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Shakespeare And Astrology

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Bianca
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« on: October 15, 2008, 10:25:16 am »




                             








                                                 Shakespeare and Astrology   






Think of King Lear, who sinned knowingly and scoffed at the stars.

Or Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest, who defied the stars and then used them to his benefit.

The "star-cross'd" Romeo believed the poison from the apothecary was the only thing that would "shake the yoke of inauspicious stars" from his "world-wearied flesh."

And Anthony, in Julius Caesar, attributed his first defeat to the fact that the stars had forsaken him, blaming the moon's eclipse for his ultimate fall.



In all of Shakespeare's 37 plays there are more than a hundred allusions to astrology, and many of his characters' actions are said to be favored or hindered by the stars. The signs of the zodiac are mentioned in six of Shakespeare's plays, and the planets may even be blamed for disasters, especially as they wander from their spheres.

Several of Shakespeare's characters were governed by particular stars, as Posthumous was born under the benevolent planet Jupiter, and thus had a favorable destiny at the end of the play. Another character, Monsieur Parolles, was born under Mars and became known fittingly as a soldier.

The moon--known for its influence on emotions and self-image--was said to govern Elizabeth, who wept throughout the play Richard III.

These examples and many other astrological passages scattered throughout his dramatic works show that Shakespeare was at least interested in astrology and used the art abundantly in the creation of some of his most striking passages.

He probably did this because it would have an appeal to the Elizabethan audience at the time.

Whether he had a sincere interest in astrology is unknown.

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« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2008, 10:31:25 am »










Elizabethan poetry contained a cosmic order that included stars, the planets, the sun and the earth.

There was a general fear of chaos and upsetting the order of things.

There was also a chain of being, and everything was related to that chain.

Despite Copernicus, most Elizabethans believed the earth was flat and the heavens constituted fire
and the highest perfection--light. There was a sharp division between everything beneath the sphere of the moon, and all the rest of the universe. The heavens were eternal and made of ether, while everything under the moon--such as man--was subject to decay.

Angels were the intermediary between earth and man, were purely intellectual, and thought to possess free will. However, this never conflicted with God's will. Angels could make the connection with God immediately as messengers and guardians of men.

The nine hierarchies of angels were thought to inhabit the nine spheres:



primum mobile,

fixed stars,

Saturn,

Jupiter

Mars,

Sun,

Venus,

Mercury,

and the Moon.



The stars and planets were thought to sing to the angels, which were made of brightness and assumed a body of ether when they appeared to human sight. The planets, like other parts of nature, were merely tools for God's will, and their orbit and natural rhythms were kept according to God's order.

Many times a soul was compared to a planet or sphere, with an angel revolving it. John Donne's poetry reveals this, and poets such as Shakespeare wrote about how the motions of the spheres made music, although we as humans were not supposed to be able to hear it. An example is in The Merchant of Venice, when Lorenzo says to Jessica:



   "Such harmony is in immortal souls;
    But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
    Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it."
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« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2008, 10:32:27 am »













The planets thus were communicating agents from eternity to mankind, and the stars were said to dictate how everything under the moon changes. The stars were the medium between God and man, yet sometimes an Elizabethan audience may live in terror of them. This terror was mostly superstitious, as many believed the stars could actually cause bad things to happen, especially natural disasters. God's Providence, however, dictated that superstition was man inflicting beliefs upon himself, and that the stars were not harmful but beneficent, and that they were created to do good.

Most Elizabethans believed the stars and planets held some kind of power over the 'baser side' of man, and were to be used as tools of God, but they did not believe the stars held power over the supreme side of man--the immortal part. Thus man had free will and could overcome his fate by choosing good; the stars couldn't force him to do anything. Religious education or art could overcome any fate written in the stars. The Elizabethans were still afraid, however, and searched for some answer to overwrite any destiny they saw shining for them in the heavens.

