Thursday, June 9, 2011

Interesting Tidbits on the Renaissance Period (14th Century)

The term Renaissance in itself, is defined as a "rebirth" or "reconstruction". During this period of rebirth, humanism played a big factor as artists and musicians alike created works that displayed their individualism and artistic freedom. This creativity allowed for them to abandon the more strict ideals of the Medieval period. They were revered during their own lifetimes versus after their deaths, which made it different from Medieval times. The Renaissance era of music had their own style which reflected a smooth, polyphonic type of music. Even though sacred music remained very important during this time period, secular music was becoming even more popular. During these years, new instruments were being invented also. The lute being favored the most and was considered to be the family standard instrument for music and dancing.

"The Renaissance is a beautiful part of history filled with tales of regal etiquette, grand wealth, incredible artists and inventors, and a lifestyle many could enjoy."  (

This period wasn't all beautiful and did indeed have an ugly side. Cruelty, oppression, poverty and disease, just to name a few. The Bubonic Plague also called "Black Death", was responsible for killing half the world population of Europe! It was very contagious and quickly spread to those that may have been in close contact with one another. To even escape this plague, one had to move from the city into the country, which was easy enough for the wealthy, but the poor impoverished people couldn't do this, so this ended up being their demise. My question is, "Why was the plague so bad in the city and not in the country?" I understand that not too many people would be in the country, at least not as much as in the city and was most likely congested with people. But once the plague was over, the people that survived, could return to the cities. Even with so much death, this time period wasn't helped by their poor economic depression- since half the population died, the merchants didn't have enough customers to even stimulate any type of economic recovery. Sounds depressing doesn't it? So life in these times wasn't all about glamour, gowns, wealth, and grand balls in which to attend; there were rough times as people tried to put their lives back on track and moving on with their lives after so much tragedy. I can't imagine having to deal with multiple family members dying from a disease all at once, especially knowing there wasn't an antidote to aid them in recovering.  

But on the brighter side, with the evolution of this era in Europe, came with it great inventions. Inventions such as the printing press, and an instrument called the astrolabe, which was a portable device used by sailors for navigational purposes; this device measured the relationships between the horizon and the sun and stars to get the latitude coordinates. I guess the GPS I have, has evolved many times over! But returning to the topic of the printing press, most books of this time were owned by Church clergy and were written in Latin.The Latin language was a scholar language and most people couldn't read them. To write a book by hand took an enormous length of time just for one book, let alone writing several. The printing press made reading the books much easier; it was invented by Johann Gutenberg in 1445. It made the writing of books less expensive and the middle class were able to purchase and read them. Books like travel, romance, and poetry were published all over Europe and I imagine literacy wasn't such a problem as it was before. 



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