Renaissance Humanism

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Renaissance humanism considers man to be the sole most significant entity in the cosmos. Order within the Renaissance era had paramount importance and any disruption in this order was professed to lead to anarchy and chaos. The great chain of being was hugely significant to the Elizabethans; this refers to a hierarchical structure perceivably constructed by god. Should everything occupy its correct position and this great chain be maintained, humanity would perceivably flourish and reach its true potential. Rebellion against this however, would allow misery to encapsulate mankind. Order during the renaissance, is the source of all virtues. ’This era was guided by an ideal of human totality, of trying to develop all sides of human nature harmoniously’’(Paul A. Cantor, Shakespeare; Hamlet, 15). Historical figures within the era celebrated this ideal of synthesizing all the humane values of understanding, benevolence, compassion, fortitude, judgement and eloquence. The latter, considered being the most important quality to possess. Attaining all of these traits would generate a ‘renaissance man’ or ideal man, adroit in all areas of human endeavor. The influence of this is depicted in the most famous Shakespearean texts King Lear and Hamlet, as ultimately these tragedies ‘arise out of a shattering of the renaissance ideal of totality’ (Paul A. Cantor, Shakespeare; Hamlet, 16). In each of the two texts the hierarchical structure is rebelled against with disastrous consequences. In the hypothesis of the great chain of being, everything conceivable in the universe has its own divine location. It is arranged as thus; stars, planets, earth, stones, plants, animals, man, angels, archangels, god, with inanimate objects situated at the bottom and animate objects at the top. Within each of these categories there is a specific hierarchical location for every type of entity within the category, e.g. the lion is at the apex of the animal chain, while a diamond is at the top of...
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