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The four humours
Shakespeare in context
Elizabethans believed that health and
temperament were connected to four fluids that
were contained within the human body. These
fluids were known as humours and consisted of
yellow bile (choler), black bile, phlegm and
blood.
Each humour was thought to be connected to
different personality traits. Character was
therefore determined by the mixture of
humours in the body, with one humour usually
being more dominant than the rest.
An imbalance of the humours was often
believed to be the cause of illness or mental
health problems. For example, an excess of
black bile was often blamed for depression.
Personalities of the humours
Yellow bile – choleric
Ambitious, a good leader, quick to
anger, dominant, strong-willed
Black bile – melancholic
Analytical, thoughtful, moody,
depressive, sensitive
Phlegm – phlegmatic
Relaxed, calm, quiet, kind,
diplomatic, steady
Blood – sanguine
Loving, brave, sociable, hopeful,
pleasure-seeking, lively
The signs of the zodiac
Shakespeare in context
The signs of the zodiac relate to arrangements of
stars in the sky.
In Shakespeare’s time, it was believed that the
movements of the stars and planets directly
influenced events on Earth. People studied the
stars in order to make predictions. This was
known as astrology and was a respected science.
John Dee, astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I, was
the most famous astrologer of his time.
Shakespeare’s characters often refer to the stars.
The signs of the zodiac are painted above the
stage at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. This is to
remind us that the characters and events we see
on stage are always subject to the power of fate.
The zodiac and the body
Star signs were linked to different parts
of the human body. It was thought that
things that happened in the universe,
in macrocosm, would also happen in
the body in microcosm, or miniature
form.
Aries – head, brain, eyes
Taurus – throat, neck
Gemini – arms, hands
Cancer – chest, breasts
Leo – spine, heart
Virgo – digestive system
Libra – kidneys
Scorpio – reproductive system
Sagittarius – hips, thighs
Capricorn – knees
Aquarius – ankles, calves
Pisces – feet, toes
The chain of being
Shakespeare in context
Elizabethans believed in a divine hierarchy that had
been created by God. This hierarchy, called the chain of
being stretched from God himself at the top all the way
down to plants and stones. Everything on Earth had its
place.
The chain of being helped to maintain order.
Challenging one’s place in society disrupted the chain
and could lead to terrible chaos. People were expected
to respect their position in the hierarchy. Those who
accepted their given place would be rewarded in
heaven.
Women were always considered beneath men in the
chain, with the exception of Queen Elizabeth I. It was
believed that monarchs were chosen by God and so
held a divine right to their position.
Divine order
God
Angels
Monarch
Nobles
Clergy
Gentlemen
Commoners
Animals, plants, minerals
The supernatural
Shakespeare in context
Although most Elizabethans were Christian, many
were also superstitious and believed in the
supernatural.
Creatures like fairies and goblins were said to play
tricks on people at night. These creatures had the
power to control dreams, make people go insane
or to lead someone away into a fairy world.
Women who did not fit into society were often
accused of being witches. They were blamed for
illnesses and catastrophes and were sometimes
punished or killed for working with the devil.
King James I was a great believer in the
supernatural. He even published a book on the
subject, called Daemonologie.
The supernatural in Shakespeare
Supernatural beings appear in a
number of Shakespeare’s plays:
• The three witches and Banquo’s
ghost in Macbeth.
• Oberon, Titania, Puck and other
fairies in A Midsummer Night’s
Dream.
• Ariel (a spirit) and Prospero (a
magician) in The Tempest.
• The ghost of Hamlet’s father in
Hamlet.
Catholicism and Protestantism
Shakespeare in context
Almost everyone was deeply religious in
Shakespeare’s time. Belief in God and in heaven
and hell affected people’s choices and the way
they behaved.
Although England had officially rejected
Catholicism and become a Protestant country,
many Catholics still lived there. This created
tension between the two groups. Catholics were
seen as traitors and were forbidden to hold public
office.
