The Renaissance

 

Terms & People

Scholasticism

Last Supper

Humanism

Mona Lisa

Chiaroscuro

Copernican Theory

Divine Comedy

Ptolemaic Theory

The Prince

Petrarch

The Medicis

Montaigne

Cervantes

Shakespeare

Raphael

Newton

Erasmus

Copernicus

Paracelsus

Michelangelo

Kepler

Vesalius

Machiavelli

 da Vinci

Galileo

Chapter Outline

Origin of the Renaissance

Humanism

Italian Renaissance

Humanistic Literature

Renaissance Painting

Printing

Mathematics and Science

Medicine

Niccolo Machiavelli

Characteristics of the Renaissance

 

 

The Renaissance
Origin of the Renaissance

Literally the word Renaissance means a rebirth, referring to a rediscovery of and a new interest in the writings and culture of Greeks and Romans. In a broad sense the Renaissance means a progressive breaking away from old traditions and restrictions to the more vital and individualistic ideas of modern times.

During the period 1300 to 1600 A.D., western Europe changed from the essentially restricted life of the Middle Ages, with its emphasis upon Scholasticism, Church authority, a repression of man’s worldly interests, to that of the modern world with its broader views of life and man, with its new society breaking away from the restrictions of feudalism, to a more dynamic society of town life, middle class interests, and the emphasis upon skepticism and individualism.

This change of outlook was gradual, one that developed with and was partly caused by the development of town life, the rise of nations whose needs and attitudes broke dawn former narrow boundaries. The increase in trading brought wealth which was spent on the arts, through patrons who could support and encourage great writers and artists.

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Humanism

One aspect of the Renaissance was the actual rediscovery of Greek and Roman writers, and a rebirth of European interest in their ideas. Educated people became enthusiastic over the humane literature of the classical writers who regarded man as a person living in a vital world. This interest in classical literature is called Humanism (from humanitas, culture), and its scholars, Humanists.

One result of the change in attitude can be seen by comparing Dante’s superb Divine Comedy with Petrarch’s writings. Dante was concerned with showing Christians how they could achieve divine salvation. Petrarch was interested in worldly affairs [also]. The center of interest shifted - from heaven and the next world to earth and this world [as well].

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Italian Renaissance

The Renaissance appeared in Italy first because here were independent towns, a growing middle class, and the wealth to pay for learning and in­tellectual pursuits. Men who were engaged in such trading as the Venetians gained new ideas and experiences from their travels. As the Moslems in­creasingly controlled trading routes so men decided to find sea routes that were safer from interference. In Italian cities the merchant princes paid humanists to discuss their ideas, paid painters and sculptors and architects to produce masterpieces for them. As a consequence, works of art depicted the individuality of Greek sculptures and paintings.

One of the great patron families was that of the Medicis of Florence, who so encouraged the arts that the city became the most famous literary and artistic center of its time.

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Humanistic Literature

One of the early Renaissance writers was Petrarch who wrote great Italian poetry and also collected valuable Greek and Roman manuscripts that had long been forgotten. In France, Montaigne wrote about society around him; in Spain, Cervantes satirized feudal life through his hero Don Quixote who set out on a series of chivalric adventures; in England, William Shakespeare portrayed people as modern individuals. One of the great Renaissance writers was the Dutchman Erasmus who published a Greek version of the New Testament in the hopes that it would be better understood, and also to criticize the practices of churchmen.

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Renaissance Painting

One of the dramatic developments of the Renaissance was in painting, represented by the great artists Michelangelo (1475 -1564 A.D.) and da Vinci (1452 -1519 A.D.). No longer was painting conventionalized but represented individuals, used proper perspective, and developed chiaroscuro, the arrangement of light and park to create depth and dimension in painting. A great sculptor, Michelangelo is remembered for his magnificent paintings in the Sistine Chapel of St. Peter’s in Rome; da Vinci, painter, sculptor, architect, and inventor, is known for his famous paintings of the Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. Raphael was a master portrait painter famous for his several paintings of the Madonna.

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Development of Printing

A significant Renaissance contribution was the development of printing, for now books and ideas could be brought to thousands of people throughout Europe. Learning was no longer restricted to the educated and the wealthy; and the printing press encouraged writing in the vernacular language of the people.

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Mathematics and Science

Scientists of the Renaissance no longer accepted without question the teachings of Aristotle and others. They depended not upon opinion but upon observation and experiment. A succession of mathematicians and scientists demonstrated the proper relationship of the earth to the solar system.

Copernicus (1474 -1543) was the founder of modern astronomy. His Copernican theory that the earth turns on its own axis and revolves around the sun met with opposition because it contradicted the long-accepted Ptolemaic theory that the earth was the center of the universe.

Kepler (1571 -1630) discovered that the planets moved in ellipses with the sun as the focus.

Galileo (1564 -1642) discovered the law of falling bodies and founded the mathematical science of dynamics and motion. He developed a telescope through which his observations convinced him that the Copernican theory was true, and the sun rotates.

Isaac Newton (1642 -1727) continued the work of Kepler and Galileo and mathematically proved that the motion of the moon about the earth, and planets about the sun, was explained by the same law of gravity which causes an apple to fall to the ground.

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Medicine

Paracelsus (1493 -1541) challenged the long-accepted teachings of Galen and studied disease in order to discover what he believed to be cures for each disease.

Vésalius (1514 -1564) the father of modern anatomy, contradicted former assumptions and errors about the human body, and established the modern study of human anatomy.

William Harvey (1587 -1657) discovered the circulation of blood, a most important step in understanding human physiology.

These three men laid the foundations of an accurate knowledge of the human body and demonstrated how medicine should be studied intelligently.

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Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 -1527)

Italy, long a divided country and subject to constant invasions, was greatly affected by its political condition. In the north. were the republics of Venice, Florence, and Genoa, in the central part were the Papal States, and in the south the weak Kingdom of Naples.

Machiavelli personally experienced two decades of invasion and he be­came convinced that only scientific statesmanship might save Italy from further foreign attacks. He advocated reliance upon the old Roman statecraft. In his famous book The Prince, published in 1513, he defended power politics and the position that the end justifies the means, because Italy had been for decades without a head, without order, beaten, despoiled, lacerated and overrun. His book therefore urged action to meet a spe­cific condition. He was a realist who believed that citizens should be ready to fight and die for their country, and he wrote at a time when war seemed to be the only way to develop Italian nationalism. Machiavelli helped to found the modern study of political science, the way governments should operate to achieve certain goals.

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The Characteristics of the Renaissance

(1) The growth of towns, trade, the middle class, and accumulated wealth

(2) The growth of interest in the ideas of classical civilization

(3) Increasing concern with people and their activities and motives

(4) The development of critical minds and self-realization

(5) The growth of national feelings and the rise of nations

(6) The magnificent achievements in painting, literature and the arts, such as had not been known since the days of Athens

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-from How to Prepare for the College Board Achievement Test: European History and World Cultures, by Leonard F. James, Barron's Educational Series, Inc., New York, 1968.