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Essay Paper on What was the Renaissance

…The rise of the nation states shaped the culture and political life of different historical periods. In general, the Renaissance followed the Middle Ages and formed a ground for further Reformation. The Renaissance covers the 14th – 16 centuries and reflects flourishing of artistic and scientific knowledge. The impact of this change can hardly be underestimated, even if in practice society remained emphatically patriarchal. The Renaissance appeared gradually in different countries.

Following Ferguson (1962): “In the case of the Renaissance, the problem was much more complex, for the panel had to deal with an epoch in history rather than the reign of one emperor, with the developments in a number of countries rather than those in one empire”. The Renaissance shows that political and religious power was a useful tool of ruling the society in spite of ineffective and even foolish actions of government aimed to support monarchy. The Renaissance represented a link between the West and the period of Antiquity. At least as far as wooing and courtship were concerned, lovers, who had been trained to believe that they had interior personalities and identities quite separate from their external selves, now had to chart and explore similarly unknown territories within their prospective partners. These new challenges were staples of culture after the Reformation; but for some reason the nature, purpose and value of marriage were especially contentious subjects again in the late 1580 and early 1590.

The first period of the Renaissance took place in Central Italy, in the city of Florence. Historians (Copenhaver, Schmitt, 1992) admit that the first Renaissance poet was Dante Alighieri who reflected and mirrored in his poetry the spirit of new age. The years 1450-1625 are the first age of the Renaissance in England. The Italian Renaissance was connected with the intellectual movement or Renaissance Humanism (13th-16th centuries). Here historians are concerned with the social setting of the “re-birth” as much as with the artistic achievement itself. In the native lands of the Renaissance — Italy, the Rhineland, and the Low Countries — its cradle was the city; in England, it was the great household, and the greatest household of all, the royal Court.

The great household dominated later medieval England. Its obvious rivals -the towns and the Church — were relatively weak and in any case were interpenetrated by its own forms: a guild, monastery or college was a com¬munal household; while the households of the bishops looked very like those of the secular nobility. For the arts, this dominance meant that the household was the prime supplier of patronage and posts (although the poet John Lydgate, for example, was a monk of Bury St Edmund’s, he received a royal pension, taught the sons of the nobility, and largely wrote for their parents); it also determined the status of the artist and much of the content of the arts as well.

The aim of the Renaissance was to put both the artist and the arts in a decidedly dependent role. Whereas in the urban cultures of Italy and the Netherlands the artist was a professional among professionals and regarded accordingly; in England he was a servant, while the arts themselves were frankly utilitarian. The master-builder built and maintained accommodation for the great household; the writer, painter and musician amused its members in peace and prepared propaganda for them in war: the king’s Serjeant Painter was an heraldic artist, who painted banners and badges; the royal minstrels made the ceremonial noises that marked each stage of the Court day, and even a privileged musician Privy Chamber, like the great lutenist Philip Van Wilder, was also a royal musical odd-job man, repairing the king’s broken lute strings and tutoring the royal children.

In literature not only did its dominant themes of love and the knightly romance reflect the values and interests of the nobility and gentlefolk, they also answered to the social reality of life in the great household, where the day was spent in hunting and jousting (for which the romances provided the ethos and the decorative themes) and the evening in “dalliance in the ladies’ chamber” (when love poems would be recited or indulgence; politically, it emphasized peace rather than war and the common good instead of a selfish and individualistic honor; religiously, it aimed to sweep away empty ritual, sterile philosophy and a presumptuous bargaining with God (as in indulgences) and to replace them by a lively faith kindled by the pure Word of Gad. For instance, this conflict of “old” and “new” is explicit in Erasmus (who is rude about the nobility’s ignorance of letters and their fondness for hunting, fighting and the keeping of multitudes of idle servants), and it provides the emotional and intellectual steam of Book I of More’s Utopia…

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