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The Elizabethan World Picture. Many have written about a shared cultural and cosmological view of order during the Elizabethan period: Tillyard’s Elizabethan.

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Presentation on theme: "The Elizabethan World Picture. Many have written about a shared cultural and cosmological view of order during the Elizabethan period: Tillyard’s Elizabethan."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Elizabethan World Picture

2 Many have written about a shared cultural and cosmological view of order during the Elizabethan period: Tillyard’s Elizabethan World Picture and Shakespeare's History Plays, C. S. Lewis’s The Discarded Image, Theodore Spencer’s Shakespeare and the Nature of Man, Lily B. Campbell’s Shakespeare's Histories

3 Recent materialist criticism has identified these pronouncements as the dominant ideology of the period, but certainly not the only ideology and certainly not Shakespeare’s only way of looking at the world. Dollimore and Sinfield: “[Lily B. Campbell] and Tillyard demonstrate unquestionably that there was an ideological position, something like ‘the Elizabethan World picture,’ and that it is a significant presence in Shakespeare’s plays.”

4 Materialist critics and others contend that Shakespeare surely deployed the dominant ideology but certainly not as “an ideological legitimation of an existing social order” as Tillyard and others would have us believe.

5 Tillyard claims that “The Elizabethans pictured the universal order under three main forms: a chain, a series of corresponding planes, and a dance.” Let us look at some of these concepts so that we can recognize them when we come across them in Shakespeare’s works. Troilus and Cressida 1.3.85 ‑ 124 Ulysses’s Speech on Order

6 The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre Observe degree, priority, and place, Insisture, course, proportion, season, form, Office, and custom, in all line of order; And therefore is the glorious planet Sol In noble eminence enthron´d and spher´d Amidst the other; whose med´cinable eye Corrects the [ill aspects] of [planets evil], And posts like the commandment of a king, Sans check, to good and bad. But when the planets In evil mixture to disorder wander, What plagues and what portents, what mutiny! What raging of the sea, shaking of earth! Commotion in the winds! frights, changes, horrors Divert and crack, rend and deracinate The unity and married calm of states Quite from their fixure! O, when degree is shak´d, Which is the ladder of all high designs, The enterprise is sick. How could communities, Degrees in schools, and brotherhoods in cities,

7 Peaceful commerce from dividable shores, The primogenity and due of birth, Prerogative of age, crowns, sceptres, laurels, But by degree stand in authentic place? Take but degree away, untune that string, And hark what discord follows. Each thing [meets] In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores, And make a sop of all this solid globe; Strength should be lord of imbecility, And the rude son should strike his father dead; Force should be right, or rather, right and wrong (Between whose endless jar justice resides) Should lose their names, and so should justice too! Then every thing include itself in power, Power into will, will into appetite, And appetite, an universal wolf (So doubly seconded with will and power), Must make per force an universal prey, And last eat up himself. (Troilus Cressida 1.3.85-124)

8 The idea began with Plato, was developed by Aristotle, was adopted by the Alexanderian Jews (headed by Philo), was formulated by neo ‑ Platonists, and became a common place assumption by the Middle Ages.

9 1 st The Inanimate Class (mere existence) (containing the elements, liquids, metals) 2 nd The Vegetative Class (existence and life) (the mighty oak) 3 rd The Sensitive Class (existence, life, and feeling) a. creatures with touch, but not hearing (memory) or movement, like shellfish b. creatures with touch and movement, but not hearing, like insects c. higher animals with touch, movement, and hearing, like horses and dogs 4 th Man (existence, life, feeling, and understanding) Thomas Browne “Thus Man that great and true Amphibian whose nature is disposed to live, not only like other creatures in divers elements, but in divided and distinguished worlds.” 5 th The Angels a. Third Order (Principalities, Archangels, Angels) [Active: intermediaries between angelic hierarchy and man] b. Second Order (Dominations, Virtues, Powers) [Less Active] c. First Order (Seraphs, Cherubs, Thrones) [Contemplative and closest to God] 6 th GOD [Outside of all]




