The Elizabethan World View What they believed about: women The social position of women The Universe Ghosts and the supernatural
The Elizabethan World View • The Great Chain of Being All creation linked together in hierarchical order Important to keep one’s place, or one could upset all creation The chain was linked from the lowest creature on earth up to God The gravest sin to an Elizabethan was rebellion: stepping out of one’s place was upsetting the natural order
Theory of the Four Humours Order must be maintained within the human personality too.
Social Imperatives for Elizabethan Women Silence Obedience Chastity ( or fidelity if married)
In Elsinore the Toilet Seats are Always Left Up • Elsinore is a man’s world
Irony of Shakespearean Women • Whether they try to conform to their societal role or whether they try to break it, they end up dead.
Ghosts and the Supernatural in Elizabethan England • A ‘hot’ issue during Elizabethan and Jacobean England (late 1500’s to the 16oo’s). Belief in supernatural is mainstream • King James I authored a scholarly text about ghosts
Not Just For Crazies… • Learned studies conducted using psychology, science and religion • Beliefs cross class and education boundaries • Your opinion depended on your political/religious beliefs.
Some Elizabethan Beliefs About Ghosts • They would look like they did at the point of death • Not everyone could see a ghost • A ghost would not appear during the day or during a holy season • A ghost could not speak until spoken to • It should be addressed in Latin.
Ghosts and Religion • Under the rule of Mary I, Catholicism was the only religion allowed to be practiced. • In 1517, reformists began to reject the doctrine, leadership and structure of the Roman Catholic Church, and created the Protestant Church as a response. • Protestants were forced to flee, as they were persecuted and executed under Mary’s Rule.
Evidence of the Elizabethan belief in the supernatural • “That there happen straunge wonders and prognostications, and that sodeyn noises and cracks and suchlike, are hearde before the death of men, before battaile, and before some notable alterations and chaunges.” • when men lye sicke of some deadly disease, there is some thing heard going on their chamber,
“…[T]here are some great stirrings or noises heard. sometimes we thinke the house will fall on our heads, or that some massie and waightie thing fallethdowne throughout all the house, rendering and making a disordered noise: and shortlie within fewe months after, we vnderstande that those things happened, the verysamehoure that our friends departed in • Source: Lewes Lavater’s Of Ghostes and Spirites Walking by Nyght, 1572
Elizabethan and Jacobean Era • Elizabeth I – 1558-1603 • James I- 1603-1625 • Both of these rulers were Protestant
Protestants on ghosts: • “Ghosts are NOT the spirits of the dearly departed. They are demons/devils who merely LOOK LIKE those we once knew so they can mess with us. It’s best to stay away from ghosts. Never listen to what a ghost says.” • Catholics on ghosts: • “Ghosts are the spirits of the dearly departed returned from the grave for some unfinished business. They roam the earth looking for help from the living to release them. These spirits are trapped in purgatory until their business is complete. “
King James I on Ghosts: • “We ought, not without greate cause, to suspecte all Spirites, and other apparitions.” • “Enter into no communication with suchespirites, neither aske them what thou must giue, or what thou must doo, or what shal happen hereafter. Aske them not who they are, or why they haue presented them selues to bee seene or hearde. For if they be good, they will lyke it well that thou wilteheare nothing but the woorde of God: but yf they be wicked, they wyllendeuour to deceyue thee with lying.”
What to consider while reading Hamlet: • How do we, as a 21st century audience, respond to the ghost? How would Shakespeare’s audience respond to the ghost? • How does the Catholic vs. Protestant view of ghosts influence our reading of Hamlet? How does it influence our attitude toward the titular character? • How does King James I’s advice about interacting with ghosts influence our reading of Hamlet? • How would Hamlet, as part of the world of the play, interpret The Ghost?