The Renaissance of the 1500s: A Focus on “Myself”

The Renaissance stretched between the 1500s and 1600s. The focus of the “rebirth” of interest in Greek and Roman history, literature, and art, was just that – INTEREST. Previously, people had studied Greek and Roman antiquity in order to better understand the current culture – but in this particular Renaissance, people studied it in order to better understand the OLD culture – and to, in effect, change the current culture.

Humanism was one major facet of the Rennaissance. In those days, the term “Humanism” had a different connotation than it does in modern times. Humanism is a lens through which some view the world, with a focus on MAN, and what MAN can achieve. Today, humanism is seen as an opposite of Christianity, but back then, humanism was seen as compatible with the Catholic Christian viewpoint. Their argument held that man did not need to try to “hide” himself, or be seperate from the world, in order to live a life that honors God. People became more focused on individualism – signing their names to their works of art, attempting to attain earthly fame – and held that it was possible to be both a Christian and a humanist.

One such Renaissance thinker was a man named Petrarch, a philosopher who embodied the humanist spirit of the Renaissance. He professed to be a believer in God, but His Catholic leanings did not keep him from pursuing things of the world – happiness, fame, poetry, self-acknowledgement. He was forced to enter law school, but when his father died, he left Law and entered what he’d wanted all along – Greek, Literature, Poetry, source texts, etc. In his romance poetry, he presents a surprising angle; a focus on himself, and HIS love, and HIS pain, as opposed to the love they share, or much of an emphasis on the object of his love. Eventually, he chooses between two offers (from Paris and Rome) to become poet laurate, deciding on Rome.

One of the major innovations from the Rennaissance was the development of the printing press. The printing press not only made books and literacy more available to the middle class, (who before could never have afforded painstakingly hand-copied literature,) but also ushered in a new and sudden revolution within the church – Luther’s protest against indulgences, which led to a greater and more expansive movement than he had ever intended. His works were circulated wider than they ever could have without printing, and not only him, but others, also got the opportunity to spread their ideas through the new method of copying books.

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