Against "Golden Ages"

I feel like one of the things that I often come across is evidence that previous epochs were often not as great as we sometimes think them to be. I feel like I could start cobbling together such posts under a title like the one above. Anyway, cast your mind back to the 1500s, ah, the era into which Shakespeare was born, what a civilized time! Here’s a sample from etiquette¬†books of the 16th Century, as recounted by Charles Taylor:

“Early books of etiquette admonish people not to blow their nose on the table cloth. A book of 1558 tells us that it is ‘not a very fine habit’, when one comes across excrement in the street to point it out to another, and hold it up for him to smell. People are told not to defecate in public places. Clearly we are in an age whose standards in this regard are far removed from our own.”

They didn’t really show that in Shakespeare in Love or Elizabeth, did they?