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How to Behave Badly in Elizabethan England

A Guide for Knaves, Fools, Harlots, Cuckolds, Drunkards, Liars, Thieves, and Braggarts
Written by: Ruth Goodman
Narrated by: Jennifer M. Dixon
Length: 10 hrs and 57 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.5 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Every age and social strata has its bad eggs, rule-breakers, and nose-thumbers. As acclaimed popular historian and author of How to Be a Victorian Ruth Goodman reveals in her madcap chronicle, Elizabethan England was particularly rank with troublemakers, from snooty needlers who took aim with a cutting "thee" to lowbrow drunkards with revolting table manners. Goodman draws on advice manuals, court cases, and sermons to offer this colorfully crude portrait of offenses most foul. 

Mischievous listeners will delight in learning how to time your impressions for the biggest laugh, why quoting Shakespeare was poor form, and why curses hurled at women were almost always about sex (and why we shouldn't be surprised). Bringing her signature "exhilarating and contagious" enthusiasm (Boston Globe), this is a celebration of one of history's naughtiest periods, when derision was an art form.

©2018 Ruth Goodman (P)2019 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

interesting writer but uninspiring reader

I like the other book by Ruth Goodman I have listened to but this one was really killed by a lackluster reader. I kept trying to persevere cause the topic was really fun but in the end I gave up...

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Love the book, performance was poor

The story telling and writing of this book is fantastic but the narration was very one note. I wish Ruth Goodman had read this book herself, she has an amazingly engaging way of speaking that would have put this book over the top!

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  • Marsha L. Woerner
  • 2019-08-24

So that's where it all came from…

(As posted in GoodReads)
What a fun and enlightening book! At 1st I thought it was primarily to demonstrate the differences between current society and norms, and those of years ago – and it is. But as such, it emphasizes the beginnings of current, oh I don't know, sexism and distastes that we still experience in the 21st-century.
She (the author) starts by pointing out that language and insults from the 16th and 17th centuries were not just highly amusing, but they were highly offensive at the time. Over the hundreds of years, said insults are less insulting, and it's possible to go with the humor. And it's nice to see that sexism per se from those days as lessened over the years even though it is still prevalent.
And the beliefs that men are allowed to be violent have a basis. It's not just the case that men are ALLOWED to be violent, but that used to be part of the definition of a well educated and well brought up man!
And our current beliefs about weaponry initiated back when all men of fighting age were expected to have swords. We are working on moving society to the 21st-century, including sexism, strained beliefs about men versus women; about homosexuals versus heterosexuals; about individual beliefs versus religious beliefs; about needs for self-defense versus desire to wipe out everyone who is not WE;...
I don't often give a book 5 stars, but this book deserves it for the opening of the mind and the need to assess and change our current society!

22 people found this helpful

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  • Alanna R
  • 2019-03-18

I learned a lot about cultural norms..even today's

I really enjoyed this book. Ruth Goodman is one of my favorite historians. This book covers cultural norms from Henry the 7th's reign until Charles the Second's reign. The British title of this book, "How To Behave Badly in Renaissance Britian", is a more accurate title for what is inside. One of the most interesting facts to me was about how little it took for women to be considered a cross dresser. It also explained why, even now in the 21st Century, we are so obsessed with degrading women in a sexual manner and why the worst thing you could do was call a woman a whore. You would think after 600 years we could move past this already. Definitely read this book!

210 people found this helpful

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  • Cynthia
  • 2019-08-27

Enlightening

This books makes the past a living breathing thing to aid our understanding of today.
We think as a civilized society, we, as a whole, have changed dramatically in the 500 years since the focus of this book, but in reality, we haven't. there is still the petty squabbles, the heavy drinking and the trying to keep up with the Jones's. I enjoyed the journey!
Thank you Ruth Goodman for showing me the past in such a delightful way! Thanks also to Jennifer M. Dixon for such a great performance!

6 people found this helpful

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  • Missee
  • 2019-08-26

A bit redundant and slow..

I enjoyed this book, there were a lot of points that were repeated throughout and parts of it dragged but it was fun enough. Nothing in it was shocking or surprising. but it went in depth into some behaviors and the feelings about them that kept the book interesting.

The narration was good, I have no complaints.

6 people found this helpful

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  • wylie smith
  • 2019-08-26

Get the print

I would rate this higher if I could see what the author is talking about. A chapter on rude gestures or fighting really needs illustrations. Without them, my mind sometimes wandered.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Ron Peters
  • 2019-09-01

Not as much fun as you' d think!

Ruth Goodman (2018) How to Behave Badly in Elizabethan England: A Guide for Knaves, Fools, Harlots, Cuckolds, Liars, Drunkards, Thieves, and Braggarts. A moderately interesting listen, at just under 11 hours, but it still managed to somehow be more academic than entertaining. The chapters cover such topics as offensive speech; Insolent, rude and threatening gestures; Mockery; Outright violence; Disgusting Habits, Repulsive Bodies, and a conclusion The Complete Scoundrel. The headings may have your eyes twinkling in anticipation of some good old-fashioned salacious fun and, at times, there are memorable descriptions now and then. But I found myself zoning out regularly. I needed to force my attention back time and again. It was reasonably interesting, overall, but definitely not something I’d ever listen to a second time.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Friar John Cor
  • 2019-08-28

Not nearly as engaging as I had hoped

I was looking forward to this book, as I enjoy well-research popular history. But this one does rather drag on. The opening chapter on offensive speech was mildly enjoyable if slow, though the detailed analysis of seemingly every potential insulting term (some in the subtitle) and how they could be affected by context had me skipping ahead in 30-second intervals in the hope that I'd find something more interesting. What I found was the second chapter, on gestures, most of which seemed to focus on the intricacies of bowing: foot positions, degree of bend, knees in or out, tilt of head, where the eyes are looking. It was too much. I gave up and set the book aside for the time being. Forthcoming chapter titles - "Mockery," "Outright Violence," "Disgusting Habits" - hold some promise, and I plan to return (and perhaps update my review when I do), but for now I need a break.

9 people found this helpful

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  • 5Star
  • 2019-08-29

Like Reading the Dictionary Slowly

I read The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England and The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul and thought I would enjoy this book. I did not. Elizabethan England is truly an alien world and it is hard to believe some of the stories about it. The problem with How to Behave Badly in Elizabethan England is that is a laundry list of bad behaviors recited without any meaningful context. Maybe someone obsessed with the period might be interested in the book but the lack of context makes any attempt at listening very difficult.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Trulee Carpenter
  • 2020-01-30

Good to know

As a genealogist, I really enjoyed learning more about this time period. Some parts had me laughing out loud. The author is an incredible researcher. I can't even fathom how many hours she devoted to this wide array of human behavior. I really appreciate it. Thank you!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Astrobuf
  • 2019-12-27

Bounces around a bit. More about English manners.

Longer than it should be. but all chapters are interesting. less about behaving badly, more about social mores.

1 person found this helpful