13 Earth, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Stellatum (Fixed Stars), Primum Mobile



16 SeasonElementHumour Body Fluid LocationSpringAirSanguineBloodHeart SummerFireCholeric “Yellow Bile” Liver AutumnWaterMelancholicPhlegm(Various) WinterEarthPhlegmatic “Black Bile” Spleen

17 HumourQualitiesElementPersonalitySanguine Hot, Moist Air Optimistic, red-checked, corpulent, irresponsible, (Falstaff) Choleric Hot, Dry Fire Short-tempered, red-haired, thin, ambitious (Hotspur) Phlegmatic Cold, Moist Water Sluggish, pallid, corpulent, lazy Melancholic Cold, Dry Earth Introspective, sallow, thin (Richard II, Hamlet).


19 It was further believed that there was an angelic group that inhabited each of the nine spheres and when these spheres moved they were thought to created music, either by angels singing or by the differences in speeds between the spheres. Fallen man could no longer hear the music of the spheres. Merchant of Venice 5.1.54 ff. Further, was the notion that the universe itself was in a state of perpetual dance.

20 How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank! Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music Creep in our ears. Soft stillness and the night Become the touches of sweet harmony. Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven Is thick inlaid with patens of bright gold. There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold´st But in his motion like an angel sings, Still quiring to the young-ey´d cherubins; Such harmony is in immortal souls, But whilst this muddy vesture of decay Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it. (Merchant of Venice 5.1.54-65)


22 As the spheres moved in their stately dance to the music of the spheres, so humans could move in the motion of a dance, imitating the circles and figures of the cosmos. Thus dance was a way of celebrating order in society and nature.

23 If the entire universe was an expression of God’s plan, then it followed that all things in the universe were related to each other in some way or another. This was expressed through the concept of corresponding planes, which can be grouped into the following:

24 The Divine or Angelic The Universe or the Macrocosm The Commonwealth or Body Politic Man or the Microcosm The Lower Creatures


26 God, among angels The Sun, among the planets and the stars The King, among men Husband, among the family The Lion, among animals The Eagle, among birds The Oak, among trees The Rose, among flowers Fire, among the elements Gold, among the minerals

27 JC – storms and portents Macbeth – storm after Duncan’s death R2 – trees wither, meteors fall from the sky 1H4 – birth of Glendower


29 And new philosophy calls all in doubt, The element of fire is quite put out; The sun is lost, and the earth, and no man’s wit Can well direct him where to look for it... ‘Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone, All just supply, and all relation... (“An Anatomy of the World” [c. 1612] )


31 The sun is in the center of the planets (not a planet itself, revolving around the Earth)


33 “a prince should make himself feared in such a way that, even if he gets no love, he gets no hate either...” a prince should be concerned only with power and be bound only by rules that would lead to success in political actions


35 “When I play with my cat, who knows whether I do not make her more sport than she makes me?”


37 Humans can gain salvation through faith, rather than through “good works” or the dispensations of the Church. [Faith] Religious truths can be known only through reading the Word of God as revealed in the Bible. [Scripture] Humans are innately evil, incapable of either knowing religious truth or acting for the good without God's grace. [Grace]


39 Double Predestination--all souls are predestined either for salvation or damnation. Grace, or damnation, is therefore irresistible. God's grace is evident in those who live a pious and moral life; and a truly godly Christian must be an active instrument to spread God's glory.

40 Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin) Unconditional Election Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement) Irresistible Grace Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)

41 “Shakespeare’s drama provided an appropriate conflict structure: a dialectic of ironies and ambivalences, avoiding in its complex movement and multi ‑ voiced dialogue the simplification of direct statement and reductive resolution.”

42 “[Shakespeare] likes verbal complexity but is often simple and direct. His thoughts naturally shape themselves antithetically... He loves ambiguity and paradox. He delights in the sheer act of expressing himself and in handling seemingly impossible situations.”

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