Characteristics of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

Length: 7 Pages 1748 Words

The Middle Ages covers roughly a thousand years, from approximately 400 to 1500 and the term generally refers to the changes that the European society experienced during these years. Many agree that there was not just one medieval civilization, but many. These civilizations are related to each other in some ways, but they also have their own distinct characteristics that set them apart from each other. Historians generally agree that the Renaissance lasted approximately two centuries, beginning with the mid-1300s and lasting until the1600s. Each era has defining characteristics that that can be recognized through literature. The Middle Ages represents a variety of literature. Literature about kings flourished at this time. During this time, the heroic idea included an aristocratic king. Literature of this time reflects an interesting aspect, which is that by dying gloriously, one might achieve immortality. (Abrams 3) Beowulf is one epic that has survived through the centuries. Another great epic that has survived is Alexander the Great. The literature of the Middle Ages touched practically every aspect of life and thought. The Middle Ages, Barzun asserts, was not one, but many ages. They are general Continue...


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Clearly, Humanism shaped much of what to be created in the Renaissance. Part of this education included the recovery of classical literature. (Wright 167) Chaucer himself reflects the interest and importance of this era. He is famous for his hymns and sonnets. Courtly love is a "state of being like no other- -out of bounds in relation to society and yet in many ways conventional" (Barzun 233). (6) This aspect of the period is important because the type of writing styles change dramatically. This type of writing is called courtly because it revolves around the ideas of chivalry. This literature survived only because of the "diligent copying and thoughtful preservation in monastic libraries" (Breisach 309). Another element that makes Shakespeare's work so appealing is his ability to include aspects of history into a play that are entertaining and appealing. (Barzun 46) The Renaissance is a point of controversy because there does seem to be evidence of a "theme of restoration after a long period of darkness" (Breisach 398). Humanism was the "chief of the new conceptions of the Renaissance. In conclusion, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance are important to literature because of the new ideas and attitudes they fostered. Chaucer is quoted as saying that the fourteenth century contained a "wealth if romances, lives of saints, contes, fabliaux, drama, history, biography, all of great interest and importance" (Chaucer qtd. (Lucas 147) Dante preferred a more formal type of poetry and found his niche among the courtly poetry mixed with French and Silician influences. The Renaissance thinkers were inspired by the ancients and worked to bring attention to what they determined were great works that had been all but forgotten.

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