Some very strict protestants known as Puritans
believed that not enough was being done to rid
England of Catholic vices. Puritans objected to
much popular entertainment including theatres,
which they saw as places of sin.
Christianity in Shakespeare
• Suicide was considered a mortal
sin that would send you straight to
hell. This makes the deaths of
characters like Romeo and Juliet
even more tragic.
• Hamlet will not kill Claudius while
he is praying because he does not
want to make a martyr of him and
send him straight to heaven.
• Non-Christian characters, such as
Shylock in The Merchant of Venice,
are often represented
unfavourably.
The role of women
Shakespeare in context
Women had far less freedom than men in
Shakespeare’s society, even with Elizabeth I on the
throne. They were expected to be polite, quiet and
obedient and to follow the wishes of their fathers
until they were married, when they would obey
their husband’s orders instead.
Marriage and family are usually of great importance
to women in Shakespeare’s plays. However, he also
created heroines who are strong-willed, intelligent
and independent, like Beatrice in Much Ado About
Nothing or Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. To overcome
the restrictions of society, many Shakespearean
heroines disguise themselves as boys.
As women were not allowed to act on stage, female
characters were played by young men.
Women in disguise
• In As You Like It, Rosalind
becomes Ganymede when she is
banished from her city.
• Shipwrecked and lost, Twelfth
Night’s Viola becomes Cesario to
find work.
• Julia becomes Sebastian in The
Two Gentlemen of Verona to
follow the man she loves.
• In Cymbeline, Imogen becomes
Fidele so she can escape from her
murderous uncle.
• Portia and her maid, Nerissa,
dress as a lawyer and clerk to
defend Portia’s brother in court in
The Merchant of Venice.
The Taming of the Shrew
The ‘problem’ play
‘…A play that seems totally offensive to our age
and society. My own feeling is that it should
be put back firmly and squarely on the shelf….’
(Michael Billington, 1978)
Baptista Minola –
Father of Katherina
and Bianca. Will not
allow Bianca to marry
until someone marries
Kate.
Gremio –
an old
man who
wants to
marry
Bianca
Hortensio – a man
about town who
wants to marry
Bianca, who will
disguise himself as
Bianca’s tutor, Litio Lucentio - from
Verona, who also
wants to marry
Bianca. Will later
disguise himself as
Bianca’s tutor,
Cambio.
Tranio, Lucentio’s
servant, who will
pretend to be
Lucentio, whilst
the his master
dresses up as
Petruchio- wants
to marry Kate in
spite of her
reputation – he
only cares for her
money and is
convinced he can
‘tame’ her.
Katherina/ Kate –
Daughter 1:
The eldest.
Headstrong and
determined, known
as a ‘shrew’.
Bianca- Daughter 2:
youngest daughter.
Seemingly sweet
and innocent.
Source and composition
• Written around 1594, one of
Shakespeare’s earlier plays.
• Takes inspirations from many folktales
and ballads popular in England about
shrewish wives being tamed by their
aggressive husbands.
• One source story tells of a wilful
woman beaten until bloody and
broken, then wrapped in the salted
skin of her husband’s old plow horse
until she agreed to be submissive and
obedient.
The ‘shrew’ in Elizabethan England
• Defined as bossy women who were
angry and loud. Speaking in public was
often considered inappropriate for a
proper lady.
• In court records from the period,
‘shrews’ would often force men to do
what it called ‘women’s work’. They
might also drink in public, flirt or take
lovers.
• Women like these were often accused
of witchcraft.
• The husbands of women like this were
also at fault; they were viewed as weak
and ineffectual, deserving to suffer as
much humiliation as their wives.
Scold’s bridle – 1500/1600s
• Many labelled as
shrews forced to wear
the ‘scold’s bridle’.
• Attached to the bridle
was a metal prong that,
when inserted into the
mouth of the shrew,
depressed her tongue
and made it impossible
for her to talk.
