World as a Stage - Theatrum Mundi

(2038 words)

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

The idea that human life is like a play scripted and directed by a mighty producer (God, Fortune, Fate), a play in which each player is given an allotted role, goes back to Greek philosophy and flourished over the centuries from Heraclitus until Hofmannsthal. In literary history, this image developed from a metaphor to a recurrent formula (topos) and, mocked early on because of overuse, experienced a vibrant revival in the late Middle Ages as an all-encompassing portrayal of the universe, culminating as a powerful emblem of the spirit and art of an entire age, the Age of the Baroque.

Classical sources

Initially Heraclitus (ca. 500 B.C.) compared the course of the world to a boy who moves figures on a …

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Hoffmeister, Gerhart. "World as a Stage - Theatrum Mundi". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 23 March 2009
[, accessed 29 September 2016.]

Related Groups

  1. Comparative Literature, Reception, Influences