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The Elizabethan World Picture by E M.W.…
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The Elizabethan World Picture (original 1942; edition 1972)

by E M.W. Tillyard

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852915,230 (3.79)9
Member:konallis
Title:The Elizabethan World Picture
Authors:E M.W. Tillyard
Info:Harmondsworth : Penguin, 1972.
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:history, criticism, philosophy, 16th century, read 2010

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The Elizabethan World Picture by E. M. W. Tillyard (1942)

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
I had a hardcover of this. I have to get another copy. ( )
  Baku-X | Jan 10, 2017 |
I had a hardcover of this. I have to get another copy. ( )
  BakuDreamer | Sep 7, 2013 |
This is a short (109 pages) book that sets out to analyze the Elizabethan age's view of the world based on literature from authors of the day. Tillyard shows that the Elizabethan world view is a continuation of Medieval views, which he further shows from appropriate quotations. The general topics addressed are Order, Sin, "the Chain of Being", the links in the chain of being, the corresponding planes, and the Cosmic Dance. It appears that these ideas are present as a sort of intellectual background in the literature of the age. In spite of its brevity, this book invites deep consideration and reading in the sources the author cites. I believe anyone aspiring to understand Elizabethan literature (1580-1605, plus outliers such as Milton) would do well to study this book. ( )
1 vote baobab | Aug 25, 2013 |
This was a great book to break down Shakespearean literature and the Elizabethan world picture. Its helped understand literature more fully. ( )
  Jen_Muller | Apr 7, 2013 |
This is one of the most difficult books I've read since I was in college. In fact it wouldn't surprise me to find that this was written as a graduate college text. It's a small volume, coming in at just 109 pages, but in many ways, except for the fact it is obviously written in English, with the odd Latin phrase or two, it might as well have been written by Martians for as much as I was able to glean from it. However, I did learn quite a bit from it. It's learning that requires digestion for the understanding.

The book presents a view of the world seen through the eyes of the Elizabethans. It pulls together several literary sources of the time and mines them for their world view. This is where it gets tough, Elizabethan English is hard enough to read just for enjoyment, throw in the philosophical aspects of the time and you have an intellectual (at least for me) nightmare.

The Elizabethan world lived by the Great Chain of Being with its links and planes and correspondences all culminating in the great Cosmic Dance. Sounds easy, right? Not hardly. It seems Aquinas's question about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin was a plain simple inquiry, not a comment on the ethereal nature of angelic existence. The Elizabethans understood this to be a simple question. This worldview stretched all the way back to the ancient Greeks. By the time of the Elizabethans this view was as much a part of the fabric of life as physics, biology, chemistry, and cosmology are at the heart of ours. That's what made this so difficult. Unless you can think like an Elizabethan much of this is unknown territory. It's this difference in system that makes it so hard to come to grips with. Unless one is accustomed to thinking in terms of the four elements, the four humors, and the relationship of each link to its fellows both above and below, this book, while it does its best to explain these things, is still something of a slog.

One other aspect of things here is that the modern was bearing down on the Elizabethans and so there is a mix of proto-modern thinking alongside the harmony and music of existence, but after two thousand years, the mechanisms and devices used to construct meaning in the world were becoming less and less adequate for the task at hand. A whole new world had been discovered, alchemy was moving into science, Copernicus had redefined the shape of the solar system and removed the earth from its center in favor of the sun. Knowledge was expanding and new schemes of organizing were having to be created to include these discoveries. Life was becoming less certain. Without these changes Locke and the political philosophers of fifty or a hundred years after Elizabeth could never have created our modern world with its modern sensibilities. The Elizabethans were living under that old Chinese curse: they were living in interesting times. Not unlike our own, when some would take us back to the system that sufficed to explain the world for so long.

I am in the unfortunate position of having to rate a book that I feel completely unqualified to rate. I expect the author accomplished his goal of describing the philosophical underpinnings of the time, but they are so foreign to us today they seem almost fantastic. I gave this three and a half stars based mostly on not knowing what I don't know about the quality of the book. I expect a scholar, or someone buried in this history would give it more or fewer stars. For all I know, this is the definitive work on this aspect of the Elizabethan world view and should get five stars. I feel wholly inadequate to the task of placing this book in its niche. I learned a lot, and once I digest it will reread it with an eye to greater understanding. At that time the rating may be reviewed. ( )
6 vote geneg | Jul 30, 2010 |
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