European Literature during the Renaissance
Elizabeth Commits Mrs.. Mullen AP European History 19 September 2013 Literature in the Renaissance time period introduced new themes and ideas to the European population. Such writings revolutionized Europeans opinions and the roles in society of man, the Catholic Church, and ancient Greece and Rome. Four Renaissance works, Oration on the Dignity of Man, The Prince, “Frederic’s Falcon”, and The Abbot and the Learned Woman, reflect the humanistic, secular, and classicist themes through the glorification of man and subsequent indifference or criticism of the Church.
Monorail’s Oration on the Dignity of Man demonstrates humanism more than the other themes. The entire purpose of the address is to leonine and celebrate humans.
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Essentially, the general opinion holds man as “the mediator of all creatures, the servant of superior beings, the lord of inferior ones the interpreter of nature by the keenness of his senses, by rational inquiry, by the light of his intellect” (Miranda 335). Humanism is channeled particularly through the statement “we are what we wish to be” (Miranda 337), which praises the perseverance and confidence of man hat he may do and be anything he wishes.
According to Miranda, humans deserve to strive for the highest honors and to be of equal power of angels and God, for he calls man to “let us emulate their dignity and glory and, if we desire it, shall be in no way inferior to them” (Miranda 338). Machiavellian The Prince involves humanism in the sense of praising the reality of humans. Through the example of Pope Alexander X’, Machiavelli recognizes the struggles man faces and his incredible ability to prevail over such hardships. Alexander “great spirit and high ambition” allowed him to overcome obstacles and employ successful designs during his rule.
There is also a great value in the “truth of things” and not the imaginary; princes aren’t perfect, yet it is a balance between good and bad qualities which makes them successful. Even when discussing princes who came to power through corruption and crime, Machiavelli still admires their bravery and spirit. Of Prince Stagecoaches: in respect of “the velour with which he encountered and extricated himself from dangers, and the constancy of his spirit in supporting ND conquering adverse fortune, there seems no reason to Judge him inferior to the greatest captains that have ever lived” (Machiavelli 347-348).
In addition, Vocation’s “Feedings Falcon” also references humanism in characterizing human emotions of love, generosity, and compassion. Foddering, the protagonist, is wildly in love with Mona Giovanni. The story praises reciprocal human kindness and generosity, for his actions reward Foddering in the end with his marriage to Giovanni. Similarly, Erasmus The Abbot and the Learned Woman emends human love and respect of one another: the woman and her husband share a love for learning, which brings them closer together.
The piece simultaneously scorns disrespect and cruelty toward other humans; the Abbot, who is very sexist and rude to the woman, is made the fool in the story for being so ignorant and standing on weak, immature arguments. Secularism, the indifference or criticism toward the Catholic Church, can be identified in the Oration on the Dignity of Man mainly through the undermining of God’s (and the Church’s) power. The oration does not capitalize “he” when speaking of God, suggesting that God is of equal power as any ordinary man.
Moreover, when God creates Adam, He gives him and all humans the power and freedom to do what they want: muff, unhampered, may determine your own limits according to your own will, into whose power I have placed you” (Miranda 336). This declaration gives God less control and dominance over man, thus heightening the belief that the Church and God aren’t superior to man. In The Prince, continuous reference to “Fortune” as determining humans’ lives omits God from interfering in the lives of man; “it was through no fault of his but from the extraordinary and extreme malignity of Fortune” (Machiavelli 343).
The pope’s weak power over territory is highlighted through Pope Alexander Vic’s conflicts with monarchical rulers and his inability to take lands belonging and not belonging to the church. Criticism is apparent in Alexander creation of Pope Julius II, for Machiavelli notes that “after using his reputation for liberality to arrive at the Papacy, [Pope Julius II] made no effort to preserve that petition when making war on the King of France but carried on all his many campaigns without levying from his subjects a single extraordinary tax, providing for the increased expenditure out of his long-continued savings” (Machiavelli 351).
When remarking that “No Prince was ever at a loss for plausible reasons to cover a breach of faith”, Machiavelli accepts that royalty disobeys the church often, but it’s commonplace and easy to cover up. Secularism is present in “Frederic’s Falcon” because there is a complete lack of the Church and its role in society; Fortune is offered to as the ruling factor of life instead of God. In comparison, The Abbot and the Learned Woman is secular through outright criticism of the Church, portrayed by the abbot’s character.
He is rude, ignorant, condescending, and close-minded; for his poor reasoning and indignant attitude, he is the fool and loser in the argument. The story serves as a lesson for the Church to reform its ways and become more accepting, open-minded, and educated in the modernizing world around them. References to the study and revival of ancient Greek and Roman history are included n Renaissance works as a meaner to intensify the glorification of man during the humanistic movement.
Classicism reinforces the beliefs of humanism by comparing man to revered Greek and Roman figures. In Oration on the Dignity of Man, “What a miracle, Oh Ecclesiae, is man! ” indicates Ecclesiae, a son of Apollo and the ancient Greek god of medicine and healing. Associating man with such an important Greek figure heightens man’s value and superiority. Later on in this speech, man is said to symbolize Protests, a sea god known for his ability to assume different forms. This imprison of humans to Protests emphasizes their extraordinary ability to be versatile and dynamic.
In The Prince, a reference to Chirps the Centaur demonstrates the value of princes to understand how to act both like the man and the beast; many successful princes including Achilles were trained by the centaur. According to Machiavelli, “it is necessary for a Prince to know how to use both natures and that the one without the other has no stability’ (Machiavelli 353). The development of humanism, secularism, and classicism in the Renaissance affected how writers depicted society at the time.
New ideas of the superiority of man arose, revitalization ancient Greek and Roman figures in order to further glorify the human. Along with praise of humans also came criticisms of the Church, questioning the Church’s outdated beliefs and common frauds, encouraging major reforms. Often the Church wasn’t mentioned whatsoever, showing the dwindling importance and influence of the Church in society. Renaissance writers captured the changes in European life through their works by crafting clever stories while giving their two cents on the issues at hand and revolutions to come.