Here is your husband; like a mildewed ear, Blasting his wholesome brother.
Money is like muck, not good except it be spread.
Such great stuff! The Elizabethans wrote as they spoke. Or, rather, they put on the page the language of farmers pushing plows, of village women pausing for a chat. The book's author, L. C. Knights, a leading twentieth-century authority on Shakespeare and his era, pointed out that all of England, including London, was agrarian in the seventeenth century. Its prose was earthy because writers chose physical images that recalled living things and reflected the changing seasons. (The mildewed ear is one of corn.)
Consider this bit from The Unfortunate Traveller, by Thomas Nash:
O so I was tickled in the spleene with that word, my hart hopt and danst, my elbowes icht, my fingers friskt, I wist not what should become of my feete, nor knewe what I did for joy.
Can't you just feel that tickling deep in your spleen? Those restless feet?
Here is the popular pamphleteer Thomas Dekker summarizing the life of Queen Elizabeth in a lovely, poetic way:
Shee came in with the fall of the leafe, and went away in the Spring: her life (which was dedicated to Virginitie), both beginning and closing up a miraculous maiden circle: for she was born upon a Lady Eve and died upon a Lady Eve: her Nativitie and death being memorable by his wonder....
I had to look up the meaning of a "Lady Eve" and learned that Elizabeth was born on the eve of the Nativity of the Virgin and died on the eve of the Feast of the Assumption.
As Professor Knights pointed out, the strengths of Elizabethan prose were also its limitations. For a writer wanting to be subtle, or to make a logical argument, or to describe a scene with exactness, it came up short. So, as writers' needs changed--as society changed--language evolved. A distance grew between written and spoken English. Imagery became more sophisticated and diverse.
We no longer write like Elizabethans because we live in a different world. Still, we can learn from those early prose stylists to draw fresh, vibrant images from our own environment and to brighten our sentences with the cadences of modern speech. Dryden said of the period's greatest poet, "When Shakespeare describes a thing, you more than see it, you feel it too." That's a worthy goal for all of us.