- Shakespeare, William
- 1564 - 1582: William Shakespeare's Stratford Beginnings
- 1582 - 1592: William Shakespeare's Marriage, Parenthood and Early Occupation
- 1592 - 1594: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 1
- 1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 2
- 1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 3
- 1611 - 1616: William Shakespeare - Back to Stratford
- Religious/ philosophical context
- Theatrical context
More on Astronomy
More on Astronomy
CosmologyThe accumulated knowledge of the stars gave a cosmology, a picture of the whole universe. Before modern science, cosmology was closely related to theology: as well as describing the physical shape of the universe, a cosmology also explained its meaning, and gave an account of man's nature and purpose. The two central cosmologies in Western history were the geocentric and the heliocentric universe. Both were based on the basic shape of a wheel revolving around a hub.
The geocentric (or Ptolemaic) universeIn the geocentric universe, the earth (geo) is at the centre, with other planets (the Sun being counted as a planet) revolving around it in concentric circles. Looking out from the earth, astronomers noted the Moon, then Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Beyond these came the stars. These were held to be all equidistant from the earth and were placed on a further circle (hence the ‘Fixed Stars').This was the conception of the cosmos held by the ancient Greeks, as described by Aristotle (384-322 BC). It is often referred to as the Ptolemaic universe after the Egyptian scientist Ptolemy (c.90-168). This cosmology persisted throughout the Middle Ages and much of the Renaissance, until the new science started to supplant it from about 1600.
The influence of the geocentric view
ChristianityThough the geocentric universe was originally pre-Christian, it was comfortably Christianised. Aristotle had described a ‘Prime Mover', a force outside the heavens setting them in motion. To Christians, this Prime Mover corresponded to God. They believed that the universe involved human-like intentions: for example, the (presumed) circular orbit of the planets expressed the planets' desire to be close to God.
The music of the spheresThe planets were believed to revolve on invisible but solid crystalline spheres. Their combined movement made the music of the spheres, which expressed divine harmony. The entire design of the universe was seen to reflect the will of a perfect God.
GeocentricityThe central position of the earth reflected the idea that the human race were privileged creatures, and that the cosmos literally revolved around them. But the geocentric universe also put Earth at the furthest possible distance from Heaven (the ‘empyrean'), which lay beyond the Fixed Stars. Thus it also suited ideas of humility, with humans as fallen sinners.
Dual natureThe heavens were held to be perfect and unchanging. Earth, however, was mutable and corrupt. Earthly and heavenly natures were believed to be different, and therefore obeyed two sets of physical laws. Earth corresponded to the body, the heavens to the spirit.
Sub-lunar / super-lunarBeyond the moon (super-lunar), the heavens existed in the perfect atmosphere of ‘ether', the natural element of angels. Man occupied the sub-lunar sphere. Here the atmosphere was polluted, and matter was composed of the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire and Water). Beneath the moon, all things were liable to corruption and decay.
FiniteThe cosmos was seen as being vast but finite. Medieval man looking up at the stars imagined he was looking at the outermost edge of the universe.
HeliocentricIn the heliocentric cosmos, the sun (Greek helios) was believed to be at the centre, and the earth and other planets revolved around it. Copernicus' On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres (1543) showed that apparent aberrations in planetary orbits on the old model could be better explained if the sun were put at the centre. Thus Earth spins around its axis and revolves around the sun, giving the appearance that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.Later astronomers continued this work:
- Kepler (1571-1630) worked out that orbits are elliptical, not circular
- Using the telescope, Galileo (1564-1642) observed sunspots on the sun and irregularities on the moon, showing that the heavens were not perfect.
The response to the heliocentric view
HereticalThe heliocentric cosmos was a matter of great controversy. The Catholic Church authorities condemned the theory, forcing Galileo to recant in 1616, and banning Copernicus' book. The Ptolemaic model had informed Church teachings about God and man, thus the new model presented a challenge to the authority of the Church. Protestant reactions were very mixed; heliocentrism was enthusiastically adopted by some theologians and taught in some Protestant universities.
CultureThe heliocentric picture took centuries to be generally absorbed. Writers continued to use ideas and images drawn from the older picture, as is still common today in the words sunrise and sunset.
Together with Plato, he was the leading Greek philosopher, whose works on literature and science have had an enormous influence on Western culture
c100-170AD, Greco-Egyptian writer, mathematician, scientist, geographer, astonomer and astologer.
The period of European history broadly between 1000AD-1500AD.
Renaissance is literally 're-birth'. The term describes the movement, especially in the 15th and 16th centuries originating from Italy, where new areas of art, poetry, scholarship and architecture emerged.
Name originally given to disciples of Jesus by outsiders and gradually adopted by the Early Church.
The Bible describes God as the unique supreme being, creator and ruler of the universe.
The disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Bible is known as the Fall of Humankind. Christians believe that humans from then on have had a a predispostion to disobey God.
Someone who disobeys God's will by their actions or failure to act. The Bible regards all human beings as predisposed to sin.
Likeliness to change, inconsistence. The transitory nature of earthly life is a frequent theme in Renaissance writing.
Supernatural beings closely linked with the work of God; his messengers, traditionally portrayed as having a winged human form.
1. All Christians worldwide. 2. The Church in the West until the Reformation. 3. The Roman Catholic Church.
Christians whose faith and practice stems from the Reformation movement in the sixteenth century which resulted in new churches being created as an alternative to the Roman Catholic Church.
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