We explain what Renaissance literature is and its historical context. Also, what are its main characteristics and examples..

What is Renaissance Literature?

Renaissance Literature: What It Is, Characteristics and References

Renaissance literature developed in Italy during the Renaissance period , between the 15th and 16th centuries. He was part of an intellectual revolution that sought to promote the renewal of culture , the new concept of humanism and the influence of inventions of the time, such as the printing press, which allowed the dissemination of texts.

The name Renaissance refers to the rediscovery of the Greco-Roman philosophy on which both literature and the rest of the artistic disciplines of the movement were based. It was a transitional period between the Middle Ages , in which there were almost no innovations or cultivation of the arts , and the Modern Age .

The revolutionary Renaissance literature was based on the concept of humanism that generated both positive and negative responses from readers, due to the criticism it showed towards the Catholic Church. For that reason, Church supporters banned or burned printed works.

Historic context

The literary renaissance occurred in the midst of a society plagued by tension , uncertainty and conflicting positions from religion, order and authority. However, the dissemination of knowledge was increasing, which made it possible to combat ignorance and popular tradition.

Book production was on the rise and more and more people were attending university, two privileges that, until then, only the representatives of the priestly class enjoyed. Many Renaissance writers were trained in those universities that opened their doors to the masses.

Rome ceased to be the intellectual or cultural center after the decline of power, both of the Roman Catholic Church and of the city-states of Italy. The scholars of the Renaissance began to travel to other countries, spreading their ideals and knowledge .

In 1492, during the heyday of this literary trend, the invasion of America by the Spanish took place. This event impacted on the ideals of the movement, reinforcing the concept of humanism and overvaluing reason over faith.

Characteristics of Renaissance literature

Characteristics of Renaissance literature

Renaissance literature was characterized by emphasizing themes such as:

  • Love: It was the central axis of lyrical poetry, which leaves God as the center and recognizes women as an object of admiration.
  • Nature: It was idealized for its great beauty and for the feelings generated by its great magnitude and perfection.
  • Mythology: It was a repetitive theme through the most prominent characters of ancient Greece.

Renaissance literature marked the return of the classical style of learning that had largely been ignored during the Middle Ages because most writers glorified the Catholic Church and its teachings. As the city-states began to prosper, religious corruption increased. As a consequence, the influence of the Church began to weaken.

Renaissance writers managed to spread their ideas and incorporate new knowledge such as languages and values , as they traveled through Europe . This shift in learning - from relying on all wisdom from the Church to developing understanding and reason - exacerbated an appreciation for the human individual. That concept was represented by the humanism movement.

Both literature and the various artistic disciplines that represented the Renaissance movement were characterized by:

  • The classical culture of Greece and Rome was recovered, a fact considered the rebirth of tradition.
  • The reason was valued above the faith and Greco-Roman philosophy opposed the ideas of the Catholic Church.
  • The human being was considered the center of the world (unlike the Middle Ages in which God was the center of the universe ).
  • Nature was considered a symbol of perfection and a source of pleasure.

Representatives of Renaissance literature

Among the main representatives of Renaissance literature, the following stand out:

  • Dante Alighieri (1265-1321): He was an Italian poet who stood out, in particular, for one of his works, considered fundamental for the transition from medieval to Renaissance thought: The Divine Comedy.
  • Jean Molière (1622-1673): He was a French playwright and poet considered one of the best writers in world literature. One of his main works was Tartufo.
  • Nicholas Machiavelli (1469 - 1527): He was a diplomat, political philosopher and writer considered the father of Political Science. One of his main works was The Prince.
  • Baltasar Castiglione (1478 - 1529): He was an Italian diplomat and writer who wrote lyrical poetry in vulgar language and Latin poetry. One of his main works was The Courtier .
  • Miguel Cervantes (1547 - 1616): He was a Spanish novelist, poet and soldier, and one of the most renowned writers of Spanish literature. One of his main works was Don Quixote de la Mancha .
  • Edmund Spenser (1552-1599): He was an English poet considered one of the pioneers and most influential of the English language. One of his main works was The Fairy Queen.
  • William Shakespeare (1564-1616): He was an English playwright and poet considered the most recognized writer in the English language. One of his main works was Romeo and Juliet .
  • Thomas More (1478-1535): He was an English thinker, theologian, humanist, and writer. One of his main works was Utopia .
  • Luís de Camões (1524 - 1580): He was a Portuguese writer and poet considered one of the greatest exponents of the Portuguese language. One of his main works was The Lusíadas .
  • Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585): He was a French writer and poet considered in his time as "the prince of poets." One of his main works was Los amores de Casandra .

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring to reliable sources and recommendations from experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.


She has pursued her studies in The United States, where she has graduated in Business and Economics and is currently finishing her Master studies in International Economics and Finance. Miss. Amputee is fluent in three languages: English, Spanish and Russian and has elementary knowledge of French and Italian. She love exploring how Collaborative Research Group can become the best tool to achieve the (necessary) educational change. .

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