The Renaissance In Italy

This essay has a total of 1844 words and 7 pages.

The Renaissance In Italy

The Italian Renaissance was called the beginning of the modern age. The word Renaissance
itself is derived from the Latin word rinascere, which means to be reborn. Many dramatic
changes occurred during this time in the fields of philosophy, art, politics, and
literature. New emphasis was placed on enjoying life and the world around you. Talented
individuals sought self-gratification through art, literature, and architecture, and their
achievments would influence future generations for centuries to come. This great new
movement was originated and centered in Italy, and without Italian contribution, would
never have launched European society into the dawning of a new era.At the beginning of the
Renaissance, Italy was divided into some 250 self- governing city-states, ranging from
small towns of 2,000 individuals, to some of the largest cities in Europe of that time,
such as Florence, Milan, and Venice, each with 100,000 citizens each. These city-states
were loosely organized under the Pope, ruling out of Rome, although he had no real
political control over the divided Italy. During the mid- 1300s and early 1400s, many
large Italian cities came under the control of one family, such as the Visconti and later
the Sforza families in Milan. The form of government established by the ruling families of
the various Italian cities came to be known as signoria, with the chief official being
called the signore. Soon , elaborate court systems, controlled by the ruling families,
began to spring up in each city-state. At these courts, leading artists, intellectuals,
and politicians gathered under the sponsorship of the signore and families.Other city
states had a form of republicanism, such as Florence and Venice did. In these cities, a
group of upper class families controlled the government, and often looked down upon the
common residents of the town, considering them to be inferior. A Venetian observer wrote
about Florence during this time:"They are never content with their constitution, they are
never quiet, and it seems that this city always desires change of constitution as so the
government changes every fifteen years"(Cole p.218)In Florence, which is perhaps
considered the most important center of Renaissance learning in history, the Medici family
dominated the ruling class. Under Medici domination, Florence became a signorial power and
a cultural gem stone. It was during the reign of Lorenzo de' Medici , that many great
painters, sculptors, and architects flocked to the Medici family looking for sponsorship,
knowing that Lorenzo was a great supporter of the arts. It was at this point, during the
1430s, that the Renaissance, and many of its core philosophies, truly began to take off in
Italy.Humanism was considered to be the most significant intellectual movement of the
Renaissance. As its name implies, humanism was a philosophy that was characterized by its
blending of the concern of the history and actions of all human beings, and their
influence in the world, with religious duty. Prior to Renaissance thinking, medieval
Europe considered life to be sinful and should despised, and that people should only be
concerned about their duty to God and the afterlife. The humanists thought that every
person has respect and worth and should therefore command the respect of every other
person. The humanistic movement began during the early Italian Renaissance with the
rediscovery of the writings of the classical Greeks and Romans, which were not only models
of literary style, but considered guides to the understanding of life. The first, and most
recognized, pioneers of humanism were Petrarch and Giovanni Boccaccio.Petrarch became
known for his poetry, which can be described, like all humanistic writing, to be very
realistic, critical, and more often than not satirical. Petrarach's style is close to
those of the classical authors he studied, expressing his view accurately through the use
of characters. He once said of his writing, " The style is the man."(Burke, p.127) His
most famous contributions to the world of literature are his string of sonnets addressed
to "Laura", who appears as a real person, rather than a religious symbol, as in most
European writings. Giovanni Boccacio studied and wrote at about the same time as Petrarch,
is best known for his masterpiece Decameron, which consists of 100 stories organized to
give the impression of a total view of society. Like Petrarch, he gave accurate depictions
of real life characters and situations. He described a group of men and women fleeing from
a plague infested Florence to the countryside. In seclusion, they hold story telling
sessions that tie into Boccacio's own view of society.Another development in the field of
humanism was the courtier system, which was influenced by the interaction between humanist
philosophers and the signorial courts of the city-states. These humanists began to develop
ideas about the proper conduct of courtiers, or the noble men and women of the courts. In
1518, Baldassare Castiglione, the most renowned humanist involved with the courtier
movement, completed The Book of Courtier, which was based on his experiences at the court
of Urbino, Italy. This refined book of manners was printed in several languages and
influenced the courtiers throughout Italy and the rest of Europe. It also greatly
influenced eductional theory in England during the Renaissance.Perhaps the most renowned
and highly recognized achievements during the Renaissance in Italy were in the field of
the fine arts. During the Middle ages, painters and sculptors tried to give their works a
spiritual quality, wanting people to focus on the deep religious meanings of their works
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