The Chain of Being

“…everything on Earth and in the universe is linked in a particular order- everything has a particular place.”- Tillyard

Elizabethan England was a very different society to what we know now. Religion reined supreme or at least, God’s appointed King or Queen did. People had extremely firm beliefs about the world and its natural order. There was a hierarchy that had to be followed and respected and anything that worked against that natural order was considered treasonous or unnatural.

This natural order can be explained by E.M.W Tillyard’s ‘Chain of Being”.  Your task is research this chain, explain what it is and how it worked. Additionally, you should look into Elizabethan England and its social construction. What were the social, political and religious beliefs of the time? What was happening with the Monarchy and how did the people of England respond to this? What evidence can you find of “the Divine Right to Rule”?

You should present your findings in a blog post. Embed pictures, video clips and any other media you used to develop your understanding of this area. Ensure you acknowledge any sources you use in a bibliography at the end of your post. Comment on how the society of the time would have reacted to a play like King Lear based on your findings. In addition to presenting your research, you should assign a level of “The Chain of Being” to each character in King Lear and explain how they respected or disregarded this chain.

You will be given three in class periods to work on this and it is expected that you will complete some of this project in your own time.

Posted by Renee Plunkett

Teacher of English at Mount Aspiring College, Wanaka, New Zealand.

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