the english renaissance (1485-1660). what was the renaissance? renaissance is french for...
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The English Renaissance (1485-1660)
What was the Renaissance?Renaissance is French for rebirth.It began in Italy in the 14th century and in England extended past the middle of the 17th century (Keach, Richetti, and Robbins 128). The Renaissance ushered in a new age of modern thinking, and separated itself from the previous era called the Middle Ages (or Dark Ages) (Farzaneh).Society saw a rebirth of the intellectual and artistic energies that characterized ancient Greek and Roman civilization.It awakened a whole range of new interests in human beings and the world they lived in (Keach, Richetti, and Robbins 128).
The words of Erasmus of Rotterdam, a great Dutch thinker who influenced English thinkers in the 16th century, reflect this spirit of hopeful renewal:
I am led to a confident hope that not only morality and Christian piety, but also a genuine and purer literature, may come to renewed life or greater splendour.
(qtd. in Keach, Richetti, and Robbins 129)
The Renaissance was an artistic movement:The Renaissance shaped the works of great painters, sculptors, musicians, and architects; the visual arts flourished (Keach, Richetti, and Robbins 129).
The Renaissance was an intellectual movement:Before the Renaissance, Medieval thinking was defined by certain attitudes and beliefs. Medieval thought put an emphasis on God, relied heavily on faith, and saw this life as preparation for the afterlife.The world and its pleasures were viewed as temptations and rejected as sinful.Society demanded unquestioning obedience to authority (to God, church, feudal lord, or king).Community (under the system called feudalism) was more important that individuality.Tradition was not challenged. (Kreis)
With the Renaissance came a new intellectual movement known as Humanism.The Basic Beliefs of Humanism:
Saw the potential of life in the here and now, not just the afterlife.Emphasized the capacities of the human mind and the achievements of human culture rather than the power of God (Keach, Richetti, and Robbins 129). Replaced unquestioning faith with an instinct of curiosity, honest doubt, and skepticism.Sought freedom from authority and valued personal independence (Kreis).Believed in the dignity and potential of the individual (Abrams 240).Valued individual expression (Kreis).Cherished beauty and earthly pleasures, as the ancient Greeks and Romans did.Emphasized the importance of education , reason, and intellectual freedom; moved away from the traditional study of logic, law, astronomy and philosophy to a study of subjects we now refer to as the humanities: liberal arts, grammar, rhetoric, poetry, moral philosophy (Farzaneh).
Overall Impact of Humanism on the RenaissanceAlthough humanism broke away from the traditions and superstitions of the Medieval Era, God and Christianity were still important; however, many Christian humanists questioned the practices of the Roman Catholic church (Farzaneh).Humanism therefore contributed to the thinking behind the Protestant Reformation (Kreis).It provided a crucial step towards later periods of scientific advancement (Farzaneh).It resulted in a more educated, literate society and prepared people for literature with more secular (non-religious) ideas (Kreis).
The Renaissance - An Era of Exploration Exploration and discovery of new worlds (including the Americas) supplied Europe with goods and trade partners. The English were not pioneers in the discovery and exploration of the new world, but they profited greatly as colonizers and merchant adventurers, especially during the reign of Elizabeth I (Abrams 239).
The Renaissance - An Era of ScienceCopernicus (1473-1543) & Galileo (1564-1642) (physicists, mathematicians, astronomers) hypothesized that the Earth was not the centre of the universe as the Catholic Church traditionally believed. Instead, they suggested that the Earth, as well as other planets, orbited around the sun.
Both men were labeled as heretics by the Catholic Church
(Keach, Richetti, and Robbins 142)
Gutenbergs Printing PressIt was invented in 1440 in Germany by JohannesGutenberg and introduced in England a few decades later by William Caxton.At a time when education wasbecoming more important, theprinting press made books cheaperand more widely available to a rising middle class.In the early 15th century, about 30% of the people were literate compared to 60%by 1530. (Abrams 240)
The time was right for the flowering of the Renaissance literary movement.
So the Renaissance meant a rebirth for humanity.that human beings were ready to demonstrate what they could accomplish in the realms of philosophy, music, literature, art, science, and global exploration.
