The Great Chain of Being

What is The Great Chain of Being in literature?

The Great Chain of Being was a hierarchical system of organization that was widely accepted in medieval and Renaissance Europe. It was based on the idea that all of creation was arranged in a strict and ordered hierarchy, with God at the top and the lowest forms of life at the bottom.

According to the Great Chain of Being, everything in the universe had its own specific place and function, from the smallest creature to the greatest monarch. Each level of the hierarchy was connected to the levels above and below it, forming a continuous chain that stretched from the heavens down to the earth.

At the top of the Great Chain of Being was God, who was believed to be the ultimate source of all life and the creator of the universe. Below God were the angels, who were believed to serve as messengers between God and humanity.

Next in the hierarchy were human beings, who were considered to be superior to all other living creatures because of their ability to reason and understand. Within the human category, there were further subdivisions based on factors such as social class, gender, and race.

Below humans were animals, who were believed to be less intelligent and less important than humans. Plants and inanimate objects occupied the lowest rungs of the Great Chain of Being.

The Great Chain of Being was a powerful and enduring idea that influenced many aspects of medieval and Renaissance culture, including literature, art, and philosophy. It was used to justify social hierarchies, political structures, and religious beliefs, and it remained an influential concept well into the modern era.

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