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I think the biggest characteristic of the Renaissance to highlight is the emphasis on humanism. Humanism (very simplified) is the belief that humans have potential and are valuable - versus the previous era's belief that the afterlife was the only real important thing. Humanism placed much emphasis on reason instead of relying strictly on the church for explanations. This is best exemplified by Da Vinci's sketches of the human body... instead of just relying on the church to explain how the human body works, he took it upon himself (embodying the humanist spirit) to dissect and explore the human body... he was accused of necromancy (worshipping the dead) because of it!!
Hmm. The major characteristics of the Italian Renaissance? A big question. I'd say the following:
1) A rediscovery of classical learning (that's the re-birth of the name)
2) An emergence of humanist attitudes
3) An infusion of sciences, some of which were original and some of which came through trade (such as with Islamic scholars)
4) An explosion of the arts. (Think Michelangelo and da Vinci.)5) Within Italy, a focus on active politics, include city-state politics6) A collapse of older medieval society, in part due to the Black Plague
The Italian Renaissance was an era that saw scholars rediscovering the Classical culture of Greece and Rome and seeking critical engagement with these sources of “civilisation”. It is also duly noted as an age of rebirth as the study of the humanities regained its importance in society with individuals seeking to recreate themselves as virtuous and wise citizens through education. The idea of humanism thus thrived during this period. Many intellectuals and artists also raised fundamental questions about the importance of the individual in society and expressed a rising confidence in the value of human agency, reason and experience in academic and artistic works. Many of the best art pieces were also produced during this period where artistic brilliance flourished.
The major characteristics of the Italian Renaissance was in the form of the influence of literature. It helped set the stage for the grand period . Many books and plays are produced during that time. Humanism was also the main talking point of that era. Humanism is a philosophical term, used to picture man as a rational and sentimental human being, meaning that human life is very precious, meaning Man are good by nature, contradicting terms in Christian faith that Man are sinners, which need salvation and redemption from his past sins, to get eternal life, and not plunge into the fiery pits of Hell. It goes beyond Christianity, questioning beyond God, the Holy Spirit and spiritual life, and provide new insight into reality as we know it. There was also a great infusion of science, most notably Leornado Dan Vinci, and Galieo, whom brought science into life. Lastly, architecture was also very common during that period, where famous monuments like the St. Peter's Basilica was constructed.
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