School Papers

p.p1 the Renaissance in Europe, a realization and

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In the period of 1350 to 1550, the Renaissance followed the end of the Middle Ages came into people’s sight from multiple aspects. The Middle Ages, often referred as the “Dark Ages,” was seen as a backward of intellectual and economic progress and eventually led to the Renaissance in Europe, a realization and rethinking of everything, which originally began in the great city-states of Italy. Some scholars such as Giorgio Vasari and Pier Paolo Vergerio believe that only restoring and studying classical liberal arts or ancient values and ideas can lift society from the moral and spiritual decay of the medieval era. This “rebirth” of classical values gave fresh hope and creative energy to Europe. On the other hands, some people argue that the Renaissance shared more with its preceding age than it wanted to admit it. The three major characteristics — classicism, humanism, and modern statecraft — represent no essential break with medieval life at all. They may in fact be thought of as the culmination of medieval strivings. However, I insist that it was a continuity of the classicism due to the nostalgia of the deep past of Rome and Athens, but it was also a new birth of philosophy of humanism that emphasized the importance of individual achievement in a wide range of fields and denied the old values hold by Catholic Church, which eventually led to a new beginning of art, science, and religion.
Though it eventually spread through Europe, the Renaissance began in the great city-states of Italy due to the external factors such as the fall of Byzantine Empire and The Black Death. The father of humanism, Francesco Petrarch, wrote in his Letter to posterity: “I found many subjects interesting yet focused especially on the study of antiquity, for I have always disliked our own age so much…The conflicting opinions of people about the past have never offended me” (Sourcebook 176). Petrarch showed the literary feature of Renaissance in humanism which was the nostalgia for the past study of literature. But the works of the ancients that these scholars in Italy were examining were of poor quality and often incomplete. The collapse of the Byzantine empire in 1453 changed this situation. Italy became the refuge for the intellectuals of Constantinople who brought with them many of the great works of the ancient Greeks and Romans, works that had been lost to the West during the Dark Ages. This fall of Byzantine Empire created a boost in the literary quality and a further spread of Renaissance in Europe. The Black Death marked an end of an era in Italy, its impact was profound and it resulted in social and economic changes. The disease was spread to Italy from overseas and took away half of the population. The ongoing famine and food shortages in the region around that time which made the population was weak and vulnerable to disease. And also Italy was the most urbanized society in Europe around that time and the high density of population in the poor conditions of the cities caused the fatal result in Italy. However, even with this loss of working force, the drift of the rural poor into the cities ensured a constant labor surplus and cheap labor cost, which made the vast construction project of the Renaissance possible.
Italy, considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, had a unique location which contributed to the internal factors of Renaissance such as political and economic. The Mediterranean Sea were centers for trade and commerce and the first port of call for both goods and new ideas which led to a strong start of Renaissance. The northern city-state, where the Renaissance began, had long been under the leadership of the Holy Roman emperor, and the deeply involved papacy led to wars, enforced exiles, and institutional corruption everywhere. However, the Italian nobles which played an active role in the urban cultures had an essential influence on the Renaissance later on. Niccolò Machiavelli said in his Discourses on Livy, “For this reason, it is necessary to examine which of these republics made the best choice” (Sourcebook 181). He elaborated a complex and passionate argument on the superiority of republican government to any other type of political organization. Indeed, most city-state thus had actual republican government at the first half of the Renaissance, between 1350 and 1450, but oligarchic (ruled by wealthy or privilege group) government from 1450 to 1550. The Medici family, which controlled Florence throughout much of the Renaissance, played a large part in the patronage of the arts and the political development of the city. Medici family came to political prominence shortly after 1400 and governed a pretend republic. However, the concentrations of wealth and power from Medici family in these city-states made possible elaborate system of patronage, which gave a tremendous boost to intellectual and artistic life. These Renaissance oligarchs put their resources to work in the public sphere. They provided a lot of opportunities for scholars, artists, and architects by signing out tasks of building palaces, chapels, school, etc.  This support from the patron made the art possible while the Art was an expression of humanism values and aesthetics, which was the major part of the Renaissance.
The most remarkable feature of the Renaissance was the furthering of the arts and the literature in a sense of humanism which was to develop human potential, to value the particular, and to assert the inherent dignity of each person. Giorgio Vasari kept records of different painting, sculpture, and metalworking techniques from two hundred celebrated artists in the Life of Artists: “And then the most beautiful style comes from constantly copying the most beautiful things, combining the most beautiful hands, head, bodies, or legs together…” (Sourcebook 203). This shows how the humanism celebrated the pleasure of finding the comfort, beauty, or value in the broken shards of the world scattered at one’s feet — sense of realism. During the early Renaissance, painters such as Giotto, and sculptors such as Ghiberti experimented with techniques to better portray perspective. By the early 1400s, linear perspective was introduced in painting, heightening the sense of depth, solidity, and realism the artists evoked. These were rapidly perfected and built upon by other artists of the early Renaissance such as Botticelli and Donatello. However, the top of artistic talent and production came later, during what is known as the High Renaissance, in the form of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo, who remain the best known artists of the Renaissance. The invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg around 1440 allowed literature being more popular throughout the Europe. The Italian writers Boccaccio, Pico, and Niccolo Machiavelli were able to distribute their works much more easily and cheaply because of the rise of the printed book. Ludovico Ariosto wrote this in his poem Orlando Furioso, ” Away they fled, but he pursues so fast That some he caught, and some surprised with fear” (Sourcebook 179). Like Ariosto’s poem, these printed literature were a step toward bringing the Renaissance to the middle classes. The truly memorable literature produced in Renaissance was in Common, not the learned, tongues. Vernacular literature began to appear in print and marked a milestone in the Renaissance.
As the Renaissance was fading out, its legacies such as changes in arts, literature and philosophy remained. Moreover there were two major events that were the results of Renaissance, scientific revolution and The Protestant Reformation. The period of Renaissance had brought up a great questioning of the old certainties. This led many, especially among the urban elite to use reason to understand the world. The humanism gave people hope to challenge and this belief in the possibility of change inspired many people to seek real and meaningful changes in the church and also gave people the courage to seek the truth and explore our world. Under the influence of the humanists, literature and the arts climbed to new levels of importance. I believe that the Italian Renaissance was the transition from medieval ages to modern world that led to the new beginning of art, literature, science, and religion.