It began in Europe in the 1300s.So why did it take a century or so for the movement to catch on in England?
Political Instability Stifles the Renaissance in EnglandEngland was slow to participate in the European Renaissance mainly for political reasons.The Yorks and the Lancasters battled each other for the throne in the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485).In 1485 Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, defeated Yorkist King Richard III and was crowned King Henry VII, reigning until 1509.The Tudor dynasty was established and ruled the country for more than a century (Keach, Richetti, and Robbins 132-133).Henry VIIs reign brought the political stability necessary for Renaissance ideas to take root in England.It was not until the reign of his son, Henry VIII, that Renaissance ideas were able to flower (Abrams 240).
The Reign of King Henry VIII (1509-1547)Henry saw himself mainly as a political leader but admired what the Renaissance had achieved in Europe.He wanted to he thought of as an enlightened Renaissance prince.In Henrys court, famous poets such as Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard were beginning their work.Sir Thomas More became the center of a brilliant circle of English Humanists. His Utopia was an early Renaissance masterpiece.But it was during his reign that religious and historical forces once again disrupted literary and artistic development (Keach, Richetti, and Robbins 133).
The Protestant Reformation
Was a movement of religious protest against the authority and corruption of the Roman Catholic Church.Was already underway in Europe under the leadership of people such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, who protested against the practices of the Roman Catholic Church for religious reasons.Henry VIII had political and personal motives for breaking away from the Church:Catherine of Aragon, his first wife, had not produced a male heir for the throne.The Pope refused Henry VIII a divorce.He defied the Pope, married Anne Boleyn, and declared himself Supreme Head of the Church of England (the Anglican Church) (Keach, Richetti, and Robbins 133).
Negative Effects of the Reformation on the Renaissance
Sir Thomas More opposed the kings divorce and refused to swear allegiance to him. Henry imprisoned More and executed him.
More's death is a reminder of how the cultural and artistic spirit of the Renaissance was prevented from thriving under Henry's lust for dynastic power and authority.
(Keach, Richetti, and Robbins 133)
Negative Effects ContinuedIt led to a lot of political and religious instability that hindered the advancement of the Renaissance, even after Henrys death in 1547.Catholic was pitted against Protestant.Edward VI (reigned 1547-1553) son of Henry and Jane Seymourcontinued Protestant reformsQueen Mary (reigned1553-1558) (Known as Bloody Mary)Daughter of Catherine of AragonWas a devout Catholic and married Phillip II of Spain.Instituted a reign of terror against English Protestants in an attempt to return England to Catholic authority. Her time on the throne threatened England's growing national identity and allowed Spain to emerge as the dominant, most imperialistic power in sixteenth-century Europe.(Keach, Richetti, and Robbins 134)
Elizabeth I and the Renaissance RenewedQueen Elizabeth I (reigned 1558-1603)
She ascended to the throne at age 25. She was very intelligent and had an excellent Renaissance education. Her tutor was Roger Ascham, a famous English Humanist.She was an accomplished linguist and poet .She encouraged literary and artistic developments which allowed the Renaissance in England to grow.She was a clever diplomat and ruthless politician.She used her unmarried status as a way to manipulate her traditional enemies, France and Spain, who sought alliances with England through marriage to its Queen.She promoted peace by navigating a reasonable religious track between the Protestants and the Catholics.
(Keach, Richetti, and Robbins 134)
I have already joined myself in marriage to a husband, namely the kingdom of England. (Elizabeth to Parliament)
I have no desire to make windows into mens souls. (a reference to the Catholic/Protestant issue) I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king. (Tilbury Speech, 1588)
(Elizabeth I Quotes)
In 1588, Englands navy defeated the Spanish Armada (the strongest naval force of the age) when Spain attempted to invade.
The victory marked Elizabeth's authority in a country that had become one of the most powerful in the world in less than a century.
With swelling national pride and new economic prosperity due to commercial trade in the Americas, England was ready for a period of great artistic and cultural achievements.
Many individuals of talent came to Elizabeths court to distinguish themselves artistically.
(Keach, Richetti, and Robbins 135)
The Defeat of the Spanish Arm