Explain how the Renaissance was a rebirth. Analyze the ways in which it imitated and differed from the cultures that inspired it.
“Renaissance” means “rebirth” in the French language. The Renaissance was a rebirth in many different ways. It began in Northern Italy about 1350 right after the Black Death had ravaged the country, killing from a third to half the population. One of the earliest pieces of Renaissance literature was the Decameron written by GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO (1313-1375). The Decameron is a compilation of 100 short stories told by 10 men and women who journeyed to a country villa to escape the plague which was ravaging Florence in 1348. Unsure whether they would catch the deadly disease, these young men and women did not pray or volunteer to take care of the sick in the city. They told each other racy stories about worldly pleasures. Boccaccio wrote the Decameron in the vernacular or everyday language of Italian.
The Renaissance was a rebirth in a second sense. It was a rebirth of classical learning and a rediscovery of ancient Rome and Greece. Renaissance artists and scholars looked back to this Classical past. They deliberately rejected the scholarship and religious thought of the Middle Ages. For them, the Middle Ages were a Dark Age. Nothing original and creative had happened since the fall of Rome. They sought to imitate the art of Classical Greece with its realistic depiction of the human form. They thought that the classical Latin written by Vergil, Cicero, or Julius Caesar was much superior to the Church Latin spoken during their own time. They wanted to purify Latin of its medieval corruptions. In the process of doing so, ironically, they helped to destroy the living Latin of the Middle Ages and turned it into the dead language which it is today.
The Renaissance was a rebirth of the human spirit, a rebirth of creativity. While taking the classical past as its model, the Renaissance was one of the most creative periods in human history, comparable only to the Golden Age of Hellenic Athens in the fifth century before Christ. Florence has often been called the Athens of the Renaissance because so many great artists were born or worked there.