Cucking – 1500/1600s
• Cucking was another
punishment
• Women were strapped onto a
stool and dunked in water.
• In addition to the public
humiliation, many were dipped
too low, causing their mouths
to fill with mud, resulting in
suffocation.

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Elizabethan Beliefs & Taming of the Shrew

  • 1. The four humours Shakespeare in context Elizabethans believed that health and temperament were connected to four fluids that were contained within the human body. These fluids were known as humours and consisted of yellow bile (choler), black bile, phlegm and blood. Each humour was thought to be connected to different personality traits. Character was therefore determined by the mixture of humours in the body, with one humour usually being more dominant than the rest. An imbalance of the humours was often believed to be the cause of illness or mental health problems. For example, an excess of black bile was often blamed for depression. Personalities of the humours Yellow bile – choleric Ambitious, a good leader, quick to anger, dominant, strong-willed Black bile – melancholic Analytical, thoughtful, moody, depressive, sensitive Phlegm – phlegmatic Relaxed, calm, quiet, kind, diplomatic, steady Blood – sanguine Loving, brave, sociable, hopeful, pleasure-seeking, lively
  • 2. The signs of the zodiac Shakespeare in context The signs of the zodiac relate to arrangements of stars in the sky. In Shakespeare’s time, it was believed that the movements of the stars and planets directly influenced events on Earth. People studied the stars in order to make predictions. This was known as astrology and was a respected science. John Dee, astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I, was the most famous astrologer of his time. Shakespeare’s characters often refer to the stars. The signs of the zodiac are painted above the stage at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. This is to remind us that the characters and events we see on stage are always subject to the power of fate. The zodiac and the body Star signs were linked to different parts of the human body. It was thought that things that happened in the universe, in macrocosm, would also happen in the body in microcosm, or miniature form. Aries – head, brain, eyes Taurus – throat, neck Gemini – arms, hands Cancer – chest, breasts Leo – spine, heart Virgo – digestive system Libra – kidneys Scorpio – reproductive system Sagittarius – hips, thighs Capricorn – knees Aquarius – ankles, calves Pisces – feet, toes
  • 3. The chain of being Shakespeare in context Elizabethans believed in a divine hierarchy that had been created by God. This hierarchy, called the chain of being stretched from God himself at the top all the way down to plants and stones. Everything on Earth had its place. The chain of being helped to maintain order. Challenging one’s place in society disrupted the chain and could lead to terrible chaos. People were expected to respect their position in the hierarchy. Those who accepted their given place would be rewarded in heaven. Women were always considered beneath men in the chain, with the exception of Queen Elizabeth I. It was believed that monarchs were chosen by God and so held a divine right to their position. Divine order God Angels Monarch Nobles Clergy Gentlemen Commoners Animals, plants, minerals
  • 4. The supernatural Shakespeare in context Although most Elizabethans were Christian, many were also superstitious and believed in the supernatural. Creatures like fairies and goblins were said to play tricks on people at night. These creatures had the power to control dreams, make people go insane or to lead someone away into a fairy world. Women who did not fit into society were often accused of being witches. They were blamed for illnesses and catastrophes and were sometimes punished or killed for working with the devil. King James I was a great believer in the supernatural. He even published a book on the subject, called Daemonologie. The supernatural in Shakespeare Supernatural beings appear in a number of Shakespeare’s plays: • The three witches and Banquo’s ghost in Macbeth. • Oberon, Titania, Puck and other fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. • Ariel (a spirit) and Prospero (a magician) in The Tempest. • The ghost of Hamlet’s father in Hamlet.
