The Great Chain of Being
This presentation is in three parts:
Part One: 10 minutes, 23 slides
An overview of the history and the basics of how the world was viewed when Shakespeare was writing plays.
Part Two: 11 minutes, 24 slides
This shows how the Great Chain of Being shows up throughout the plays.
Part Three: 15 minutes, 37 slides
This shows how humans are ranked in the Great Chain of Being and how deeply Shakespeare is embedded in the hierarchy of order. This helps you understand more fully hundreds of references and relationships in the plays.
The Great Chain of Being stretches from the heavens down into the earth, and every single thing is on this chain somewhere—every thing is higher up the chain than something else and lower than something else. That is, a horse is higher up the chain than a dog, and a rose is higher than a weed. Shakespeare uses this concept regularly to show disorder, trusting that his audience recognized that when there is disorder in the universe, there is disorder in society.
This significant concept also applies to humans—each human being is higher up the chain and therefore more important than those beneath, at the same time each human is below someone else. This leads right into the next short course, using thee and thy versus you and your.
On a related note, after you finish this thirty-minute course, check out this interesting article on Order in the Sexes from the University of Virginia.