5. His world view .pdf

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5. His world view
What is the chain of being?

The Elizabethans pictured the cosmic order as a chain where every creature of the Universe is
arranged in his proper order. It symbolizes the greatness of god’s creation and his irreversible order
and can also be seen as a ladder. Although everything was assigned a place, there was the possibility
of change. The story of the creation could be seen as a logical progression from light, to the waters,
to the earth, to planets, to animals, and finally to humans. In this image there is an orderly
progression upwards.

What did the wheel of fortune mean for the common man?
For all practical purposes, he substitutes for the Christian concept of the wheel of fortune
(which almost randomly changes the fate of man so that no one will become proud
or complacent about their salvation) the concept of an indifferent force named fortuna.
One’s godliness makes one perhaps a little less vulnerable to the spinning of the wheel (on the whole
the good should receive less misfortune than do the wicked, though being good does by no
means shield one from ill fortune), and argues instead that an individual’s ability, combined with a
knowledge of historical principles, better prepares them to deal with fortuna.
The wheel of fortune represents the need to experience change in life, as Mother Nature undertakes
dramatic changes with the seasons we as human beings go through natural changes too: from
babyhood to childhood, then adolescence to adulthood and lastly old age.
Change is neutral, but the perception of change can be favourable or not depending on the reaction
of people being faced with it. There might be unexpected encounters and twists of fate. Sometimes
situations can appear bleak but then an opportunity to progress arises from nowhere and the
obstacles are removed.

What is the idea of humours about?

The humours each had associated physical and mental
characteristics; the result was a system that was quite
subtle in its capacity for describing types of personality.
In addition, different humours could be combined for
more complex personality types: choleric-sanguine,
phlegmatic-melancholic, and so on.






hot, moist air

Optimistic, red-cheeked, corpulent, irresponsible
(compare Falstaff).


hot, dry


Short-tempered, red-haired, thin, ambitious (compare




Sluggish, pallid, corpulent, lazy (Are any of Shakespeare's
characters phlegmatic?).


Introspective, sallow, thin (compare Richard II, Hamlet).

Melancholic cold, dry

What was the people’s attitude towards supernatural appearances?
The supernatural was a popular element in many of the plays written in Shakespeare's time
(including Hamlet) and everyone of Shakespeare's time found the supernatural fascinating. Even King
James I took a special interest in supernatural and written a book, Daemonologie, on witchcraft. It
must be remembered that, in Shakespeare's day, supernatural referred to things that were "above
Nature"; things which existed, but not part of the normal human life and unexplainable.
The play Macbeth involves many supernatural actions that act as a catalyst for suspense and thrill,
insight into character, foreshadowing of future events as well as making connections with the theme.
Macbeth gets deceived by the ambiguous prophecies of the witches and has to recognize that she
has been fooled by a false sense of security. This can already be found at the beginning of the
witches’ song: “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”.

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