Elizabethan Age: Its History, Culture, Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

The fear of "disorder" "had significant political ramifications. The proscription against trying to rise beyond one's place was of course useful to political rulers, for it helped to reinforce their authority. The implication was that civil rebellion caused the chain to be broken, and according to the doctrine of correspondences, this would have dire consequences in other realms," whether the king was good or bad ("The Great Chain of Being," CUNY Brooklyn, 2009). Because rebellion was a sin against God, the whole order of the universe would be thrown in disarray if people rebelled against a sovereign, and this disturbance would be reflected in disturbances in the animal world and the heavens. "The need for strong political rule was in fact very significant, for the Renaissance had brought an end for the most part to feudalism, the medieval form of political organization," and the era oversaw the establishment of effective central governments throughout Europe ("The Great Chain of Being," CUNY Brooklyn, 2009).

The sense that the hierarchical chain is disturbed can clearly be seen in Shakespeare's historical play Julius Caesar. Before Caesar is assassinated, a lioness whelps in the street, Calpurnia has horrifying dreams, the dead are unearthed from their tombs, blood comes from nowhere and sprinkles on the Capital, and ghosts haunt the city. Later, to show the fact that these portents were true, the conspirators will bathe their hands in Caesar's blood. Calpurnia says: "When beggars die, there are no comets seen; / the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes" (II.2). Whether Caesar is a good or a bad leader in the play is virtually irrelevant -- very little is seen of him leading. The evil is that he is assassinated.

However, as a playwright, in Julius Caesar Shakespeare also seems to imply that it is not just an interference with the Great Chain of Being that results in the defeat of Brutus and the other conspirators, but their inability to master the use of political theater. Effective leaders know how to make use of political spectacles, and bad leaders do not, regardless of their morality. This sense of mistrust in the common people's ability to choose a good leader is exhibited time and time again through the use of theatrical metaphors in the play. For example, when Caesar has an epileptic fit, Casca says: "if the tag-rag people did not/clap him and hiss him, according as he pleased and / displeased them, as they use to do the players in/the theatre, I am no true man" (I.2). Caesar says that Cassius is dangerous, and his spirit goes against the will of the common people because "he loves no plays, / as thou dost, Antony" (I.2). Politics is theater in Julius Caesar as the ability to create a theatrical spectacle and woo the people like Pompey, Caesar, and Mark Anthony did is an essential part of holding power. Because the conspirators like Brutus cannot do this, even though they may be right about Caesar's ambitions, they cannot triumph.

Works Cited

Peters, M.J. "Elizabeth I and the Elizabethan Period: a Brief Introduction

Springfield High School English Department. 1996. April 8, 2009

http://www.springfield.k12.il.us/schools/springfield/eliz/introelizperiod.html

"The Great Chain of Being." Borrowed from "The Renaissance" at CUNY:

http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/cs6/ren.html. Accessed April 8, 2009 at http://faculty.up.edu/asarnow/GreatChainofBeing.htm

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Peters, M.J. "Elizabeth I and the Elizabethan Period: a Brief Introduction

Springfield High School English Department. 1996. April 8, 2009

http://www.springfield.k12.il.us/schools/springfield/eliz/introelizperiod.html

"The Great Chain of Being." Borrowed from "The Renaissance" at CUNY:

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