The Elizabethan Age

British Peerage and Nobility

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British Peerage and Nobility

The system of British Peerage in Shakespeare's time (which still exists—although altered—in modern day Great Britain) determined one's position in society. many of Shakespeare's characters carried titles that—in the Bard's time—would have immediately told audience members a lot about that person's rank, importance, and authority over his peers. Today's audiences will be less familiar with the British Peerage and Nobility, so here's a quick primer:

Duke: The highest rank in British Peerage; from the Latin dux, meaning leader. The female counterpart to a Duke is a Duchess.

Marquess: Second-highest rank, from the French marquis, meaning march. The female counterpart is the Marchioness.

Earl: This title comes from an old English term that referred to a military leader, and the rank corresponds to a Count in continental Europe. the female counterpart of an Earl is the Countess.

Viscount: A Latin-derived word that translates to vice-count.

Baron: The lowest rank of British Peer; someone who holds land directly from the King or Queen.

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