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 …

Please log in to consult the article in its entirety. If you are not a subscriber, please click here to read about membership. All our articles have been written recently by experts in their field, more than 95% of them university professors.

Hoffmeister, Gerhart. "World as a Stage - Theatrum Mundi". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 23 March 2009
[, accessed 02 July 2015.]

Related Groups

  1. Comparative Literature, Reception, Influences