This is the essay for the 31st week of the 9th Grade Tom Woods Homeschool. In this blog post, I will be answering two questions.
The first one is: What are some of the key ideas of the Renaissance?
The second one is: In what ways does Petrarch embody the spirit of the Renaissance?
The Renaissance has many key ideas but the most important one is rebirth. The rebirth the Renaissance refers to is the rebirth of interest in ancient culture and art for its own sake.
Before the renaissance, there was some interest in ancient culture and art, but this was mostly for religious purposes. Ancient works would be taken and were used to make religious messages. It didn’t matter if the works were religious or not, they would still do it. This practice continued in the renaissance, but interest in the works themselves became much more widespread. This interest transformed into a lot of translations of ancient works. In the previous renaissance periods, the only thing that was done was translate old works, but the Renaissance was different. In it, new works that took inspiration from old works were also made.
Another key idea from the renaissance was individualism. This individualism led to people having portraits made of themselves and artists signing their own works. Another thing that became popular was people wanting to immortalize themselves through fame.
Secularism was another key idea that came from the renaissance. What this meant was that secular pursuits became more respected and worthy. It became worthy to follow secular pursuits, while not following any religious pursuits. A worldly outlook on life became more common. At the same time, active virtues were held in higher regard than contemplative virtues. People started acknowledging that people could do great things alone, without the help of God. Before the renaissance, the only way to be famous was to be a high-ranking member of the church or be a ruler of a country. Now there were many more ways to get famous using secular pursuits. Art was also changed by the increase of popularity in secularism. No longer was art completely religious, but secular art was also being made much more.
Petrarch was an Italian Poet who was born in 1404. He liked to read classical ancient works, but his father made him study law. But when his father dies he quits law and becomes a poet. Petrarch embodies the spirit of the renaissance in many ways. One correlation between Petrarch and the renaissance is that they both rebirthed interest in ancient works for their own sake. The renaissance itself rebirthed interest for all ancient works, while interest for ancient works existed but only for religious pursuits. Petrarch on the other hand rebirthed interest in ancient literary works, but he opposed ancient scholastic works.
Another correlation was that the renaissance idea of individualism was also portrayed in Petrarch. The most famous example of this is Petrarch’s love poem to a person named Laura, who had very little or no actual contact with him. In most love poems the love is mentioned a lot but Petrarch flips this on his head. Petrarch mentions himself many more times than he does Laura. He mentions himself 23 times but mentions Laura only twice. He also demands respect for the secular culture and earthly fame, however, he is also a pious man and does consider the afterlife. This portrays the idea that the renaissance was an increase in popularity for ancient art and culture in general, mostly in secular ways but also in religious ways.