The Renaissance refers to a 'cultural rebirth' which began in Italy in the fourteenth century and quickly spread to the rest of the Western Europe. One of its defining characteristics was the rediscovery of Ancient Greek and Roman ideas through pieces of art and literature that were lost during the Middle Ages.
A second characteristic of the Renaissance is exploration and discovery. This was geographical in nature, as the Renaissance coincided with the European Age of Exploration, and also scientifically, as medieval scholars made discoveries which changed their worldview. Copernicus, for example, proved that the sun is center of our cosmos and not the planets, as older generations had believed.
Finally, a third characteristic of the Renaissance was the idea known as the Great Chain of Being. This is the notion that everything in the universe has its place in a sort-of hierarchical order, with God at the very top. This is evident in pieces of literature, like Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus and in the development of strong political rule in the countries and city states of Europe at this time.