For many in Shakespeare's time, planets and stars were people personified. The heavenly spheres had eternal souls. The fall of mankind hurt man, but the stars completed him, as long as he realized his two highest faculties--understanding and free will.



http://www.chartplanet.com/html/shakespeare.html
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« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2008, 10:36:37 am »




             
                                 









                                                          Shakespeare's Astrology






The works of William Shakespeare are full of rich imagery from many sources. Mythology, magic and science all find a place in his texts. One of the richest sources of imagery in his works is astrology. Shakespeare uses astrological events, forecasts and metaphors extensively in his plays and poetry. This article will examine these astrological references in Shakespeare's work, focusing on the astrological components in two plays: All's Well That Ends Well, and King Lear. Shakespeare was very knowledgeable about astrology and held its practice in high regard, which can be shown by using examples from these plays, and the methods and popularity of astrology in his time.

Before we can attempt to decipher the astrological elements contained in these plays, we must have a basic understanding of the concepts of astrology. Astrology has a complex methodology that has developed over thousands of years. The roots of astrology as practiced in Shakespeare's time go back thousands of years. As far as we can discern, astrology began as the reading of simple omens from the position, color and brightness of certain stars or planets at important times of the years. Astrology was refined and codified by the Greeks, most notably by Claudius Ptolemy in his Tetrabiblos, written in the 2nd Century A.D.

It is from this work that Renaissance and modern western astrology derive most of their basic concepts.
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« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2008, 10:48:30 am »









Astrology is simply, the correlation between the apparent movement of the Sun, Moon and planets and life on Earth. Astrology is the study of cycles, for example the yearly cycle of the Earth around the Sun, the 28 day cycle of the Moon around the Earth, and the 24 hour cycle of the rotation of the Earth. Every planet has its own cycle in relation to the Earth. Being closer to the Sun, Mercury and Venus each have an approximate cycle of one year, while planets outside Earth's orbit have longer cycles. Mars has a two year cycle, Jupiter twelve years and Saturn twenty-eight years. In Shakespeare's time Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were unknown. For the conventions of this article, when planets are mentioned these will include the Sun and Moon.

Each planet has its own particular astrological qualities and correlates with different parts of the body, areas of life and even places or objects. The planet Venus, for example rules the throat, artistic endeavor, jewelers, gardens and copper. Each planet also has rulership over one or two signs of the Zodiac, a twelve-fold seasonal division of the sky. The planet Venus rules the signs Taurus and Libra. The signs of the Zodiac begin with Aries the Ram which begins the astrological year on the first day of Spring. Each sign is also correlated with a house of the horoscope a twelve-fold division based on the Earth's rotation. Aries shares the nature of the First House, Taurus the Second House, and so on. Additionally, the cusp or beginning of the First House is called the Ascendant and the cusp of the Tenth House is called the Midheaven. Both are very important points in an individual Horoscope.

A Horoscope is an astrological chart drawn for a specific moment in time, whether for a person's birth (natal chart), the beginning of a venture (electional chart), or even the asking of a question (horary chart). This stylized map of the heavens is constructed by the astrologer for a specific date, time and place, using trigonometric and logarithmic calculations for the positions of the planets and house cusps. After constructing the chart, the astrologer then measures for Aspects, or the angular relationships between planets. Each aspect between planets shows how well those planets will integrate with each other. The major aspects are the Conjunction, 0 degree angle; the Sextile, 60 degrees; the Square, 90 degrees; the Trine,120 degrees and the Opposition, 180 degrees. After gathering all this information, the astrologer can begin interpreting the chart (Lilly 51-103).
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« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2008, 10:50:24 am »










In Shakespeare's time astrology was held in high regard. Both high-born and commoners employed astrologers and were familiar with astrological terms and concepts (Clark 37-43). The most famous astrologer of Elizabethan times was John Dee. Dee was a famous astrologer and had as his most famous client Queen Elizabeth I. His diary tells how Dee often met with the Queen and members of her court in his capacity as an astrologer and also chronicles the day-to-day life of a working astrologer at that time (Naylor 183-196). Given the wide-spread use of astrology in England at that time, it is not surprising that Shakespeare was so well versed in its concepts.

One play that comes to mind when thinking about Shakespeare and astrology is All's Well That Ends Well. Consider the following passage from the first scene of the play:



HELENA. Monsieur Parolles, you were born under a charitable star.

