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The northern Renaissance was the revival of art, literature, and learning in France, Germany, England, and the Netherlands. This movement began when European artists and scholars who had studied in Italy took new ideas back to their home countries. The spreading of Renaissance ideals was also facilitated when German inventor Johannes Gutenberg (between 1390 and 1400–1468) developed the printing press, making essays, treatises, and literature available throughout Europe. Among the most famous writers of the northern Renaissance is the Dutch humanist Disiderius Erasmus (1466–1536). In his book In Praise of Folly (1509) Erasmus harshly criticized Roman Catholic clergymen, scholars, and philosophers. Englishman Thomas More (1478–1535), a statesman and adviser to King Henry VIII (1491–1547), was also critical of the times, yet he remained faithful to the Roman Catholic Church. In his treatise Utopia (1516) More presented a vision of an ideal society in which men and women are treated equally, land is owned communally, politicians are honest, and religious tolerance is commonplace.
In the realm of the fine arts, Dutch painter Pieter Brueghel (c.1520–1569) gained fame for his lively and humorous paintings of everyday life that presented moral messages. German painter Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) made detailed paintings of plants and animals, as well numerous prints that exhibit masterful use of detail (achieving fine details is difficult in printmaking). Great literature was also produced during the northern Renaissance. English dramatist and poet William Shakespeare (1564–1616) wrote tragedies, comedies, and sonnets (types of poems) that many view as a culmination of Renaissance writing. Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616) is credited with inventing the modern novel with his masterpiece Don Quixote (1605).
Further Information: Corrick, James A. The Renaissance. San Diego: Lucent, 1997; Halsall, Paul, ed. Internet Medieval Sourcebook. [Online] Available http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.html, October 20, 2000; Netzley, Patricia D. Life during the Renaissance. San Diego: Lucent, 1998; Sheaver, Cynthia A. The Greenleaf Guide to Famous Men of the Renaissance and Reformation. Lebanon, Tenn.: Greenleaf Press, 1996; Vernon, Louise A. Ink on His Fingers: The Life of Johannes Gutenberg. Lebanon, Tenn.: Greenleaf Press, 1993; Vernon, Louise A. The Man Who Laid the Egg: The Life of Desiderius Erasmus. Lebanon, Tenn.: Greenleaf Press, 1995; Walker, Paul R. The Italian Renaissance. New York: Facts On File, 1995. The Play's the Thing: A Story about William Shakespeare. Minneapolis, Minn.: Lerner, 1997.
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