Week 31 – The Renaissance and Petrarch

Discuss some of the key ideas of the Renaissance

As I already mentioned in my previous posts, renaissance means “rebirth”.

The renaissance we will be talking about today is the one that occurred in the 15th century.

People became interested in antiquity for its own sake and from a religious perspective; they gathered whatever knowledge they could and ordered it towards Christ. Individualism also sparked people’s interest; there was a rise of portraiture and people started signing their artwork. People put emphasis on the “natural man”, who was capable of great things without God’s help.

In what ways does Petrarch embody the spirit of the Renaissance?

Francesco Petrarca, also known as Petrarch, fell in love with the classics. His father wanted him to study law instead and was very against him wasting his time on reading classics. Petrarch did study law, but after his father died, he gave this up and turned to poetry. He thought he lived in a barbarous age: Latin is barbarous next to Greek, the subjects in schools are barbarous etc. He absolutely adored any ancient manuscripts: Virgil, Cicero, Livy, Horace, Plato, Homer, it didn’t matter to him. The only thing he didn’t like was Aristotle and other works of logic, he thought it was a waste of time; why waste time on something logical when life is all about being happy?

In 1327, Petrarch fell in love with Laura, who was a personification of pure love for him. Unfortunately he had little to no contact with her until she died in 1348. In Canzoniere he wrote her love poems, but put emphasis on himself. He also wrote other works, for example De contemptu mundi.

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