The Renaissance Man Essay

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As the fifteenth century dawned, Western Europe was changing. The Black Plague and other illnesses resulted in a significant decrease in the overall population, which resulted in a shift of power from wealthy landlords to those who worked the land. As great estates were crumbling, they demanded hourly wages or bought their own land. Cities were growing larger and people were no longer defining themselves by their family or occupation into which they were born, rather they were thinking of themselves as individuals with the God-given power to shape their destiny. Such a rebirth of the ideas and energy of ancient Rome became evident and accepted. The people of this time period liked the idea of individualism and of building upon the…show more content…
The new evaluation of the individual’s worth and the new conception of the individual’s relation to nature, which were to become the central motifs of the Renaissance, can be seen graphically in the paintings of artists like Piero della Francesca, Donatello, and Michelangelo. The individuals in their portraits and sculptures were the center of attention and were portrayed realistically, thereby glorifying man. More specifically, Michelangelo’s statue of David portrays man’s power and beauty (David, Spielvogel, 324). Linguists and philosophers also expressed this idolization of man. Pico della Mirandola, author of the “Oration on the Dignity of Man,” wrote that God addressed man saying, “‘Though shalt have the power to degenerate into the lower forms of life, which are brutish. Thou shalt have the power, out of thy soul’s judgment, to be reborn into the higher forms, which are divine’” (Mirandola, 411). Therefore, man’s understanding of his potential as an individual led to an increased emphasis on humanism in all aspects of Renaissance society. The worldliness, through which the Renaissance seems to offer so conspicuous a contrast to the Middle Ages, owed its origin to the spread of the new thoughts of individualism. Art and poetry demonstrated the new importance of the material world. People were no longer focused on religion and the eternal world; instead they were focused on power, business relations, money, and
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