Macrocosm and Microcosm

  • Lynette R. Muir
Part of the New Studies in Medieval History book series


Medieval writers had a clear understanding of the fundamental difference between man and beast: not only did the former have a soul he also had reason, and to live without using it was to live like an animal. The ancient philosophers ‘did not think like animals who only want their food, like those nowadays whose only concern is to live like pigs and rest themselves in comfort’ (Image of the World, p. 68). ‘We should call such men beasts’ (Book of Fauvel, 277). Three hundred years later Hamlet is saying the same thing: ‘What is a man if his chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more’ (Hamlet, IV.iv).


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Suggestions for Further Reading and Notes

  1. E. Langlois, La Vie en France au moyen âge, 4 vols (Paris, 1927; rept 1970). The four volumes of Langlois’ study cover a vast range of French literature, much of it still unedited fifty years later. Volume 2: D’apres les moralistes du temps and volume 3: La Connaissance de la nature et du monde have been particularly useful in this chapter.Google Scholar
  2. C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image (Oxford, 1964).Google Scholar
  3. E. M. W. Tillyard, The Elizabethan World Picture (London, 1943). These last two books provide valuable source material for the continuing traditions of the world-image in medieval times.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Lynette R. Muir 1985

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  • Lynette R. Muir

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