PAROLLES. Under Mars, I.

HELENA. I especially think, under Mars.

PAROLLES. Why under Mars?

HELENA. The wars hath so kept you under that you must needs be born under Mars.

PAROLLES. When he was predominant.

HELENA. When he was retrograde, I think, rather.

PAROLLES. Why think you so?

HELENA. You go so much backward when you fight.

PAROLLES. That's for advantage.

HELENA. So is running away, when fear proposes the safety: but the composition that your valour and fear makes in you is a virtue of a good wing, and I like the wear well. (I.i)
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« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2008, 10:51:37 am »




                                     









Helena obviously understands astrological concepts and uses them to her advantage.

As the heroine of the play, she shows her intellectual skills by taking control of her own life.

In this passage with Parolles, a retainer of her intended husband, she refers to him as being "born under a charitable star." When he replies that he was born when Mars was predominant, she retorts "when he was retrograde, I think, rather."

By retrograde, Helena refers to the phenomenon of the apparent backward motion of Mars as seen from the Earth, which occurs approximately every two years.

As someone who claims to be a great fighting man, Parolles would also claim to be born under a predominant Mars. But Helena, who knows him as a great liar and probably a coward, believes that he was born with Mars retrograde. A retrograde Mars could signify someone who is deceptive, cowardly and unable to take direct action when called upon. This fits Parolles like a glove.

Here, Shakespeare is giving his heroine keen astrological insight. Helena is a knowledgeable healer and, as such, would have made use of astrology in diagnosing and treating illness. Physicians of Shakespeare's time were also schooled in astrology. Shakespeare has Helena use her skill to cure the King and secure her future.
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« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2008, 10:53:43 am »








                                                     









In the tragedy King Lear, astrology is used to even greater effect. In I,ii Gloucester first raises the issue of astrology:
 



Glou.

These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us.

Though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourg'd by the

sequent effects. Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide. In cities, mutinies; in countries,

discord; in palaces, treason; and the bond crack'd 'twixt son and father. This villain of mine comes

under the prediction; there's son against father: the King falls from bias of nature; there's father

against child. We have seen the best of our time. Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous

disorders follow us disquietly to our graves. Find out this villain, Edmund; it shall lose thee nothing; do it

carefully. And the noble and true-hearted Kent banish'd! his offence, honesty! 'Tis strange. (I.i)
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« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2008, 10:55:43 am »











Gloucester, one of the more sympathetic characters in the play, equates the troubles in the land to the recent eclipses. Eclipses are one of the most powerful events in astrology, portending great upheaval in the places where they can be seen. Visible total solar eclipses are rare and, depending on their position in the charts of the King, country, and other entities, can destroy old structures and supplant them with new ones. Eclipses are harbingers of war and drastic change, and Gloucester recognizes this. Another possible result of eclipses is blindness, which Gloucester himself becomes intimately familiar with. Gloucester respects the efficacy of astrology. Gloucester's illegitimate son, Edmund, has a quite different view of astrology. He doesn't believe in, understand or respect astrology, as shown in his soliloquy immediately following his father's exit:
 


Edm.



This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeit of our

own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains

on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical pre-

dominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforc'd obedience of planetary influence; and all

that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of ****-master man, to lay his

goatish disposition to the charge of a star! My father compounded with my mother under the Dragon's

Tail, and my nativity was under Ursa Major, so that it follows I am rough and lecherous. Fut! I should

have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing. (I,i)
 
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« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2008, 10:59:14 am »










