The 5 Most Important Renaissance Literary Works

The Literary works of the Renaissance Are part of a very fruitful period for the West. The most important ones are Hamlet or Utopia, among other.

By Renaissance Is understood the stage of learning that began in Italy and that extended towards the north, including England, towards century XVI, and finished in the middle of century XVII.

The 5 Most Important Renaissance Literary Works

During this period, there was a huge and renewed interest and study of classical antiquity. However, this era was more than a"rebirth". It was also an era of new discoveries, both geographical (exploration of the New World, ie America) and intellectuals.

Both types of discoveries gave rise to changes of enormous importance for the western civilization. In science, for example, Copernicus (1473-1543) tried to prove that the Sun and not Earth was at the center of the planetary system, thus radically altering the vision of the cosmos that had dominated Antiquity and Middle Ages .

In religion, Martin Luther (1483-1546) challenged and ultimately caused the division of one of the principal institutions that had united Europe throughout the Middle Ages: the Catholic Church. In fact, Renaissance thinkers often thought of themselves as architects of the Modern Era.

In addition, during this period there were certain important political changes. Some of the noblest ideals of the time were expressed by the movement known as Humanism , Which provided great insights on how literary works should be created.

Renaissance thinkers tended to dissociate themselves from works written in the Middle Ages, a historical period they considered very negative. According to them, the Middle Ages settled in the"middle"of two much more valuable historical processes: Antiquity and the Renaissance.

You may also be interested in viewing The 32 most outstanding Renaissance artists .

The 5 most outstanding literary works of the Renaissance

1- Romeo and Juliet (William Shakespeare)

The 5 Most Important Renaissance Literary Works 1

This tragedy about two young lovers is one of Shakespeare's most popular works, and together with Hamlet One of the most frequently staged. Today, the characters Romeo and Juliet Are considered archetypes of young lovers.

The history of the work is framed in the tradition of tragic romances from Antiquity, and was written between 1591 and 1595 and published in 1597.

Shakespeare uses in the work a dramatic structure poetic and oscillates between the comedy and the tragedy to increase the tension.

2- Prince (Nicolás Machiavelli)

It is a book published posthumously in 1532, five years after the death of Machiavelli. It is considered a fundamental work in political science, as well as a particularly innovative political treaty.

It was written in Italian instead of Latin, something popular at the time since the publication of the Divine Comedy Of Dante and other works of Renaissance literature. And it was, and still is, conflicting with the dominant Catholic doctrines.

3- Hamlet (William Shakespeare)

The 5 Most Important Renaissance Literary Works 2

Written between 1599 and 1602, this tragedy of Shakespeare is about Prince Hamlet and his revenge against his uncle Claudius, accused of murdering Hamlet's father.

Hamlet is the most extensive work of the English author and one of the influential. It was also popular during the life of Shakespeare and is one of the most represented in the history of theater. In addition, it is one of the most cited works and critics often include it among the greatest literary works in history.

4- Utopia (Tomás Moro)

The 5 Most Important Renaissance Literary Works 3 Island of Utopia of the work of Tomás Moro.

At the same time fiction and political work, this book was published in Latin in the year 1516 and tells a story centered on a fictional society that lives on an island. The word"utopia"comes from the Greek and means"no-place"or"nowhere".

The work was popular in its time, although also misunderstood. At present, the title of the book eclipsed the central story created by Moro and is used when speaking of"utopian society". In that sense, Utopia Is truly important in literary history for creating the notion of parallel realities and closed societies in themselves.

5- Doctor Faustus (Christopher Marlowe)

This important work of the Renaissance is based on stories about Faust, a popular figure in German culture. It is believed that the first edition of the book is around 1593.

The popularity of the work of Marlowe is based on a myth that tells that one of the first places of the work appeared real devils on the stage. It is also said that some actors and spectators were disturbed after the apparition.

It is believed that Doctor Faustus is the first dramatization of the popular legend about Faust. In addition, some diviners at the turn of the century took the name Faust, which in Latin means"the favored."

Other important works of the time

  • Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes)
  • Praise of madness (Erasmus of Rotterdam)
  • Decameron (Giovanni Boccaccio)
  • Gargantua and Pantagruel (François Rabelais)
  • The Divine Comedy (Dante Alighieri)
  • The Fairy Queen (Edmund Spenser)
  • Richard III (William Shakespeare)
  • Lost Paradise (John Milton)

The importance of the chain of beings

Among the most important of the continuities of the Renaissance with the classical period was the concept of the chain of beings. Its main premise was that every thing existing in the universe had its"place"in a divinely planned hierarchical order, which was represented as a vertically extended chain.

The"place"of an object depended on the relative proportion between"spirit"and"matter." The more"matter", the lower the object was. At the bottom, for example, there were several types of inanimate objects, such as metals, stones and the four elements (earth, water, air, fire).

There were several members of the vegetative class, such as trees and flowers. Then came the animals, the humans, and finally the angels. In the highest was God.

It was believed that, in addition to the universal order, there was universal interdependence. This was implicit in the doctrine of"correspondences,"which held that the different segments of the chain reflected other segments.

For example, Renaissance thinkers saw the human being as a microcosm reflecting the structure of the world as a whole: the macrocosm.

Just as the world was composed of four"elements"(earth, water, air, fire), so the human body was composed of four substances called"humors", with characteristics corresponding to the four elements. Illness, for example, occurred when there was an imbalance or"disorder"between moods.

Thus it was also thought that the hierarchical organization of the mental faculties reflected the hierarchical order within the family, the state and the forces of nature.

When things were properly ordered, reason governed emotions, just as a king ruled his subjects, the father ruled the child, and the sun governed the planets. But when disorder was present in a kingdom, it was reflected in other kingdoms as well.

For example in King Lear Of Shakespeare the simultaneous disorder in family relations and in the State is reflected in the disorder of Lear's mind (the loss of reason) as well as in the disorder of nature.

Human beings were represented as being placed between the beasts and the angels. To act against human nature by not allowing reason to govern emotions was equal to descending to the level of beasts.

Trying to go above one's place, as Eve did when tempted by Satan, leads directly to disaster. However, Renaissance writers sometimes showed ambivalence toward such a rigidly organized universe.

However, some writers of the Renaissance were fascinated to go beyond the limits established by the chain of beings. An important example is the main character of the work of Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus .

By showing the great spirit of human aspiration and the most questionable hunger for superhuman powers, Faust seems to be exalted and punished at the same time. Marlowe's drama, in fact, has often been seen as the embodiment of the ambiguity of the Renaissance.


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