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The Great Chain of Being

"The Courtier disdaineth the citizen;
The citizen the countryman;
the shoemaker the cobbler.
But unfortunate is the man who does not have anyone he can look down upon."
~ Tomas Nash, 1593

In theory, there are but two classes of people: Nobles and Commoners. In practice, there are a huge number or gradations of both classes. These gradations are thought of as parts of a Great Chain of Being, which extends from God down to the lowest forms of life, and even to the trees and stones of the earth. This Great Chain, first described by St. Thomas Aquinas, is what holds the world together. The Great Chain is as follows:


God
Angels
Kings/Queens
Archbishops
Dukes/Duchesses
Bishops
Marquises/Marchionesses
Earls/Countesses
Viscounts/Viscountesses
Barons/Baronesses
Abbots/Deacons
Knights/Local Officials
Ladies-in-Waiting
Priests/Monks
Squires
Pages
Messengers
Merchants/Shopkeepers
Tradesmen
Yeomen Farmers
Soldiers/Town Watch
Household Servants
Tennant Farmers
Shephards/Herders
Beggars
Actors
Thieves/Pirates
Gypsies
Animals
Birds
Worms
Plants
Rocks
Notes: For more on how the links of the Great Chain interact, including some good practical advice, check out this article.

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