Review: The Elizabethan World Picture by E.M.W. Tillyard

Tillyard presents the Elizabethan period in England as a continuation of and perhaps even the zenith of Medieval European culture. In particular, Tillyard pays a great deal of attention to the continuation of the Medieval ideal of an orderly cosmos. This idea, says Tillyard, is the idea which underlies and informs the bulk of Elizabethan culture. To the Elizabethan mind, the universe is one Great Chain of Being which reaches from the greatest life forms to the lowest, binding them together into an inseparable unity. Man is that created thing which stands at the touching point between the spiritual and the material in this chain, as he brings both of these together in himself. Through his sin, man has done damage to himself and to the world, but, through aligning himself with God’s will for the created order, man can work to undo the damage he has done.

This book provides great insight into a world not far from our own and yet, in a sense, very distant. Through gaining insight into this time, arguably the zenith of Western Civilization, we gain insight not only into history, but into the world, into truth, and into ourselves.


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