  • 5. Catholicism and Protestantism Shakespeare in context Almost everyone was deeply religious in Shakespeare’s time. Belief in God and in heaven and hell affected people’s choices and the way they behaved. Although England had officially rejected Catholicism and become a Protestant country, many Catholics still lived there. This created tension between the two groups. Catholics were seen as traitors and were forbidden to hold public office. Some very strict protestants known as Puritans believed that not enough was being done to rid England of Catholic vices. Puritans objected to much popular entertainment including theatres, which they saw as places of sin. Christianity in Shakespeare • Suicide was considered a mortal sin that would send you straight to hell. This makes the deaths of characters like Romeo and Juliet even more tragic. • Hamlet will not kill Claudius while he is praying because he does not want to make a martyr of him and send him straight to heaven. • Non-Christian characters, such as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, are often represented unfavourably.
  • 6. The role of women Shakespeare in context Women had far less freedom than men in Shakespeare’s society, even with Elizabeth I on the throne. They were expected to be polite, quiet and obedient and to follow the wishes of their fathers until they were married, when they would obey their husband’s orders instead. Marriage and family are usually of great importance to women in Shakespeare’s plays. However, he also created heroines who are strong-willed, intelligent and independent, like Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing or Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. To overcome the restrictions of society, many Shakespearean heroines disguise themselves as boys. As women were not allowed to act on stage, female characters were played by young men. Women in disguise • In As You Like It, Rosalind becomes Ganymede when she is banished from her city. • Shipwrecked and lost, Twelfth Night’s Viola becomes Cesario to find work. • Julia becomes Sebastian in The Two Gentlemen of Verona to follow the man she loves. • In Cymbeline, Imogen becomes Fidele so she can escape from her murderous uncle. • Portia and her maid, Nerissa, dress as a lawyer and clerk to defend Portia’s brother in court in The Merchant of Venice.
  • 7. The Taming of the Shrew
  • 8. The ‘problem’ play ‘…A play that seems totally offensive to our age and society. My own feeling is that it should be put back firmly and squarely on the shelf….’ (Michael Billington, 1978)
  • 9. Baptista Minola – Father of Katherina and Bianca. Will not allow Bianca to marry until someone marries Kate. Gremio – an old man who wants to marry Bianca Hortensio – a man about town who wants to marry Bianca, who will disguise himself as Bianca’s tutor, Litio Lucentio - from Verona, who also wants to marry Bianca. Will later disguise himself as Bianca’s tutor, Cambio. Tranio, Lucentio’s servant, who will pretend to be Lucentio, whilst the his master dresses up as Petruchio- wants to marry Kate in spite of her reputation – he only cares for her money and is convinced he can ‘tame’ her. Katherina/ Kate – Daughter 1: The eldest. Headstrong and determined, known as a ‘shrew’. Bianca- Daughter 2: youngest daughter. Seemingly sweet and innocent.
  • 10. Source and composition • Written around 1594, one of Shakespeare’s earlier plays. • Takes inspirations from many folktales and ballads popular in England about shrewish wives being tamed by their aggressive husbands. • One source story tells of a wilful woman beaten until bloody and broken, then wrapped in the salted skin of her husband’s old plow horse until she agreed to be submissive and obedient.
  • 11. The ‘shrew’ in Elizabethan England • Defined as bossy women who were angry and loud. Speaking in public was often considered inappropriate for a proper lady. • In court records from the period, ‘shrews’ would often force men to do what it called ‘women’s work’. They might also drink in public, flirt or take lovers. • Women like these were often accused of witchcraft. • The husbands of women like this were also at fault; they were viewed as weak and ineffectual, deserving to suffer as much humiliation as their wives.
  • 12. Scold’s bridle – 1500/1600s • Many labelled as shrews forced to wear the ‘scold’s bridle’. • Attached to the bridle was a metal prong that, when inserted into the mouth of the shrew, depressed her tongue and made it impossible for her to talk.
  • 13. Cucking – 1500/1600s • Cucking was another punishment • Women were strapped onto a stool and dunked in water. • In addition to the public humiliation, many were dipped too low, causing their mouths to fill with mud, resulting in suffocation.