— Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (via goneril-and-regan)
"That nature’s order might break down was a persistent concern of Renaissance and Elizabethan writers. If order was taken away, chaos would reign, feared the English scholar Thomas Elyot (1531). In Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida (produced 1601-1602), Ulysses worried that if hierarchical gradations were removed, the whole ‘enterprise [would be] sick.’ ‘Take but degree away, untune that string and hark what discord follows.’ Richard Hooker (1594) was concerned that if nature ceased to observe her own laws, the celestial frame might dissolve, the moon wander from her orbit, the wind die out, the clouds dry up, the earth’s fruits wither, and then chaos would ensue. Contributing to the sense of sickness and decay in the organic order of nature were the discoveries of the ‘new science.’ The old hierarchical structure of the macrocosm had been disrupted by the cosmology of Nicolaus Copernicus, published in 1543, which advanced the heliocentric hypothesis and challenged the Ptolemaic geocentric model of the universe. As Bernard Fontenelle perceived later in his Plurality of the Worlds (1686), Copernicus displaced the female earth from the center of the cosmos and replaced it with the masculine sun: ‘He snatches up the earth from the center of the universe, sends her packing, and places the sun in the center, to which it did more justly belong….All now goes round the sun, even the earth itself; and Copernicus to punish the earth for her former laziness, makes her contribute all she can to the motion of the planets and heavens; and now deprived of all the heavenly equipage with which she was so gloriously attended, she has nothing left her but the moon, which still turns round her.’"