What the scientists of the 16th century believed
Most of the ancient philosophers used a set of classical elements to explain patterns in nature. The Greek version of these ideas dates back from Pre-Socratic times (Before Socrates (before 470 B.C.)) and remained throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance (into when Shakespeare lived), deeply influencing Europeans. So this means that the basic understanding of elements in the 16th century by Shakespeare and England and Europe was the same as the Greek envisioned it a long time before. So the Greek believes that were thought up before Socrates (before 470 B.C.) were still believed when Shakespeare lived. Wow
The Greek classic elements (so this means the Europeans believed this when Shakespeare was around) are Fire, Earth, Air and Water.
Air-is primarily moist and secondarily warm
Fire-is primarily warm and secondarily dry
Earth-is primarily dry and secondarily cool
Water-is primarily cool and secondarily moist
Then Aristotle came along and thought about what keeps the stars in the sky. So he proposed that there was a fifth element. This was called Aether. He believed (and so did everyone else at that time and until the renaissance for that matter) that everything in the universe was filled with this new element call Aether. And the stars were suspended in it and that’s what kept them in the sky. The reason that he thought that it had to be a new element is because all the other elements only occur on Earth and the stars cant be made out of the Earths four elements so there must be some special heavenly element holding the universe together and that makes up all the stars. So this was also believed at Shakespeare’s time too.
This is cool:
References to the classical elements in early modern literature are frequently found in the work of many writers, including William Shakespeare (So this is evidence that he believed it too.) The references are on PG 4 of six, bottom highlighted.
General beliefs about the elements in 16th century
The four elements were first believed to be special for two reasons:
1. Humans were believed to be made of all four elements (Air is our breath, Earth is our bodies, Fire is our consciousness and water is our bodily fluids) 2. Each returned to where they came from- Earth drops back to the ground when we die, Our fluids eventually return to the sea, Our fire (or consciousness) will reach upward toward the sun, and our breath (or air) leaves the body and returns to the sky.
What scientists believe now
Also mention this:
But we have a very likely chance that we will be wrong, because if you think about it the greatest minds in 500 B.C through 16th century all believed the same thing and we proved them wrong, but I bet you this a few hundred years from now the same thing will happen some of our believes could be right, but something else will be wrong because history repeats itself.