Shakespeare's Historical Background and the World Picture of the Elizabethan Age

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GRIN Verlag, 2007 - 28 pages
Seminar paper from the year 2005 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Literature, grade: 1,0, Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, course: HS Shakespeare's Major Tragedies, 9 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: William Shakespeare may never have existed - or at least that is the point some scholars are trying to make. This paper is going to follow the opinion of the vast majority of literary experts and assume that Shakespeare did, in fact, exist. But mere existence is never enough. "No man is an island, entire of itself," as John Donne liked to put it. The environment you live in and the surroundings that influence and inspire you are utterly significant. Future historians ourselves, we were taught that the present is a time span that doesn't even last three seconds. After that, it's the past. But the past is not the same as "history" itself. History is what historiographers have managed to reconstruct of the past, using archaeological, philological, literary, and other sources. As we are happy enough to know a lot about Shakespeare's times, it would be foolhardy and arrogant to ignore this knowledge and focus on the plays themselves, letting the circumstances that they were written in slip out of our range of view. It may be taken for granted that Shakespeare was indeed influenced by his historical environment, but nobody can say for sure to what extent. What if Shakespeare had lived in ancient Roman times or in the Cold War period? Would he have written different plays? To decide to what extent he was influenced is the task of those scholars who actually do research on the plays. This paper, however, will focus on the actual socio-political, economic, and religious background of Sir William Shakespeare, particularly on the rule of Elizabeth I and James I and on the Elizabethan World Picture with its various manifestations in the English state during Shakespeare's lifetime.

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Page 18 - 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...
Page 11 - Now, if nature should intermit her course, and leave altogether though it were but for a while the observation of her own laws; if those principal and mother elements of the world, whereof all things in this lower world are made, should lose the qualities which now they have; if the frame of that heavenly arch erected over our heads should loosen and dissolve itself; if celestial spheres should forget their wonted motions...
Page 11 - ... confused mixture, the winds breathe out their last gasp, the clouds yield no rain, the earth be defeated of heavenly influence, the fruits of the earth pine away as children at the withered breasts of their mother no longer able to yield them relief; what would become of man himself, whom these things now do all serve ? See we not plainly that obedience of creatures unto the law of nature is the stay of the whole world...
Page 20 - To whom the patriarch of mankind replied : O favourable spirit, propitious guest, Well hast thou taught the way that might direct Our knowledge, and the scale of nature set From centre to circumference, whereon, In contemplation of created things, By steps we may ascend to God.
Page 17 - And whereas God created three sorts of living natures, to wit, angelical, rational, and brutal, giving to angels an intellectual, and to beasts a sensual nature, he vouchsafed unto man both the intellectual of angels, the sensitive of beasts, and the proper rational belonging unto man; and therefore . . . 'man is the bond and chain which tieth together both natures...
Page 13 - Then looke, who list thy gazefull eyes to feed With sight of that is faire, looke on the frame Of this wyde universe, and therein reed The endlesse kinds of creatures which by name Thou canst not count, much less their natures aime; All which are made with wondrous wise respect, And all with admirable beautie deckt.
Page 18 - In earth he hath assigned and appointed kings, princes, with other governors under them, in all good and necessary order. The water above is kept, and raineth down in due time and season. The sun, moon, stars, rainbow, thunder, lightning, clouds, and all birds of the air, do keep their order.
Page 16 - Mars, in which we seek honour and victory, and in which our thoughts travel to ambitious ends ; the sixth age is ascribed to Jupiter, in which we begin to take account of our times, judge of ourselves, and grow to the perfection of our understanding ; the last and seventh to Saturn, wherein our days are sad, and overcast, and in which we find by dear and lamentable experience, and by the loss which can never be repaired, that of all our vain passions and affections past, the sorrow only abideth...
Page 11 - Certainly no ; for that infinite wisdom of God which hath distinguished his angels by degrees; which hath given greater and less light and beauty to heavenly bodies ; which hath made differences between beasts and birds ; created the eagle and the fly, the cedar and the shrub ; and among stones, given the fairest tincture to the ruby, and the quickest light to the diamond ; hath also ordained kings, dukes, or leaders of the people, magistrates, judges, and other degrees among men.
Page 16 - ... saith Aristotle and Pythagoras), that the four complexions1 resemble the four elements, and the seven ages of man the seven planets ;* whereof our infancy is compared to the moon, in which we seem only to live and grow as plants ; the second age to Mercury, wherein we are taught and instructed ; our third age to Venus, the days of love, desire, and vanity ; the fourth to the sun, the strong...

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