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The Renaissance. 1485-1660. The Renaissance. Meaning: “renewal” Refers to the renewed interest in classical learning and literature—the writings of ancient Greece and Rome.

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the renaissance1
The Renaissance

Meaning: “renewal”

Refers to the renewed interest in classical learning and literature—the writings of ancient Greece and Rome.

Because of the emphasis on human ability and new discoveries, the Renaissance is often considered the beginning of the modern world.

beginnings of the renaissance
Beginnings of the Renaissance
  • Began in Italy; spread to other European countries- France, Germany, Spain, and lastly England. Many writers and artists visited and looked to Italy for inspiration.
  • Invention of the printing press (around 1455) made books a reality and working tools for scholars. By 1500, printers—particularly Italian printers—had published in book form the works of most of the important Latin authors.

Science began to flourish; new inventions created (Galileo, Gutenberg)

  • Renewal of reading and learning led to a renewal of the human spirit, of curiosity and creativity.
  • Visual Arts flourished (Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci)
  • Exploration and trade became widespread
      • Christopher Columbus (1442)- One of MANY enterprisers
      • European exploration at this time marked the first stages of European colonial and commercial domination.


  • Emphasized the abilities of the human mind and achievement versus medieval emphasis on God and denial of worldly things.
  • Sought to answer questions: What does it mean to be human? What is a good life? How do I lead a good life?
  • Desired to harmonize two great sources of wisdom: the Bible and the classics.
renaissance in england
Renaissance in England
  • Powerful political leader
  • Created Royal Navy
  • Declared himself Supreme Head of the Church of England (Anglican Church) when pope refuse to grant a divorce.
  • Demanded supreme authority and allegiance at high cost (Sir Thomas More –locked in tower and beheaded for treason)

Renaissance in England was gradual, due to political instability

Henry VIII (8th) (1509-1547)


Henry VIII

  • Well-educated- studied French, Italian, Latin
  • Opened the door to writers and artists in royal
  • court (Sir Thomas Wyatt)
  • Was considered a “renaissance man” –person of

many interests, skills, talents

  • Poet, musician, hunter

Elizabeth I (1558-1603)

  • One of the most powerful and successful monarchs in history.
  • Reestablished the Church of England and again rejected pope’s authority (like her father).
  • Leader in economics and foreign affairs, which led to prosperity in England and defeat of Spanish Armada.

Elizabeth I (1558-1603)

  • Renaissance and literary influence
  • Well-educated, accomplished linguist and poet
  • Encouraged and inspired many writers. Elizabeth became a beloved symbol of peace, security, and prosperity. She provided inspiration for poetry, drama, and fiction.
  • Elizabethan drama led to the triumph of dramatically spoken English.

James I (1603-1625)

  • Elizabeth's cousin , James VI (6th) of England
  • Gunpowder Plot (1605) –Conspiracy by Catholic church to blow up parliament because of discontent with James’ support of Church of England; said to be partial inspiration to Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

General Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658)- led Parliamentary forces (Puritans) against England’s royalist (Roman Catholics) forces in civil war. Eventually, new government failed and the king was restored to the throne, beginning the Restoration Period.

other important renaissance figures influences
Other Important Renaissance Figures & Influences
  • Writers & Poets
    • Petrarch (1304-1374) –Italian poet; one of the first influences upon the Renaissance.
    • Boccaccio(1313-1375)- “Federigo’s Falcon”
    • Sir Thomas More- Utopia (1516) is considered the first literary masterpiece of the English Renaissance.
    • Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)- poet, playwright, contemporary of Shakespeare’s.
    • William Shakespeare (1564-1616)- most well-known poet & playwright of the Renaissance.


    • Michelangelo (1475-1564)- Italian painter, sculptor, architect (Sistine Chapel ceiling; “David” sculptor)
    • da Vinci (1452-1519)- Mona Lisa- one of the most recognized paintings in the world.
  • Rulers
    • Lorenzo de’ Medici (1449-1492)- “Lorenzo the Magnificent” Ruler of Italy and patron of several great artists (Botticelli, Michelangelo, da Vinci)
terms to know
Terms to Know
  • Soliloquy: A speech that a character makes while alone on stage to reveal thoughts, motives, or feelings to the audience.
  • Aside: When a character makes a statement meant to be heard by the audience or by another character, but not by ALL of the characters on stage.
  • DramaticIrony: When the audience knows more than the characters; the characters expect one thing to happen, but something else happens instead.
  • Iambic Pentameter: A line of poetry made up of five stressed syllables and five stressed syllables, creating a ten-beat per line rhythm.
  • Blank Verse: Unrhymed iambic pentameter; the verse of most of Shakespeare’s plays.
characteristics of a shakespearean tragedy
Characteristics of a Shakespearean Tragedy

The main character, called the tragic hero comes to an unhappy ending.

The tragic hero is generally a person of importance in society, such as a king or queen.

The tragic hero exhibits extraordinary qualities, but also a tragic flaw, which is a fatal error in judgment or weakness that leads directly to his or her downfall.


The hero faces an antagonist, his enemy, who may contribute to his downfall.

A series of related events leads to a catastrophe, which involves the death of the hero.

The tragic hero usually recognizes his or her tragic flaw by the end and gains the audience’s sympathy.

The tragic hero meets his or her doom with courage and dignity, reaffirming the greatness of the human spirit.