Definition and Explanation
- Concept: “everything in the world has its own place”
- No matter what you do, you cannot make your way up in the chain
- You are all that you are born with, for the rest of your life, no matter what you do to try and change it
- The English society depended on a certain “order”:
- Hierarchical: The Great Chain of Being dictated everyone’s social station and standing
- Obedience: The lower classes were to submit to the upper classes. The upper classes, in turn, were responsible for the welfare and upkeep of the lower classes.
- In the Elizabethan times, everything in the universe was said to have a place in this hierarchy
- Less spirit and more matter an object had, the lower down on the chain it was
- Italian philosopher, Pico Della Mirandola, believed human beings were capable to rise to the angel level through philosopher contemplations
- Aristotle: Thought the universe was completely perfect, so was the “Great Chain of Being”
- Lear is the King he is, a man of great power
- Relinquishes the kingdom to his daughters, as a reward, to test their love for him
- Lear surrounds himself with people who use him (i.e his daughters (except Cordelia) )
- Edmund is considered low on the chain because of the circumstances that surround his birth
- Father treats him poorly because of his illegitimacy
- i.e.: King acknowledges his intent to abdicate his thrown
- By surrendering the throne to fuel his ego he disrupts the Great Chain of Being because he is challenging the position that God has given him
- Chaos occurs later in the play
- Lear banishes those around him that genuinely care for him.
- Mental -> King Lear divides his kingdom, Edgar holds onto the letter to keep & attain his Father’s attention
- Psychological -> King Lear divides his kingdom to rid himself of burdens and responsibilities
- Philosophical -> “Greed for power”
Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "The Chain of Being Shakespeare," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2022, https://schoolworkhelper.net/the-chain-of-being-shakespeare/.