Humanism In The Renaissance Essay

The Renaissance is marked as the rebirth of ancient culture for the aristocratic class that lived in Italy, England, and France circa 1350-1650. This is an era in which the term, Renaissance humanism emerged. What is humanism as it relates to the Renaissance? Well, this form of “Humanism can be defined as a movement that encourages the study of form and content of classical learning. Renaissance humanists were obsessed with the recovery, study, interpretation, and transmission of the intellectual heritage of ancient Greece and Rome” (Zophy 71).

This period is seen as a cultural and artistic movement in which people spoke of revolutionary ideas and great works of art from individuals such as, Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. But, the Renaissance for a plethora of people also marks the birth of what is known as the modern world, the many events that were involved (the explorations and conquests of Columbus, Cortes and Pizzaro; the development of commercial trade, and the emergence of capitalism, etc. ), and of many intellectual figures (Luther, Machiavelli, etc. .

With all of these great developments that took place during this period, one could say that the people living in this era existed in a golden age, where everyone coexisted on a plane of equality; sadly, this is not the case. Many cultural and social developments emerged as a result of the Renaissance, and society did in fact flourish, but with it came a plethora of social oppression, and inequalities. The individuals that often suffered the most from social injustices were women.

The ideal woman of this time, according to scholars such as Christine de Pizan, and Castiglione, was often regarded as one that was well educated, well versed in the classics, able to dance, compose music, and be elegant in nature; however, they were barred from seeking fame, fortune, and were disallowed to take part in public life. For the most part, women contributed little to nothing towards political, economic, and social influences. “Scholarship, like most public activities of this time, was considered a man’s field during the Renaissance and the centuries that preceded it” (Zophy 76).

Indeed, only 186 European laywomen have been identified as book owners during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries” (Zophy 76). Only women that belonged to the elite were allowed to engage in such activities, and even then, it was quite rare; if you were a laywoman, then your options were ever more limited; it was either marriage or the cloister, and even with this, they were still harshly oppressed by men. To be a woman of the renaissance, meant a life full of rough and jagged paths; it was a life full of many quarrels and obstacles to be traversed in order to make a name for themselves.

It was in Italy, under the influence of Petrarch and Boccaccio, who translated Homer into Latin, was born in this mode, the humanist movement. Soon, dozens of authors began to emulate them, triggering an “infatuation for Plato,” to the point that in 1445 an Academy is founded solely to the study of this philosopher. And it is in this fashion, this rediscovery, that all thinkers of the Renaissance will feast, and take a new look at the nature of women; which is quite logical when you consider the role of women in ancient society.

Did not Aristotle doubt that women even had a soul? Did not Plato see the female as too base of a being (to be a partner of love, which is to say of engaging in the sexual act)? Furthermore, being a man during this period was not a necessarily a vice, but to place man over everything, and to revolve the entirety of humanistic thought around him, in essence, leads to a depreciation of the woman. Hereinafter, derived from this mode of humanistic thought, the term “Women’s Quarrel” came about, which in turn confirmed the state in which women lived during this period.

What is the ‘Women’s Quarrel? ” Well, it “was a long continuous literary battle between authors who attacked women and those who defended them” (Women Can Be Priests). Triggered by a lawyer, who proposed a new form of marriage contract, the Quarrel animated a plethora of intellectual circles, which lasted for thirty years during the sixteenth century. This movement led to a reflection on the woman, her status, and education. The initiator of the Quarrel, Andre Tiraqueau, affirms the necessity of a mutual relationship amongst males and females when it comes to marriage.

This statement of Tiraqueau, clearly affirmed the superiority of men over the woman, which according to Catherine Claude, “giving a protective role to the husband, since he is superior to the woman. ” This statement is inasmuch a restatement of the message that Tiraqueau wanted to send. The controversy, moderated by other humanist thinkers, will then overtime bring into existence a period in which an emphasis, and newly found appreciation for feminine virtues, and of course, to their faults as well, to a need for the education of women – which was already spoken of in this era by women such as, Christine de Pizan and Marguerite de Navarre.

Nothing really interesting came about from this famous Quarrel, if not the superiority, sustained by all, a finite family model structured in the fashion of male patriarchy. Conversely, if this mode of humanistic thought even at one point served in favor of the fairer sex, women often played the role of conductor, and a type of catalyst for intellectual thought in scholarly avenues. Indeed, while politically, women no longer had a minor role to play, many of them will distinguish themselves on a philosophical an artistic level.

So it is with Marguerite de Navarre, Francis l’s sister, born to a mother who placed an importance to education, which in time prompts Marguerite to study Hebrew, Latin, philosophy, theology and foreign languages: a “load” that would make her a major figure amongst intellectual circles. With a heightened interest for women scholarship, poetry, and a righteous cause stirring in the souls of many, the “Women’s Quarrel” will eventually make its way into the court of Navarre. This place is known by many historians as being an active home for intellectual discourse for humanistic thinkers of this time.

Here, Navarre ensures the friendship and services of scholars such as, Robert Estienne, Clement Marot, and even Francois Rabelais. In this mode, Navarra follows and aids in the ambitions of the women living in this era. Overtime, images of great figures such as, Eleanor of Aquitaine have even made its way into the castle of Marguerite de Navarre herself. Conversely, the beautiful Paule de Viguier, a widow and very wealthy individual will go as far as to use her fortune, and reputation to draw out on Navarre’s walls, as she aims to lay out in full the beauty and magnificence of the feminine soul.

Indeed, women existed in an era where men viewed them as inferiors, and only a handful of women were able to break through the glass ceilings of this era. The women of the renaissance faced much hardship, and even after so many reforms, one is often left asking if they even enjoyed, or in better terms had a renaissance at all. If you were a laywoman, then your options for a happy and prosperous life were ever more limited. To be a woman of the renaissance, meant a life full of rough and jagged paths; it was a life full of many obstacles to be traversed.

Nevertheless, the women of this age refused to back down, and even managed to make a name for themselves. The life of the woman was indeed unexamined for quite a long time, but began to be examined as more women began to question their roles, and economical standing amongst men. So to answer the question that is often asked by many, “Did women even have a Renaissance? ” Yes, they did have a Renaissance, although not as prosperous as men, they were to a certain degree, able to express themselves all the more. An extent that was expressed through an avenue of les Querelle de Femmes.