By Anthony, Thomas and Lexin
• Elizabethan/ Jacobean society was highly based on a caste system or social hierarchy.
Society was separated into each place on the hierarchy based on several factors such as education, birth, wealth and also what family you were born in.
• Other people would judge others based on social status and clothing.
• Family was also valued highly in society as birth and lineage were all stressed highly.
However for many newcomers and others merit and virtues were thought of as being more important.
• Women were at the bottom of the social hierarchy, and so were treated unfairly.
• Women were often blamed for crimes and many were accused of being witches.
• They had to endure many struggles. Many procedures such as the ‘swimming test’ where women, those thought of as witches, were thrown into a river and if they floated would burn at the stake. If they sunk they were innocent or had drowned. Other tests included the prayer test and touch test. In these tests the accused witch could not make mistakes, otherwise death was the penalty. Men were far superior to women, leading society and controlling what society would do. Even though a queen ruled, men were thought of having more authority and power.
• In Elizabethan England, Religion was often dictated by the monarch (Queen or King) and was taught to the wider population through schools.
• Not believing in the decreed religion could potentially lead to imprisonment and torture.
• In these times, Two main religions went back and forth in
England. Protestant vs Catholic
• Protestant: thought that the bible and church services should be in English so that all people would be able to understand. Believed that people could find god without the help of priests. Only god was thought to forgive sins.
• Catholic: thought that the bible and church services should be written in Latin. Believed that priests were a link to god. Priests and Popes were able to forgive sins if they were given something in return.
Additional beliefs included:
• Witches: Thought of as cause of unfortunate events. Said to be ‘the agents of Satan going about their business at night.’ Could call up the dead, stop the sun, create storms, hail, thunder and lightning among numerous other abilities.
• The great chain of being: God ruled all, the king was the head of state, head was the ruler of the body. If chain was disrupted, chaos would break out.
• The wheel of fortune: fate was believed to be a ‘controlling force in life’. The wheel of fortune was often representative of the idea of ‘destiny’, which man had no power to change.
• However, in Shakespeare's age, people began acknowledging that they could, in fact change their futures, instead of wishing that the ‘wheel of fortune’ would stop at a ‘favourable position’.
• Humanism put more emphasis on the idea of ‘Life on earth’ than the previously accepted idea of ‘Life after death’. • This argument between destiny and human action is conveyed through many of Shakespeare’s own works such as Macbeth.
• Four elements and humours:
Everything in the world was thought to be composed of four elements. Earth, Water, Air and Fire.
It was also believed that these elements had corresponding ‘humours’ in the human body. The individuals mood was considered able to be determined through a imbalance of the four humours. Vice versa, having equal amounts of all four humours would result in “good
Common factors humour”. Earth
Yellow Bile (Melancholy)
Cold & Dry
Cold & Moist
Hot & Moist
Black Bile (Choler)
Hot & Dry
The nobles were only a minor part of the society whilst the peasants made up the majority. There was also a middle class of merchants and craftsman. Majority of the society does not live in