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Home | Shakespeare: Then and Now

A Day in the Life . . .
A Personal Journey Through the English Renaissance
Image by Renaissance Compendium

 Introduction       Task    Process   Resources  Evaluation Conclusion 


        We have all heard stories about the legendary kings and queens of England  and have seen images captured on film and in books about the feats of the noble knights.  We can recall countless tales featuring swashbuckling heroes, and can certainly recognize a castle when we see one.  But are our images about these times authentic?  What was it really like to live in those times romanticized in literature and legend?

Discover the answer to this question by exploring sites that allow you to assume the personality of a citizen of a small village just outside of London in the autumn of 1597.  Did the people of this era live in a way that is similar to us?  Or was everything different?  What clothes did they wear?  What foods did they eat?  How was each day spent?  The information you gather will assist the class in staging its own Renaissance Fair!



         What was life really like in the Renaissance?  How are the issues of Justice, Truth, and Beauty that we examine in our  curriculum reflected in their lifestyles?   Let's examine a particular day in time, just an ordinary day, with no particular import to it.  The printing press has been invented, towns and cities are growing, and the feudal system has ended.  England, always a little slower than the rest of Europe, and recovering from the roiling troubles of Henry VIII and his woes with the Church, is now firmly under the rule of Elizabeth I, his daughter.  The Renaissance that has been sweeping the mainland for at least two centuries, has at last reached the shores of this island with a vengeance.   Let's practice our Internet skills, write creatively, and develop good habits in citing sources while journeying through the Renaissance.

The Product:  After doing some Internet research about life in England at this period in history, write a diary entry from the perspective of a chosen character for September 13, 1597, that illustrates your knowledge of life in the Renaissance. You may choose to organize your diary response by recounting it chronologically or by focusing on one major event of the day that impacted your life deeply. Analyze and synthesize the information you gather so that you have a clear understanding of sixteenth century life through your character's eyes.


Note:  Click on hypertext words (in blue) in process steps for resources and help.

1. Look over the listed cast of characters who will inhabit our little community and select one with which to work.  Remember that it takes all kinds of citizens to make the world turn smoothly, so don't discount how interesting the "lesser" people may be.  In addition, since "no man is an island" (John Donne), living isolated from others, you will surely fill up your diary describing encounters with others in your life. (An employer, a spouse, a child, a merchant, a fellow worker?)

2. Evaluate your character from the description provided to determine his/her station in life.

3. Begin to browse the resource table to gather information helpful to your research goal.  Some sites will not be helpful to you, or perhaps only indirectly, so that you capture another character in your work authentically.  Research as many aspects of that person's "life" as possible.

4. Complete a Research Notes Worksheet by creating a word document and then using the commands "copy" and "paste" to record your findings in an organized way as you navigate your way through the resources provided.  For each "note", highlight the URL and use the command "copy" then place it onto your document and then command "paste" to place it on the page.  To capture text, do the same, highlighting the portion of the text you need, then copying and pasting it onto your worksheet.  Finally, paraphrase the information in your own words.

5. While there will certainly be room for creativity in deciding what to include or leave out of your account of September 13, 1597, some requirements remain:

  • Each character should have an an appropriate name, so be sure to research naming customs.
  • At least one item of clothing must be mentioned in the diary entry.
  • At least one meal or snack must be described in detail. (It could be one you prepared, ate, served, or purchased.)
  • You must account for your day:  What occupied your time?  Be as specific as possible.  Describe the feelings, troubles, and triumphs of your day.  Little anecdotes about these will give a richness and texture to your work.
  • Allow your character some free time for leisure and entertainment, as is appropriate for that character.  Describe what your character does for fun or relaxation.
  • Recount dialogue between characters that incorporates period sayings and language common to this era. Be sure to review dialogue rules if you are unsure how to write conversation.
6. Some optional resources are provided for you to build your character's "character", such as details on the home you live in, family life, love, intrigue, hobbies or vices, money, education (if any!) and, of course, religious beliefs.

Cast of Characters

11 year old schoolboy 14 year old daughter of a nobleman
Elderly clergyman 38 year old nobleman
30 year old noblewoman 24 year old printer in the village
50 year old inn- and tavern keeper 10 year old scullery maid
31 year old fabric merchant 27 year old miller
15 year old ladies' maid 17 year old son of a nobleman
52 year old doctor 25 year old widow from the village
39 year old sheriff 44 year old haberdasher
61 year old cook in the castle 8 year old stable boy



Renaissance Resources


Students must actively participate in all aspects of the Web Quest project.

  • Selection of a character and completion of the Research Notes Worksheet.
  • Completion of a graphic organizer for your diary entry.
  • Participation in the Peer Editor's Workshop.
  • Submission of the final draft of your diary entry, assessed using our writing rubric.
  • Oral presentation detailing the life history of your chosen character, assessed using the oral presentation rubric.


        Research and writing can be difficult tasks under any circumstances.  It is time consuming and requires some technical skill.  To become proficient requires practice, to enjoy it demands creativity.  In addition, choosing sources for information and analyzing information provided in them requires practice and care.  Incorporating these skills into creative writing and using technology to gather research makes the effort a little easier.  You should now be able to answer with confidence and authority the question, "What was life really like in the Renaissance?"