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.

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”

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56 Comments on "The Chain of Being Shakespeare"

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P. Babme
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We are all gathered here because of a web quest …. have a nice day 🙂 <3

W.Carr
Guest

How did you know?

Alicia
Guest

hey… @Curly..It simply means that if you were born to be someone you cannot try to be someone else…. And if you try to be someone higher than your status then a destructive will may fall upon you …eg.. if you were born as a servant.. you cannot be a king because it is god’s will for you to be there….and if you try to e a king then some disaster may take place
Thank you..hope this was useful

Marianna W.
Guest

Thank you so much!

Amanda
Guest

What did the chain of being uphold?!

curly
Guest

someone summerize this please im not that smart

jeff
Guest

ARRRGGGGHHHH This webquest is so bad what even is the chain of being

Justin
Guest

perfect

Billy Joel
Guest

The “chain of being” is an illogical thought with a basic concept. There is nothing to understand with it

Ryan Scottdale
Guest

This is hard 🙁

Madie
Guest

This was so helpful especially the king Lear plot and I am glad it included the sub plot

sue
Guest

hi

Baren U.
Guest

hey thanks

Amanda
Guest

Many people can judge you, but Alicia is right about what she said. Thank YOU Alicia

yolsweg
Guest

heyyy it jake b from lal @ brms

gabriel
Guest

this pic scares me

Zoey
Guest

I hate this web quest-_-

davonte png watson
Guest

how u do this

Rex
Guest

hi

justin moses
Guest

hi this stuff is so boring

skyler perry
Guest

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

Camie
Guest

thank you, this has helped everyone in my class.

Anonymous
Guest

Besides King Lear did Shakespeare use this metaphor in any of his other plays?

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