Renaissance or Humanism

Renaissancen or Humanism

The term 'Renaissance' is generally used to cover the whole moment, whose essence was in the words of La-Martie that, "man discovered himself and the universe" and in the words of Taine that man so long blinded, "had suddenly opened his eyes and seen." With the fall of constantinople in 1453,  many Greek scholars fled to Italy with their manuscripts.  The result was that the Italian cities became centre of Greek history and classical culture. The Renaissance, Revival of Greek learning was actually an intellectual rewards from 1485 to 1660, the movement called Humanism embodied itself in the Renaissance. English humanism was a matter of thought and training borrowed from theoretical inspiration from Italy, France and Germany.

A Renaissance man was ready to take any means to reach the heaven. What Mephistophilis says to Dr. Faustus in Marlow's play 'Dr. Faustus' which reflects the outlook of life:

"Why Faustuss
Thinkest  thou heavens such a glorious thing?
I tell thee 'tis not have so fair as thou.
Or any man that breaths on earth."

Therefore, Renaissance Humanism greatly influenced every sphere of literature because it awakened man to the infinite possibilities of human mind and faculties. Its impact may be found conspicuously on Elizabethan poetry, prose and drama. Under the influence of Renaissance Humanism, the individual scholar in English starting from an Italian school master, Tito Livio Frulovisi began writing in Latin. At Oxford Renaissance Humanism had penetrated more deeply. It became a centre of Greek learning, the study of philosophy, medicine and divinity. Some other Oxford scholars were Lyly and Colet. They produced no pure literature but popularised the trend of New Learning.

The movement of humanism coincided with a revolutionary decision of Tudor monarch to end the role of Catholic church and close down the monasteries. Above all, he desired to establish himself as the head of the state. He wanted to be the sovereign political leader. As the church was no longer the centre of writing, the individual began to express very freely. But earlier in the fedal regime, the lonely individual had no standing in the society, he was almost nobody to the the system. This movement of Renaissance Humanism came in by two doors: the court and the university.

Influence on poetry

The two poets, who undertook the pioneering talk of the reformation and rescue, are Wyatt and Surrey. According to Puttenham, "they greatly polished our rude and homely manner of vulgar poetry, from that, it had been before." Spenser is the child of Renaissance. His masterpiece, the "Fairie Queen" is to the queen Elizabeth hoped that his work would live with the eternal of Queen's fame. The Renaissance spirit is to be seen at his height in Marlow's 'Hero and Leander'. It's whole earthly things had found matchless in this poem.

Influence on drama

The most potential influence of the Renaissance was unlimited and witnessed in the spare of the drama. The Mediaeval mysteries and moralities came to an end. Under the influence of classical masters, regular tragedies, comedies and historical plays came into existence. Following the model of Seneca, the first English tragedy 'Gorboduc' was produced. The first real English comedy was 'Ralph Roister Doister'. The influence of Renaissance Humanism is most clearly seen in the dramas of 'University Wits'- Lily, Greene, Peele, Marlowe etc. The ground was made ready for the presentation of the great comedies of the 'University Wits'. Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher. The history and chronicle plays achieved its perfection in the hands of Marlowe and Shakespeare. Shakespeare also treated effectively Roman materials in his plays like 'Julius Caesar', 'Antony and Cleopatra'. Among the 'University Wits' Marlow is the most favourite child of Renaissance. Thus, he presents his hero Tamburlaine and Dr. Faustus as overriding the ordinary moral code of their time. The heroes of the Renaissance period never hanker after wealth and domination status but after knowledge and intellectual experience.

Influence on prose

For all Renaissance humanists the world would best be improved by writing, by education without directly taking part in state affairs. Among the prose writers, the chief exponents of humanism are Erasmus and Sir Thomas More. Thomas More looked upon the world is full of of imperfection and corruption. Therefore, he emphasized on the expenssion of man's possibilities in this world with the study of the past or the thoughts of the world to come. In his masterpiece 'Utopia' he advocates a proto-welfare state in which the old are honoured and the young are taught to be respectful to them. He strongly condemns the vice and cruelty of kings and the selfishness and ignorance of the clergy. In this state, nothing changes because its ideology insists that it has fulfilled all human aspirations. The Utopians live in friendship and war is prohibited in Utopia. Fundamentally, the book is based upon Platon's 'Republic' which embodies the Greek philosopher's dream of an ideal state. The popular work of Erasmus is the 'Praise of Folly'. The book is an attack against the scholastic theologians and incompetent church dignitaries. Erasmus proved to be a a pioneering influence in spreading New Learning which was about the relation between Man and God and the place of man in the world.


To conclude it can be said that Renaissance showed itself in the effort of the individual to emancipate himself from the rigid instruction of middle ages, feudalism and the church. According to Moody and lovett, "as men gained his freedom, they felt less inclined to assent to the Mediaeval view... They turned more and more to the present world.... to the problems of gaining mastery in it through wealth of state-craft... scientific experiment..... arts and literature.

By- Sarmin Pervin (India)
M.a in English literature