Books: An Elizabethan Epic

HAKLUYT'S VOYAGES. Selected and edited by Irwin R. Blacker. 522 pages. Viking. $8.50.

Why then the world's mine oyster,

Which I with sword will open!

The spirit of the age finds utterance in Shakespeare's swaggering lines. In 1533, when Elizabeth was born, England was an igneous interruption in the North Sea that mattered rather less to Europe than Cuba does to the U.S. In 1603, when Elizabeth died, England was the mightiest sea power in the world, a nation of adventurers whose wily merchants and intrepid captains had struck into all seven seas, set up...

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