DEGREES IN SOCIETY

In Act I scene iii of Troilus & Cressida Ulysses eulogises. He eulogises about a society of degrees. He maintains with considerable feeling that society needs hierarchy or anarchy ensues. Order is dependent on an ordered society. Disorder follows from a lack of appreciation of pyramidical ranking. 

There's no saying of course if this view was Shakespeare's personal view, though in essence it would be surprising if it weren’t for the fact is that Ulysses’ speech records a belief which in Shakespeare's time was largely seen as a self-evident truth. It might make for uneasy listening today. We profess (or pretend to profess) that all should be equal under the sun.

That is our 'should'. The 'should' of S's day was different. Everyone acknowledged their place in a recognised hierarchy- with good or bad grace maybe. But everyone knew it. Understanding that, and the day- to-day traffic that ensued, will help us understand Shakespeare’s plays better. So forgetting the rights and wrongs of that society (the ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn'ts’) let us look at its order. 

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Degrees in Society (5300 words)

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