Elizabethan Times

Stephanie Ritzema
Mind Map by Stephanie Ritzema, updated more than 1 year ago
Stephanie Ritzema
Created by Stephanie Ritzema almost 5 years ago


witches women and religion

Resource summary

Elizabethan Times


  • Women, Witches and relidion
1 Women
1.1 In Elizabethan times women belonged to their fathers or their brother's if their fathers died, and then to their husbands. Women could not own property of their own. This is one of the reasons Queen Elizabeth never married- she did not want to give up her power to a man. The only exceptions were widows.
1.2 In Shakespeares time, women were allowed to marry from the age of 12, but often only women of wealthy families would marry so young. They often were married with children or a child by the age of 13. They could also be 'betrothed' to each other from a young age to join familes before they were old enough to marry.
1.3 Women were not allowed on the stage. All female parts were played by boys whose voices hadnt broken yet. In some Shakespearian plays the female characters disguise themseleves as men, so the audience would see a man pretnding to be a woman, pretending to be a man.
2 Religion
2.1 Almost everyone in Shakespears time was Christian. They would go to church every Sunday, or even more often. Therefoee, they believed that Hell was a very real place and that the Devil was a specific person. Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic church and became Head of the Church of England (this was because the pope at the time would not allow him to have another divorce). Across Northern Europe groups protested against the Roman Catholic Church- they were known as 'Protestants'. They did not obey the pope. In England people were martyred on bth sides, often being burnt at the stake.
2.2 Religion was a large political issue- bing the wrong religion at home could get you imprisoned, tortured, or a death sentance. It also affected connections with other countris. Spain, a Catcholic country, for example, wanted England to return to Catholicism and the spanish king sent an Armarda which tried to invade. Because religion was so closely related to politics, playrights had to be very careful. Shakespeare avoids talking directly about Christianity, but throughout his plays sees refernces to Heavan and Hell.
2.3 The Great Chain of Being
2.3.1 Elizabethans believed that God set out an order for everything in the universe. This was known as the Great Chain of Being. on Earth, God created a social order for everybody and chose where you belonged. In other words, the King or queen was in charge because God put them there and they were answerable to God (the Divine Right of Kings). This meant that disobeying the monarch was a sin against God This also meant that if the wrong person was monarch then everything would go wrong for a country, including whether crops would be good, or if animals behaved as they should. The Elizabethans were very superstitious.
2.3.2 The Great Chain of Being includes everything for God and angles at the top, to humans, to animals, to plants, to rocks and minerals at the bottom. It moves from being of pure spirit at the top to things made entirely of matter at the bottom. Humans are pretty much in the middle, being mostly mortal, made of matter but with a soul made os spirit. The theory started with the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato, but was a basic assumption of life in Elizabethan England. You were a noble, or a begger, or a farmer, because that was the place God had ordained for you.
2.3.3 The Great Chain of Being is a mjor influence on Shakespeare's Mabeth. Macbeth disturbs the natural order of things by murdering the king and stealing the throne. This throws all of nature into uproar, including a story related by an old man that the horses in their stables went mad and ate each other, a symbol of unatural happenings. The Great chain or Being meant that no-one of royal blodd could be punished by someone of a lower social status. This was a problem for the tutors of princes, who could not beat them, the most common form of punishment at the time. Instead the princes had 'whipping boys' who would be ounished if the price did something wrong. The prince was supposed to feel guilty so wold not do anyting wrong again. this however would depend on the prince.
3 Witches
3.1 In Shakespeare's time people believed in witches. They were people who had made a pact with the Devil in exchange with supernatural powers. If you cow was ill, it was easy to decide that it had been cursed. If there was a plague in your village, it was because of a witch. If the beans did'nt grow, it was because of a witch. Witches might have a familiar- a pet, toad or a bird- which was supposed to be a demon advisor. People accused of being witches tended to be old, poor, single women. It was at this time that the idea of witches riding on broomsticks (commeonly found in the homes of Elizabethan families) came about.
3.2 There are lots of ways to test for a witch. A common way was to use a ducking stool, or just to tie them up, and duck the accused underwater in a pond or river. If she floated, she was a witch. If she drowned, she was innocent. She probably drowned. Anyone who floated was then burnt at the stake. it was legal to kill witches because of the Witchcraft Act passed in 1563, which set out steps against witches who used spirits to kill people. King James I became king in 1603. He was particularly suspitious about witchs and even wrote a book on the subject; Daemonologie. Skaespeare wrote Macbeth especially to appeal to James - it has witches and is et in Scotland, where he was already king. The three witches in Macbeth manipulate the characters into disaster, and cast spells to destroy lives.
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