Edmund has no real understanding of astrology. He has many false assumptions and makes many mistakes in his denial of the effectiveness of astrology. When he mentions the Dragon's Tail, he believes he is speaking of a constellation or sign. In fact, the Dragon's Tail is one of the names for the South Node of the Moon, a point that is involved with when eclipses will occur. When there is a New Moon within 12 degrees of either the North or South Node of the Moon, there will be a Solar Eclipse. He says that "My father compounded with my mother under the Dragon's Tail...." Astrology does not use the moment of conception to delineate character, only the time of birth. Edmund also states that he was born under Ursa Major, an impossibility because Ursa Major is not a Zodiacal constellation, but well off the path of the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun around the Earth. Ursa Major has no astrological meaning in the traditional sense. Edmund's diatribe against astrology has more to with the fate versus free will debate rather than the true effectiveness of the astrological paradigm. Astrologers today are still engaged in the fate-versus-free-will debate. But some of the astrological knowledge of the day must have gotten through to Edmund by osmosis. Witness this discourse on eclipses to his half-brother, Edgar:
 


Edm. I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read this other day, what should follow these eclipses.

Edg. Do you busy yourself with that?

Edm.

I promise you, the effects he writes of succeed unhappily: as of unnaturalness between the child and

the parent; death, dearth, dissolutions of ancient amities; divisions in state, menaces and maledictions

against king and nobles; needless diffidences, banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts, nuptial

breaches, and I know not what. (I,i)
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« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2008, 11:00:44 am »











He is repeating much of what Gloucester told him, plus some embellishment, to lay the groundwork for his betrayal of Edgar. Edmund does not know that he plays astrology's game when he acts against his brother, father and the King. In fact, the astrological predictions made at by Gloucester all come to pass by the end of the play.

These examples show us that Shakespeare knew his astrology very well indeed and used astrology to move along his plots and refine his characters. It is arguable that many times Shakespeare uses astrology to make the audience either comfortable or uncomfortable with his characters.

We have seen how he put a great understanding of astrological principles in the mouth of Helena in All's Well That Ends Well. He makes Helena more attractive to his astrologically knowledgeable audience by doing so.

Conversely, he denigrates the character of Edmund by giving him an ill-informed diatribe against astrology early in King Lear.

Just looking at these two plays shows us that Shakespeare was well versed in astrological concepts. They also show us that he would put astrological knowledge and belief into one of his strongest and most capable heroines, and astrological ignorance and disdain into one of his most scheming and reviled villains. Shakespeare knew what
he was doing.

His astrological knowledge allowed him to reach his audience better and more effectively.

His command of astrological principles helped him to become the foremost writer in the English language.



http://starcats.com/anima/shakespeare.html
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« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2008, 11:10:14 am »




                    
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« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2008, 11:16:18 am »





             

              GLOBE THEATER










                                               Astrology in Shakespeare's Plays






Do we need to understand astrology in order to understand Shakespeare? 

It would be difficult to fully comprehend today's television shows and movies without some knowledge of our modern world. 

There are references in these scripts to various aspects of life in our times which someone from a different time would be unable to appreciate. 

The same is true with respect to understanding Shakespeare and his works - timeless they may be,
but they do nevertheless reflect modes of thinking that are, at least in some cases, specific to his time, including a general interest in astrology.  -- DJMc.
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« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2008, 11:17:52 am »





                                     












The interest in astrology and the influence it exercised on the public mind in Shakespeare's time is nowhere better illustrated than by some of the allusions he makes to astrology in his plays.

In King Lear, we find the aged King thus commenting on the belief of the influence of the stars on
the destiny of man:



"And take upon's the mystery of things,

As if we were God's spies and we wear out

In a wall'd prison pacts and sects of great ones

That ebb and flow by the Moon."
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« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2008, 11:20:34 am »










Gloster's remark that,


"These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us,"


brings the reply from Edmund:


"This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune (often the surfeit of our

own behavior) we make gaiety of our disasters the sun, the moon and the stars; as if we were by

necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance,

drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence, and all that we are

evil in by a divine thrusting-on, and admirable evasion of a man to lay his goatish deposition to the

charge of a star.


     "My father compounded with my mother under the dragon's tail and my nativity was under ursa

 major, so that it follows I am rough and lecherous."[1]




There was a general belief that eclipses of either the sun or moon portended evil, to which Edmund refers in the following lines:



"I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read the other day what should follow these eclipses.


Edgar.  Do you busy yourself with that?


Edmund:  I promise you the effects he writes of succeed unhappily."
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