The Renaissance period was that of the rebirth of old values as well as the formation of new cultural and intellectual ideals. These novel ideas shaped the standards and outlooks of European society in many ways. Several of these ways included new tendencies towards secularism, humanism, and classicism. Through famous political writings and literature of the time, such as Oration on the Dignity of Man by Pico della Mirandola, The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli, The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, and The Abbot and the Learned Woman by Desiderius Eramus, it is clear to see secularism, humanism, and classicism exemplified.
During the times of Medieval Europe the church was a dominating force and all writing as well as art focused on religious themes. However, during the Renaissance times, secularism became a common mind set. Secularism is the act of ignoring religion. Through literature, ideas that had nothing to do with the church began to be discussed. In Machiavelli’s The Prince, secular events such as one that led a man to be “beheaded and exposed in the market place of Cesena with a block and bloody axe by his side” are accounted (Machiavelli, 345). This exemplifies secularism as not only does this event ignore the religious view that “thou shalt not murder,” but it praises such acts as this event was characterized as a, “savage spectacle that at once astounded and satisfied the populace” (Machiavelli, 345). Additionally, subtle criticism of the church is another form secularism can take. In Erasmus’ The Abbot and the Learned Woman an argument between a church monastery official and a common woman takes place. In this argument the church official states that, “women are safer from priests if they don’t know Latin” (Erasmus, 260). This statement that, “gives authority to wickedness,” implies that priests and women commit sexual acts, condoning priests of the time as they were forbidden to take part in such secular acts.
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