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The Great Chain of Being/Man's Relationship to the Cosmos

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Alyssa Sooklal

on 5 December 2012

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Transcript of The Great Chain of Being/Man's Relationship to the Cosmos

The Great Chain of Being /Man's Relationship to the Cosmos What is the Great Chain? The Great Chain of Being: In Relation to Dr. Faustus How was the Great Chain of Being Used in the Elizabethan's Explanation of Man's Existence? Bibliography A hierarchy of being where the more spirit one has, the higher up they are
Form of metaphysics; explains the existence of man and its relation to God Overall connection: Dr. Faustus tried to become higher than God in spirit when he sold his soul to Lucifer for power, and as punishment, he was taken to Hell to live in eternal agony The Elizabethans believed in a hierarchial ordering of all existence
Ordering was applied to the class structure of society, headed by a semi-divine monarch
Loss of the Great Chain would result in chaos and disorder, a constant threat to Elizabethans Gstohl, Mark. “Renaissance Humanism”. Theological Perspectives of the Reformation. 2004. Web. 03 December 2012. < http://cat.xula.edu/tpr/factors/renaissance/>

History of Medicine: Temporalizing the Great Chain of Being. N.d. Photograph. History of Medicine: Temporalizing the Great Chain of Being. Web. 04 Dec. 2012.

“Humanism”. Oracle Think Quest. Web. 03 December 2012. <http://library.thinkquest.org/26756/humanism/index.htm>

"Introduction to the Renaissance." Introduction to the Renaissance. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. <http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/cs6/ren.html>.

Kreis, Steven. “Renaissance Humanism”. The History Guide. 2000. Web. 03 December 2012.
< http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/humanism.html>

Macbeth L Historical Background L Elizabethan World Order. N.d. Photograph. Macbeth L Historical Background L Elizabethan World Order. Web. 04 Dec. 2012.

"The Elizabethan World View." The Elizabethan World View. West Virginia University, n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2012. <http://www.wvup.edu/mberdine/Shakespeare/ShakElizWorldView.htm>.

“The Great Chain of Being.” Faculty.up.edu. N.p. ,n.d. web. 3 Dec. 2012. By Alyssa, Keenan, Tristan, and Edward The Great Chain of Being (cont.) (written examples in order from most to least spirit.)
God-God
Angelic Beings- Angels, Demons
Humanity- King, knight, peasant
Animals-dogs, shellfish
Plants- trees, grass
Minerals-gold, lead How was the Great Chain of Being Used in the Elizabethan's Explanation of Man's Existence? Encouraged the strong humanism of the Elizabethan era: man was positioned between angels and beasts and was prone to fall, yet had high capacities
Man has a second purpose over that of animals: to live well and be happy; man is separated from animals by reason and culture
The forces of history were providence, fortune, and character which were governed by the level of the “stars”
The “elements” were thought of through their effects (e.g. fire was hot and dry) In Relation to Dr. Faustus Humanism Humanists value reason over faith; knowledge based on evidence rather than simple belief
Reject the concept of God, and regard humans as supreme
The humanist mentality stood at a point midway between medieval supernaturalism and the modern scientific and critical attitude
The focus on the individual and the natural world would result in persons questioning their personal destinies and roles in the world How Did the Great Chain of Being Reflect Renaissance Thought? In Relation to Dr. Faustus In Relation to Dr. Faustus Faustus has a voracious appetite for knowledge
In particular, he wants to know more about knowledge beyond this world; hence, he wants to go beyond the secular learning
“These metaphysics of magicians and negromantic books are heavenly – lines, circles, letters, characters – Ay, these are those that Faustus most desires” (I.i. 47-50)
In this quote, Faustus expresses his desire to study supernatural information, in order to gain more knowledge and power. Faustus is willing to sell his soul for this knowledge and power The Great Chain of Being held that everything has a proper role in the universe, and to branch from one’s place or role was to defy God and go against one’s nature
Faustus wanted to gain Godly power by signing his soul to Lucifer
The renaissance contained many hierarchies that were influenced by the Great Chain of Being
Hierarchical order within government, family, and nature were important aspects influenced by the chain How Did the Great Chain of Being Reflect Renaissance Thought? (cont.) Shakespeare suggested that breaking the chain or straying from ones role was a sin of cosmic proportions meaning that events such as meteors crossing the sky might occur.
Humans were considered to be microcosms that reflected the structure of the world
The four elements (earth, water, air, and fire) are analogous to the four humors of the human body (black bile, phlegm, blood, and yellow bile)
Political rulers used the Chain of Being to justify their position and to keep order Faustus: "And what are you that live with Lucifer?"
Mephostophilis: "O, by aspiring pride and insolence, for which God threw him from the face of heaven" (I.iii.66-67) The quote above shows that the devil was once insolent, and God punished him. “These metaphysics of magicians and necromantic books are heavenly. Lines, circles, letters, and characters—Ay, these are those that Faustus most desires.” (1.1.48-51)

Many people had a thirst for knowledge during the renaissance. Faustus’ desire led him to sell his soul in an effort to be equal to God, when he actually went down the chain of being toward a beast In Relation to Dr. Faustus (cont.) “How am I glutted with conceit of this! Shall I make spirits fetch me what I please, resolve me of all ambiguities… I'll have them read me strange philosophy and tell the secrets of all foreign kings. (I.i.75-77, 83-84)

Not only does Faustus want knowledge, but he wants power (power of the foreign kings) Dr. Faustus, upon realizing his fate, remarks:

“Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of Heaven…” (V.ii.143) Faustus realizes his misguided judgment. Referencing the "spheres of Heaven" outlined in the Great Chain, Faustus regrets his failure and attempts to avoid his inevitable fall. This is an example of the dual nature of man.
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