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The Great Chain of Being
Transcript of The Great Chain of Being
Rijuta Menon The Great Chain of Being What is the Great Chain of Being? Hierarchies Philosophical Meaning Christian ideology: everything in the universe has its “place” in a hierarchical order The Great Chain of Being: three general features of the universe: plenitude, continuity, and gradation
Plenitude: universe has maximal diversity of kinds of existences; everything possible
Continuity: universe is composed of an infinite series of forms
Gradation: ranges in hierarchical order The Great Chain started with Plotinus, Plato, and Aristotle An object’s “place” depended on the relative proportion of “spirit” and “matter” it contained
Higher on the chain = greater intellect, mobility, capability, and authority Scientific Views Aristotle's biological classification corresponds with the Great Chain: level of authority
During the Renaissance period, scientists believed that the orbits of the planets were considered mathematically perfect circles
God's will was the answer to all unknown "The One”: refers to the supreme form, that has no shape, or face, and is imagined to be a bright light Philosophical Meaning Aristotle: species could be placed in order from lowest to highest; species could never evolve and must remain fixed Philosophical Meaning Philosophical Meaning If we descended from apes, how did we end up being higher on the chain than them? Philosophical Meaning Aristotle: hierarchy of distinct beings
Plato: mystical unity; theory of forms (ideas were unchangeable beings) Political Implications The belief of the Great Chain of Being was useful to political leaders because it helped reinforce their importance
Rebellion was considered a sin because not only did it challenge the state, but it challenged God
A king was expected to rule with love, wisdom, and justice in exchange for power The Great Chain of Being Today Is the theory still in place today?
Yes and No! Exists in India with their five level caste system
Exists within Christian beliefs (God at the top, followed by the Pope)
Those such as animal activists don't believe in the chain since they fight for those that are considered beneath them The Great Chain of Being and Shakespeare You cannot truly understand any Shakespeare play without first understanding the Great Chain of being!
Shakespeare illustrated the Great Chain in most/all of this plays
When murderous acts occur in Shakespeare’s plays, nature seems to be in rebellion to reflect the disruption of the Chain Hamlet: Quotes Act 1, Scene 2 Hamlet:
“O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason
Would have mourn’d longer,-married with my uncle,
My father’s brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month” Hamlet: Quotes Act 1, Scene 5 Ghost:
“Wouldst thou not stir in this. Now, Hamlet, hear: ‘Tis given out, that sleeping in my orchard
A serpent stung me; so the whole ear or Denmark Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abbus’d: but know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father’s life
Now wears his crown.” Hamlet: Quotes Act 2, Scene 2 Claudius:
Thou still hast been the father of good news.
Have I, my lord? Assure you, my good liege,
I hold my duty as I hold my soul,
Both to my God, and to my gracious king: Hamlet: Quotes Act 2, Scene 2 Polonius:
Or my dear majesty your queen here, think,
If I had played the desk or table-book,
Or given my heart a winking, mute and dumb,
Or looked upon this love with idle sight?
What might you think? No, I went round to work,
And my young mistress thus I did bespeak:
“Lord Hamlet is a prince out of thy star.
This must not be.” And then I prescripts gave her,
That she should lock herself from his resort,
Admit no messengers, receive no tokens.
Which done, she took the fruits of my advice; Hamlet: Quotes Act 3, Scene 2 Player King:
This world is not for aye, nor ’tis not strange
That even our loves should with our fortunes change.
For ’tis a question left us yet to prove,
Whether love lead fortune, or else fortune love.
The great man down, you mark his favorite flies.
The poor advanced makes friends of enemies.
And hitherto doth love on fortune tend,
For who not needs shall never lack a friend,
And who in want a hollow friend doth try,
Directly seasons him his enemy.
But, orderly to end where I begun,
Our wills and fates do so contrary run
That our devices still are overthrown.
Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own: Hamlet: Quotes Act 3, Scene 2 Claudius:Oh, my offence is rank. It smells to heaven.It hath the primal eldest curse upon ’t,A brother’s murder. Pray can I not.Though inclination be as sharp as will,My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent,And, like a man to double business bound,I stand in pause where I shall first begin,And both neglect. What if this cursèd handWere thicker than itself with brother’s blood?Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavensTo wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercyBut to confront the visage of offence?And what’s in prayer but this twofold force,To be forestallèd ere we come to fallOr pardoned being down? Then I’ll look up.My fault is past. But oh, what form of prayerCan serve my turn, “Forgive me my foul murder”? Hamlet:
What is a man,
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more. Hamlet: Quotes Act 4, Scene 4 Hamlet: Quotes Act 4, Scene 7 Laertes:
I bought an unction of a mountebank,
So mortal that, but dip a knife in it,
Where it draws blood no cataplasm so rare,
Collected from all simples that have virtue
Under the moon, can save the thing from death
That is but scratch'd withal: I'll touch my point
With this contagion, that, if I gall him slightly,
It may be death. Romeo & Juliet Romeo:
But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou her maid art far more fair than she. Be not her maid, since she is envious.
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it. Cast it off.
It is my lady; O, it is my love!
O that she knew she were!
... Macbeth Second Witch:
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble. Othello Iago:
Even now, now, very now, an old black ramIs tupping your white ewe. Conclusion Most, if not all, of Shakespeare's plays revolve around this concept
Disrupting the Great Chain of Being will lead to ultimate destruction Thank You!