Features of Renaissance and Humanism

Renaissance and Humanism

William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” contains characteristics of the Renaissance and Humanism. The European Renaissance stands for the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern era (15th/16th century) like no other cultural epoch. Literally translated, the term means "rebirth." Scientists, scholars, and artists recalled the values of Roman and Greek antiquity and tried to transfer them to the modern present.

The rediscovery of the ancient values comes as a push back against the dominance of the Christian worldview. The followers of the Renaissance no longer promoted a theocentric worldview oriented toward ‘life after death’, but instead a humanism grounded in this world: through education and upbringing, people should be guaranteed the free development of their personality. Man becomes the focus of art, culture, and science: "Man is the measure of all things" (Protagoras, c. 485-415 BC).

People of the Renaissance found humanist ideals in the texts of ancient philosophers: In Cicero's definition of "humanitas" (Latin for "being human"), they find statements about the spiritual capacities of man, which distinguish him from simple animals; in Senaca’s, the Roman philosopher’s works they find references to the ethical goal of humanity; and in the Greek philosopher Plato, a mature philosophy of nature.

Renaissance and humanism are so closely related that there is even the term Renaissance humanism. The two terms are therefore often used synonymously. Strictly speaking, they differ in that "humanism" refers more to the rediscovery of Latin thought, while "Renaissance" alludes mainly to the adoption of Greek thought. However, both cultural movements are so closely related that they would be unthinkable without each other.

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