Middle Ages Literature

Due to the work of Byzantine and Islamic scholars, ancient Greek science and scholarship found their way into the West. Europeans had been separated from their classical cultural heritage for almost eight centuries. No other world civilization had experienced such a disjunction from its cultural past. There were many events in history prior to this that led to the unfolding of this classic revival. Between 1300 and 1500, education had become far more accessible, their was the birth of humanism, and the invention of the printing press. Many prominent men influenced this time: Dante, Chaucer, Erasmus, Calvin, and Leonardo.

The later Middle Ages were thus a period of growth and creativity leading into the renaissance. One of the greatest works of the Middle Ages literature is Dante’s Divine Comedy. Despite his engagement in political affairs and the fact that he was a layman, he managed to acquire an awesome mastery of the religious, philosophic, and literary knowledge of his time. In 1302, Dante was expelled from Florence after a political upheaval and was forced to live the rest of his life in exile. Dante’s Divine Comedy is a monumental narrative in powerful rhyming Italian verse, which describes the poet’s journey through hell, purgatory, and paradise.

Historically Dante summed up the best of learning in the Middle Ages in such an artistically manner. Dante stressed the precedence of salvation, but he viewed the earth as existing for human benefit. He allowed humans free will to choose well and avoid evil, and accepted Greek philosophy as authoritative in its own sphere. Dante’s sense of hope and his ultimate faith in humanity, was the most powerful expressed the dominant mood of the High Middle Ages. Chaucer was a founding father of England’s mighty literary tradition and one of the four or five greatest contributors to it.

Chaucer wrote several highly impressive works, but his masterpiece is unquestionably the Canterbury Tales, dating from the end of his career. Chaucer’s stories are told in sparkling verse instead of prose, and they are recounted by people of all different classes- from a chivalric knight to a dedicated university student to a thieving miller. Each character tells a story that is particularly illustrative of his or her own occupation and outlook on the world. By this device Chaucer is able to create a highly diverse “human comedy. ” His range is frank, witty, and lusty as the Italian, he is sometimes more profound.

Desiderius Erasmus, Dutch humanist and theologian, was known as “the prince of the Christian humanist. ” Erasmus was extraordinarily learned and witty. He excelled in irony and created dazzling verbal effects, and coined puns. Erasmus propagated what he called the “philosophy of Christ. ” He published three different categories: clever satire meant to show people the error of their ways, serious moral treaties meant to offer guidance toward proper Christian behavior, and scholarly editions of basic Christian texts. The most widely read of Erasmus work, is from the first category- The Praise of Folly.

In which he pilloried scholastic pedantry and dogmatism as well as the ignorance and superstitious credulity of the masses. A twenty-six-year-old French Protestant named John Calvin, who had fled to the Swiss city of Basel to escape religious persecution. He published the first version of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, a work that was soon to prove the most influential systematic formation of Protestant theology ever written. Calvin’s Geneva appeared as a beacon of thoroughgoing Protestantism to thousands throughout Europe.

The resulting pread and conversion of Calvinism, lead to the hardening forces of Catholicism to head off any furthering Protestant advances. The result, united Christendom became mired in bloody religious wars for decades after. Leonardo da Vinci sought for knowledge and studied wide variety of subjects he was known as a “Renaissance man”. In 1478 Leonardo became an independent master. His first large painting “The Adoration of Magi”. 1482 Leonardo entered the Service of the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, as principal engineer and architect.

At this time he also assisted the mathematician, Luca Pacioli. Leonardo wrote many texts, compiled as “Treatise on Painting”. During this period the most important of his painting was “The Virgin on the rocks”. From 1495 until 1497 Leonardo labored over the “The Last Supper”. At this time he also did many other paintings, drawings, theater design, and architectural drawings. In 1500 he returned to Florence, where he later entered the service of Cesare Borgia, Duke of Romagna. During this period Leonardo painted “the Mona Lisa”. Leonardo developed two painting techniques, sfumato and chiaroscuro.

In 1506 Leonardo returned to Milan, where he was named court painter to King Louis XII of France. Leonardo lived in Rome under the patronage of Pope Leo X, from 1514 until 1516. At this time he came up with many scientific theories. He spent his last few years here until he died at the age of 67 in 1519. He influenced the Italian art more than a century after his death. Leonardo da Vinci’s topics ranged from: anatomy, zoology, botany, biology, optic, aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, and the science of motion, language arts, and the study of the human.

By the late fifteenth century, Europeans were in a position to venture far away to the shores of Africa. The exploration of the peoples and land of the New World led to the influx of gold and silver. The discovery of classical civilization occasioned a rebirth of intellectual and artistic activity in both southern and northern Europe. One result was the splendor of the Italian Renaissance, whose scholarship, painting, and sculpture remain among Western Europe’s most impressive achievements. History comprises a record of past human activities, from political development, social, economic, and intellectual ones.

From the 13th century to the renaissance, such advances in politics, art, literature, philosophy, religion, drama, and mythology, created the diverse Western World. These contributions in history assembled a wealth of knowledge, opportunity of education, as well as the recognition of misapprehensions in the past. Overall history and those that made history, inquires into the cause of events and patterns of human organization. These ideas lead to the search of forces that impel humanity towards its great undertakings, and the reason for its successes and failures.

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