Humanism In The Renaissance Essay, Research Paper
Humanism in the Renaissance
The renaissance started in the 14th century in cities of Northern Italy. During this time the social elite became more interested in the literature and ideas of ancient Greece and Rome. People started to reject some of the ideas and practices of medieval civilization and turned to the idea of humanism. Humanism was a new concern with people as powerful, creative individuals in a dynamic secular world. During the Renaissance humanistic attitudes and cultural productions consisted of; the rediscovery of classical sources, freedom of the individual, a new concern for the present instead of the life after death, and the new discovered pleasure of classical literature and books. Religion during the Renaissance was not at all forgotten and instead emphasis was placed on learning classical languages to improve translations of the Bible and studying classical literature for its relation to Christian ideals and life.
In the early Renaissance, literary humanism and a movement to receive classical literature and the values expressed in classical writings, was central. The focus turned from people as religious beings, to include the problems of people and nature in the human world. People started to read his love Sonnets and other classical works that dealt with ideas other than religion. For example, Florentine Francesco Petrarch was well known for love sonnets and other classical translations. In one letter to a friend Petrarch defends humanistic learning and its accusations that it diverts people away from religion. Petrarch writes no one has been prevented by literature from following the path of holiness (6). By this statement Petrarch is saying that literature has never prevented people from learning or diverted people away from religion. Another way people rediscovered classical sources was through visual paintings. For example Raphael s painting The School of Athens, was a great tribute to Greek philosophy, which played an important role in the Italian Renaissance. The painting depicts different philosophers arranged in-groups according to their philosophical inclinations. The movements and gestures of these philosophers symbolize values characteristic of the Renaissance. In one case the placement of the two frescos, symbolizes that the pagan culture was able to occur without rejecting Christianity. Through out the Renaissance the rediscovery of classical source continued to grow and humanistic learning became a way of life in the Renaissance.
Another humanistic trait that occurred in the Renaissance was the freedom of the individual. People should have the right to peruse Liberal Studies and humanistic learning if they wanted to. Peter Paul Vergerio author of On the Liberal Arts rejects the content and methods of medieval education and believes in Liberal Studies and Liberal Arts. He writes that the purpose of history and moral philosophy is to teach men the secret of true freedom (7). And that History, then, gives us the concrete examples of the precepts inculated by philosophy. The one shews what men should do, the other what men have said and done in the past, and what practical we may draw therefrom for the present day (7). Vergerio is saying that from studying moral philosophy and history, men can reflect from that and draw conclusions to what will work for them in the present. He believed that this kind of learning should be used instead of the methods of medieval education. Another example of freedom of the individual has to do with women during the Renaissance. Women during this time were able to produce works, achieve recognition, and defend women against male detractors. Christe de Pizan was a famous author who wrote several poems and books including her most famous The City of Ladies. In this book she writes about women s political and educational abilities and how men perceive them. In one chapter topic Against those men who claim it is not good for women to be educated, Pizan writes I realize that women have accomplished many good things and that even if evil women have done evil, it seems to me, nevertheless, that the benefits accuring and still accruing because of good women- particularly the wise and literary ones outweigh the evil (8-9). Pizan is saying that more good comes out of educated women than evil, and she doesn t see why men would not want their daughters or wives to be educated. This is all an example of freedom of the individual because Pizan is speaking out for what she believes, the freedom of the individual (in this case women) which during the Renaissance was a common thing for men and less likely women to do.
Another aspect of humanism during the Renaissance was that people were concerned about the present, and not so much about their afterlife. Many literature sources advised people on how to become better people for the present instead of teaching them how to save themselves when they die. Books were written about politics and how to maintain high positions in life. For example one great political theorist was Niccolo Machiavelli famous for The Prince, writes about methods and rules for the successful prince. Machiavelli writes I would even be bold to say that to possess them (all the qualities of a prince) and always to observe them is dangerous, but to appear to possess them is useful (10). This is just one example of many that Machiavelli gives to a prince on how to act. Another author Baldesar Castiglione writes on the qualities necessary for men or women to rise or maintain their position in court life. He writes …because it is far less becoming for one of low birth to fail to do virtuous things than for one of noble birth, who, should he stray from the path of his forebears, stains the family name, and not only fails to achieve anything but loses what has been achieved already (11). Castiglione is basically saying that it is better to start with nothing and become successful than to start off well and fail, which could ruin your family name. In both Machiavelli s and Castiglione s pieces it s easy to see that both are writing to improve peoples way of life in the present. The writing has nothing to do about how people are to save themselves for the afterlife, like in teachings and literature during the Middle Ages.
In conclusion to the humanistic Renaissance, the popularity of books and the continuing growth in the pleasure of classical literature allowed the humanistic era to expand. Also, once the accusations that classical literature diverted people away from religion was no longer a belief, more people began to read classical works. People started to read all sorts of things like sonnets, classical books, writings on different life styles, concept on the freedom of the individual, and writings on political theory, instead of just reading from the bible.