Definition and Explanation

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  • 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.

Philosophical Perspective

  • 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”

Presented in the PlayThe-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 surrounds 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.

Profundity Scale

  • Mental -> King Lear divides his kingdom, Edgar holds onto 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, 2019, https://schoolworkhelper.net/the-chain-of-being-shakespeare/.
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Camille J.
Camille J.
7 days ago

The Great Chain of Being dictated everyone’s social station and standing and it upholds order.

Bryan M.
Bryan M.
10 months ago

I swear that i couldn’t find the answer!!

C. Brandi
C. Brandi
11 months ago

For anyone who wants to know what the chain of being uphold I believe the answer is social class.

Papan M.
Papan M.
1 year ago

so what does it up hold

ashley
ashley
1 year ago

this doesn’t answer any question for my webquest.

Campbell
Campbell
1 year ago

chain of being, still dont know what it is

Lauren
Lauren
1 year ago

I have a feeling that half of the people in the comments are in the same class

Monay
Monay
2 years ago

Why do we have to do this Webquest? It doesn’t really even tell us what it upholds!!!!

Natasha
Natasha
2 years ago

What was the Chain of Being and what did it uphold?

Yora G.
Yora G.
2 years ago

thanks ;p

Serina
Serina
2 years ago

WHAT DID THE CHAIN OF BEING UPHOLD

Ryan W.
Ryan W.
2 years ago

I love webquests

Dave D.
Dave D.
3 years ago

so what are some examples of being broken in Shakespeare’s plays

Adriel
Adriel
4 years ago

OMG! I am working on a Webquest!

riley
riley
4 years ago

what did the chain of being uphold

Anon
Anon
4 years ago

THE ANSWER TO THE WEBQUEST IS: It is a concept that says that everything in the world has its own place and no matter what you do, you cannot change your place by going up the chain.

Perico P.
Perico P.
4 years ago

Greetings from Spain !!!

Berrie N.
Berrie N.
4 years ago

Umm.. I umm… Um………………….. I don’t get it..

lia
lia
4 years ago

what is the Rota Fortuna ?

Justin
Justin
5 years ago

perfect