An Elizabethan View of the Universe Julius Caesar Mrs. Dobson-Efpatridis Elizabethans believed in an absolutely ordered universe in which all things could be clearly ranked in order of superiority. This common sense view corresponded with their religious beliefs, political system and limited scientific understanding. General Being could be divided and ranked as shown below: GOD ANGELS MAN ANIMALS PLANTS INORGANIC MATTER CHAOS This was known as the “Great Chain of Being”. Within the categories above, further subdivisions could also be made. For example, within the category of MAN - Sovereign Nobility (Kings), and Knights were considered superior to Servants and Women, and the general public and the poor. The highest animal is the lion, chief metal is gold, and the superior planet is the sun, etc. The Chain of Being is polarized by the Aristotelian Theory of Form and Matter. ie. Items high on the chain were “pure form”. As you descend, items lower on the chain were composed of more and more material. This chain is structural. It represents a structure of authority. The places are fixed. Everything is implanted by its creator with the innate tendency to return to Him. This structure of authority is reproduced on earth. Note that man is in the middle of the chain. He is half spiritual and half material. He is a microcosm (the small universe) within the macrocosm. So, how does the Chain of Being, and ordered view of the universe apply to Julius Caesaar? The play reflects the Elizabethan concern with seeing and maintaining order. When Cassius plots the murder of Caesar, and Brutus delivers the fatal blow along with many other conspirators, they violate the “natural” order of government by removing the Head of State. Cassius’ constant manipulation of events and Brutus, and his plotting of Caesar’s death also violates that natural chain of command. When Brutus follows through with their corrupt plan, it creates more disorder within a country that was already facing political turmoil. Thus, order cannot be restored until the end of the play when the men responsible for murder face their own demise. All injustice is “righted”, and a rightful man of power will take his place to rule Rome. Thus, killing Julius Caesar is not just a personal, political, or social action; it is a cosmic crime reflected by the universe, which is depicted through the imagery and pathetic fallacy that Shakespeare utilizedsto depict the storms, portents and strange events that are alluded to in Calpurnia’s dreams and referred to after Caesar’s death.