In Jean Paul Sartre’s play, No Exit, one of the characters exclaimed, “I died too soon!” but another replies that everyone either dies too soon — or too late. In the case of Elizabeth I, perhaps it was the latter. Wallace Mac-Caffrey describes the two decades that ranged from the mid-1560s to the mid-1580s as the golden years of Elizabeth’s reign, with peace and prosperity and a highly popular Queen. MacCaffrey believes that Elizabeth had earned this love and respect of her people through her commitment to the policies of peace abroad and sound economy at home: in her view, the sovereign as active political manager. “Had she died then,” MacCaffrey argues, “Elizabeth would have retained among her contemporaries the image of Astraea, the golden age goddess of peace and plenty.”1 The events of the 1580s and 1590s drove Elizabeth into a policy that went against her instincts and England into a period of war that had grave repercussions, and made the English people far more critical of their monarch. Many of those who fought for England and their Queen were never paid and in the 1590s suffered a life of poverty. It was also a time when outsiders were more recognized and more persecuted. The 1590s was the harshest decade in the reign in terms of witchcraft trials, and the targets of the trial were often poorer women. The charge that Dr Roderigo Lopez, an Anglicized Iberian Jew, planned to poison Elizabeth in 1594 gave voice to strong anti-Jewish sentiments, and though the few Africans in England had been brought there against their will, English anxiety over them caused Elizabeth to attempt to expel them in 1601, on the excuse that they were taking jobs away from the English who needed them.
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