemic diseases became increasingly common due to the growth of rodents, fleas, and lice. This is still happening all over the world today! I have also noted a difference a couple of paragraphs ahead.

This takes me to another similarity. People of different social status and financial ability consumed different food. The lower classes had a diet consisting largely of bread, cheese and vegetables. Vegetables were food for the poor as the rich considered food from the ground as lowly, while meat was a luxury for the rich. The upper classes had a variety of meat to choose such as venison, beef, pork, lamb and fowl. They could also choose from many different fish such as salmon, white fish and different shellfish. They occasionally took vegetables such as turnips, carrots, and radishes and fruits such as apples, plums, and strawberries. However, meat was still the main component of their diet. They were also fond of many desserts like pastries, tarts, and cakes. I feel this is the same today as well. You eat well if you have money.


In the Elizabethan Era they studied ancient medicine, and the ideas of Hypocrites and Galen. The beliefs of the people were strange. They believed in humors and using herbs as the cure for any ailment. The filthy living conditions, crowded cities, and poverty also caused many of the feared diseases, such as the Black Plague and Smallpox, during the Elizabethan era. In today’s society medical treatments have improved tremendously with the use of new technology and especially with the development of various immunizations. People today don’t worry about being infected with the Black Plague or Smallpox because of the advancements in medicine.

Many words used in the Elizabethan language are no longer in use. Other words have replaced them or the original meaning and use of the words are no longer required. A funny example of words not in use in the modern English language anymore is the Elizabethan word “gong”, which meant dung. The men whose job was to empty and dispose of the waste from the toilets were called “Gong Farmers”. The Elizabethan alphabet contained 24 letters, our present day alphabet consists of 26 letters. In the Elizabethan alphabet the letters “u” and “v” was the same letter, as were the letters “i” and “j”. The “j” was used only in the middle of a word, and the “v” was used only at the beginning. Another letter which resembled a “y” was used to represent the “th” sound. The word “the” was therefore written in a similar way as “ye” would in the modern day. There were differences in numbers in the Elizabethan days compared to present day as well. Numbers were frequently written in lower case Roman numerals, with the last “I” in a number written as a “j”. For example, “viij March”.

During the Elizabethan times the number of words used in their language was constantly developing. The average number of words used in a “commoners” vocabulary during the Elizabethan times was less than 500, compared with at least 7500 words that are used in modern day English. Elizabethan language and vocabulary had not been formalized. Dictionaries were not available like they are in our present day therefore words were not used in structured formats.

Another difference was a typical week at an Elizabethan grammar school compared to a typical week in present elementary schools. A typical school week at an Elizabethan grammar school looked like this: Monday – an examination based on the previous Sunday’s sermon, Tuesday to Thursday – the basic curriculum, Friday – examinations and punishments, and Saturday – study of the catechism and some arithmetic.

Clothing was also different back in the Elizabethan days. It is believed that during that time clothes were such an important treasure that those belonging to the upper classes of nobility and aristocracy would spend all their earnings on what they wore. The women finely decorated their dresses. Today Elizabethan costumes are more about fun. While it is completely outdated, it forms a theme for costume parties and fancy dress balls. The rich wore fabrics such as velvet, satin and cotton, whereas the poor wore flannel and other cheaply available fabrics. It may be surprising how cotton was regarded as a rich person’s clothing because in those days, cotton was not as easily available as compared to today. It also would be inconvenient and an extremely expensive option to wear today.

Another difference was that advanced medicine didn’t exist like it does today, therefore people sought for basic remedies to various illnesses usually by making their own medicine and potions using herbs and plants. This could be a similarity though as well, it depends on what part of the globe you’re living on.

The accepted social mores of Elizabethan times are comparatively very different to those of the present day. Speaking generally, people’s attitudes, ways of thinking, and expectations have diversified immensely for the better. Males and females are viewed differently by each other and by society in general, and have reached a level of equality never before encountered in earlier times.

In the 16th century, the life span was shorter than that of today. The average lifespan of an adult male was 47 years, while the life expectancy of people in London was 35 years for the richer ones, and only 25 years for the less affluent ones. Death in infancy or early childhood was common. Also, about 40% of the people died before their middle teenage years.