The Tudor Schoolroom, Antique Fables, and Fairy Toys

  • Catherine Belsey
Part of the Literary Cultures and Childhoods book series (LICUCH)


What stories were made available to early modern children at school and at home? Catherine Belsey considers how the upbringing of early modern children equipped them to reshape their culture for a new generation. Although the grammar school offered a harsh environment for little boys, the Latin curriculum included Aesop’s fables, which would reappear transformed in the work of the adult Spenser, Marlowe, Shakespeare and Ben Jonson. Ovid, also taught at school, was everywhere reinvented in early modern writing, while Virgil provided the model for tales of heroic adventure. Girls would generally encounter these authors at one remove, but Aesop was also marketed in translation for reading by the family hearth—with pictures—as were Chaucer and Reynard the Fox. Popular romances, too, were abridged as holiday reading for the young. And alongside all this, old wives were assigned the task of keeping alive the oral tradition of fireside tales, which were also put into print for a few pence in broadside ballads. Meanwhile, the chapter demonstrates that the educational discipline of translation encouraged an awareness of connotation that must go some way to explain the period’s extraordinary output of writing in English.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine Belsey
    • 1
  1. 1.University of DerbyDerbyUK

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