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The Great Chain of Being
Transcript of The Great Chain of Being
The Great Chain of Being was the belief that everything in the universe has a specific place and rank in order of their perceived importance and "spiritual" nature. What does this have to do with Shakespeare?
-Macbeth, Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet are just a few of the plays that reflect Shakespeare's belief in the Great Chain of Being and his desire to maintain God's Order. Examples of the consequences of breaking the chain
The consequences of breaking the chain were always dire. For example, if a noble overthrew a king, Elizabethan people thought that a natural disaster (an earthquake, a hurricane, etc.) would strike. If a daughter disobeyed her father, Elizabethan people believed the daughter might fall ill. This was a very convenient way for people higher in the Divine Order to maintain their power. Any break in the chain, such as killing the king, or a king abdicating, or marriage across the social spheres, pretty much ensured pre-ordained chaos. Elizabethans beliefs on The Great Chain of Being
People in Elizabethan England believed that God set up this order and wanted it to be followed. If someone or something were to break the Divine Order by not being obedient to whatever was above it, the person or thing that went against God's will would be punished. The Structure of The Great Chain of Being
-In heaven god ruled over the angels and archangels.
-On earth there was order everywhere. Society reflected this order with its fixed classes from the highest to the lowest. j Here is the example of the Divine Order:
Most Amount of Spirit/Highest on the Divine Order - God
Angels (seraphim, cherubim)
Humans (kings, merchants, men women, etc.
Animals (mouse, dogs, lions,
Plants (grass, trees, etc.)
Least Amount of Spirit/ Lowest on the Divine Order- Nonliving Objects (rocks, metals, etc.)
Within each category there were more specific cataloguing.
For example humans were believed to have different amounts
of spirits. Below is an example of the Divine Order for humans:
Most Amount of Spirit/Highest on the Divine Order - Kings
Least Amount of Spirit/ Lowest on the Divine Order- Peasants
Within families there was even specific cataloguing. Below
is an example of the Divine Order for humans:
Most Amount of Spirit/Highest on the Divine Order - Father
Least Amount of Spirit/ Lowest on the Divine Order- Servants Example of a reference to the Great Chain of being in Shakespeare's play (Hamlet) -
"The time is out of joint; O cursed spite, That ever was I born to set it right!" This quote is from the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare and is spoken by Hamlet. Another example of a reference to the chain in the storyline of Shakespeare's play- Macbeth
In Macbeth, Shakespeare showed the consequences for disrupting the balanced order of 'The Great Chain Of Being' when he inflicted paranoia and death to Macbeth as punishment for killing the king. A Third example of a reference to the chain in the storyline of Shakespeare's play- King Lear
In 'King Lear' the child ruled the parent and the people ruled the king, which showed the simultaneous disorder of what would happen without 'The Great Chain of Being.' THE END During the Elizabethan times