Essay on James I of England and carefully Structured Reality

Submitted By alicemiranda
Words: 1221
Pages: 5

The Great Chain of Being
The Elizabethans/Jacobeans saw their world as a carefully structured reality, with every element of their existence given a specific place and degree of importance. This structure was hierarchical and their society, subsequently, rigidly stratified. God was the first, most important link in the chain, followed by the archangels and angels, then the King and Church leaders and so on, down to the animals, birds, and even rocks. Each link in the chain also had its own hierarchy. The archangels, for example, preceded the regular angels in their degree of importance; while lions were higher in their category than other animals.
The Elizabethans/Jacobeans believed that if this order was disrupted; if a link in the chain was dislodged from its set place, chaos would reign. For instance, if a person attempted to rise above their allotted social position, particularly in the most powerful echelons of society, the universe could be thrown into disorder.
The Divine Right of Kings
The Elizabethans/Jacobeans believed that those chosen to be King had been chosen by God, i.e. that the King effectively had God’s seal of approval. Any attempt to question the King’s decisions or behaviour was therefore seen as questioning or doubting God himself. Similarly, any attempt to usurp the throne or assassinate the King was seen as a direct violation of God’s will. The Elizabethan’s believed that any such sacrilegious thoughts and behaviour could lead to a disruption in the order of the universe, leading to chaos and destruction.
Jacobean Beliefs on Witches and Witchcraft
It is likely that Shakespeare wrote Macbeth with the views of his King – King James I – in mind. Witchcraft had been a topic of interest for English monarchs for many years. Henry VIII and his daughter, Queen Elizabeth, both passed Acts, defining witchcraft as a felony. King James I, however, took a particular interest in the topic and saw himself as somewhat of an expert. He supported the view that those who had practised witchcraft had made a pact with the Devil in return for their ‘powers’ and showed great interest in the witchcraft trial of the late 16th century.
During this period, fear and superstition led many to blame ‘witches’ and supernatural forces for tragedies and inexplicable events in Elizabethan and Jacobean times. Many, for example, were terrified and affected by the Black Plague. Without the knowledge we have today of how germs can be spread, Elizabethan/Jacobeans society couldn’t understand how the disease could spread so quickly. They saw it as a punishment from God or an affliction visited upon them by malicious witches and supernatural powers.
King James had a personal, irrational fear that he would die in a violent, horrific way. His fear of witches may have somewhat stemmed from this paranoia. When he was caught in a storm whilst sailing back from Denmark, for example, he believed witches had sent the storm in an attempt to kill him.

The Great Chain of Being
The Elizabethans/Jacobeans saw their world as a carefully structured reality, with every element of their existence given a specific place and degree of importance. This structure was hierarchical and their society, subsequently, rigidly stratified. God was the first, most important link in the chain, followed by the archangels and angels, then the King and Church leaders and so on, down to the animals, birds, and even rocks. Each link in the chain also had its own hierarchy. The archangels, for example, preceded the regular angels in their degree of importance; while lions were higher in their category than other animals.
The Elizabethans/Jacobeans believed that if this order was disrupted; if a link in the chain was dislodged from its set place, chaos would reign. For instance, if a person attempted to rise above their allotted social position, particularly in the most powerful echelons of society, the universe could be thrown into…