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Question: Look closely at the frontispiece of Thomas Hobbes Leviathan. What do you notice about the image of the king? Why do you think the artist depicted royal power in this way? How does this depiction of the king express Hobbes' theory of the social contract?
Upon closely examining the frontispiece of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan, one notices that the image of the king is quite striking and unique. The king's body appears to be made up of numerous smaller figures, each representing individual subjects within the kingdom. In this depiction, the king towers above the landscape, asserting his authority and claims over the territory he rules. This artistic choice is likely an attempt to capture the essence of Hobbes' political ideas and his concept of the social contract. The artist may have chosen to depict royal power in this way to emphasize the belief that the ruler is a representation of the collective will of the people. As the king's body consists of individual subjects, it symbolizes how the citizens come together to form a single, sovereign entity. This visual representation reinforces Hobbes' idea of the social contract – that people willingly submit to the authority of a sovereign as a means to maintain order and protect themselves from the chaos and violence of the state of nature. Another important aspect in the frontispiece is that the king holds a sword and a sceptre, symbolizing his dual role as both the enforcer of laws and the source of justice within society. This supports Hobbes' view that the sovereign, by virtue of the social contract, is tasked with preserving the lives and welfare of its subjects, and therefore must have the power to enforce laws and maintain order. Moreover, the landscape below the king consists of various elements, such as churches, castles, and walled cities, all symbols of civilization and organized society. This implies that, under the rule of the sovereign, society prospers and flourishes. It's also noteworthy that the giant figure of the king appears to emerge from the chaos and confusion of the landscape, suggesting that the establishment of a sovereign power is the solution to the unpredictability of the state of nature. In summary, the artist's depiction of the king in the Leviathan frontispiece serves to emphasize Hobbes' theory of the social contract. By portraying the king as a collective of individual subjects and showcasing his dual role as enforcer and source of justice in society, the artist effectively conveys the idea that a sovereign is necessary to establish order and secure the well-being of the citizens.
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