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What are the sublunary and superlunary regions, and how do they relate to one...

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coryengle | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted February 14, 2012 at 12:52 AM via web

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What are the sublunary and superlunary regions, and how do they relate to one another?

-for background reading on Elizabethan/Shakespearean Era.

I have that the sublunary region is the region from Earth through the Moon; it consists of the elements earth, water, wind and fire. Everything beyond the Moon is superlunary, and is permanent, fixed, and composed of 'aether'. Input?

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted February 14, 2012 at 1:40 AM (Answer #1)

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"The terms, of course, are Latin for "above" and "below" the Moon. The concept  was that all creation was contained in The Great Chain of Being, all of existence being composed of either spirit or matter, the relative proportions of which determined where it existed within the chain, higher or lower.

Cosmology was understood through the crystalline spheres; these were concentric spheres to which the stars (on the outermost shell) were affixed, then some of the planets, then the Sun and Moon. This was, of course, at the time when the Earth did not move, but all of creation revolved around her.

Hence the terms -- the Moon was affixed to the lowest crystalline sphere next to Earth, so everything above the Moon (superlunary) was within the realm of the unchanging and perfect, while everything below it (sublunary) was mutable and corruptable.

Notice though, the mutability at the boundary of the Moon itself! (at least as Shakespeare conceived, in Romeo and Juliet, Act 2 scene 2):

Rom. Lady, by yonder Moone I vow, That tips with siluer all these Fruite tree tops. Iul. O sweare not by the Moone, th'inconstant Moone, That monethly changes in her circled Orbe, Least that thy Loue proue likewise variable.

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