''Renaissance Literature'' consists of a wide ranging collection of brilliantly written essays that attempt to cover the spectrum of renaissance thought.It is quite an ambitious project, and looks at the birthplace of the Renaissance,the first great ''Renaissance man''-Petrarch, the writings of Machiavelli,Castiglione,Erasmus,Spencer and the reader also gets some insight into the great epic of Milton's ''Paradise Lost'' among other writings.Marlowe,Shakespeare and Ben Johnson complete this most important cast.
The work speaks to the diversity of the era ,''from allegorical Christian epics to revenge tragedies with themes of incest and murder to emotional love poetry of great purity and beauty.
It becomes evident,therefore,that Renaissance literature held at its very centre, the concept of ''individual conciousness''. William Shakespeare is a good example of this and he is as much a product of the Renaissance as was Milton and Petrarch.The essay by Gloria K. Fiero reaffirms the birthplace of the Renaissance as late fourteenth century Italy;
The Renaissance designates that period in European history between roughly 1300 and 1600,during which time
the revival of classical humanism spread from its birthplace in Italy throughout Western Europe.Italy was the
homeland of Roman antiquity,the splendid ruins of which stood as reminders of the greatness of classical
The work deals with the most famous of the early Florentine humanists,the poet and scholar Francesco Petrarch[d.1374] who devoted his life to the recovery,copying and editing of Latin manuscripts.Petrarch's focus on eloquence and morality would impact heavily upon the consciousness of the later Renaissance.
Written and published within four years of each other in the early sixteenth century,''The
Prince'' by Niccolo Machiavelli and ''the Courtier'' by Baldassare Castiglione are two of the
most influential Renaissance books.In the view of the British historian E.R Chamberlin
''The Prince'' was intended as an explanation of how successful Renaissance princes
The influence of Erasmus is dealt with in the chapter captioned''Beginnings of the Northern Renaissance''.The comic vision of Rabelais brings much of the humour of the French Renaissance to the reader.His works''Gargantua'' and ''Pantagruel'' produced ''philosophical''comedy of lasting value''.
Renaissance Literature is also a journey through some of the ''conventions'' of Petrarchan Poetry-the melancholy, the paradox of Petrarchan love,its conceits mixed with its pleasures and pains.There is also a timely description of the background to Edmund Spencer's ''The Faerie Queen'' which was shaped by both classical and Italian models of epic poetry.
An interesting discursive on John Donne and the Metaphysical Poets follows.The reader,therefore, is exposed to a diet of love poetry and religious poetry mixed with the wit of their metaphysical counterparts.
The book being reviewed also contains a chapter headed''Renaissance Women Writers''.I am certain that the feminists would appreciate such an inclusion.
Greenhaven Press,California 2001.
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