4/21/2016A Midsummer Night's Dream: Astronomy, Alchemy, and Archetypes (Chapter 2)amidsummernightsdreamastronomyalchemyandarchetypeschapter21/42HomeLearn ArticlesLiteratureA Midsummer Night's Dream: Astronomy, Alchemy, and Archetypes (Chapter 2)A Midsummer Night's Dream: Astronomy, Alchemy, and Archetypes (Chapter 2)Last Updated on Sunday, 27 October 2013 20:37Written by Katherine PerraultAstronomy, Alchemy, and Archetypes:An Integrated View of Shakespeare's A "Midsummer" Night's Dreamby Katherine Bartol PerraultTable of ContentsChapter 2: Shakespeare's AstronomyOverview of the Cosmology of Shakespeare's EraThe need to analyze "Midsummer" from an astronomical point of view arises not only because the play is metaphorically lacedwith allusions to the moon, but also because the time frame of the play is directly connected to the phase of the new moonwhenthe moon is invisible in the night sky. While there has been much written on the astrological prognostications in "Midsummer" inreference to a royal wedding,1historians have neglected a thorough delineation of the significance of the moon's phase in theplay as well as an mythoarchetypal reading of the early summer constellations. My examination of these issues calls for aninquiry into Shakespeare's astronomical awareness by reviewing the astronomical views that preceded his era, as well as those
4/21/2016A Midsummer Night's Dream: Astronomy, Alchemy, and Archetypes (Chapter 2)amidsummernightsdreamastronomyalchemyandarchetypeschapter22/42that influenced the Elizabethan worldview.The classical Greek view of the world was geocentric, and originates with Eudoxus and Aristotle in the 4th century BC. A fewhundred years later, Ptolemy adapted this model "from a predominantly symbolic to an astronomical system" (Simek 7).Ptolemy's cosmology (see Figure 2.1) positioned the earth at the center of a spherical system, with the planets and the sunmoving in each of the seven spheres between the earth and the eighth sphere of the fixed stars (in order: the moon, Mercury,Venus, the sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn). Above the firmament were the crystalline heavens and the light of the empyreanheavens.Figure 2.1: A depiction of the Ptolemaic system prior to Copernicus, with the earth at the center (Roob 51). A. Cellarius,Harmonica Macrocosmica, Amsterdam. 1660.With only a few alterations, this model of the universe remained virtually unchanged until Copernicus reversed it with hisheliocentric theory of the solar system, published in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, 1543 (Figure 2.2).
4/21/2016A Midsummer Night's Dream: Astronomy, Alchemy, and Archetypes (Chapter 2)amidsummernightsdreamastronomyalchemyandarchetypeschapter23/42Figure 2.2: The Copernican system, with the sun at the center and the planets orbiting about it (Roob 59). A. Cellarius,Harmonica Macrocosmica, Amsterdam. 1660.