In a recent review for the New York Times, James Shapiro looks at The Elizabethans by A. N. Wilson, which chronicles the lives of a number of eminent men and women of late Tudor times "who made the age so memorable, including the most remarkable of them all, Queen Elizabeth."
From the review:
Wilson derives much of his sense of the age from its writers, and he quotes to great effect from the works of Shakespeare, Sir Philip Sidney, Christopher Marlowe and especially Edmund Spenser, who, for Wilson, embodied a “radical conservatism” he clearly admires. But Wilson’s immersion in Elizabethan literature lands him in trouble when he extrapolates from imaginative writing what life must have been like back then. Social historians will cringe when reading the old canard that “for Elizabethans, 14 was an ideal age to be married.” Wilson’s evidence? “Shakespeare’s Juliet is, as her nurse reminds us, ‘not 14.’ ” In fact, Elizabethan men and women, excepting a handful of aristocrats, typically didn’t marry until their mid-20s — and perhaps a sixth never married at all.