What were the major characteristics of the Italian Renaissance?

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During the late 14th century and into the 15th century, Italy emerged from the Dark Ages into a period of rebirth, referred to as the Renaissance. One of the characteristics of this age was renewed interested in classical texts from Greek and Roman antiquity. From these texts, Renaissance thinkers renewed...

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During the late 14th century and into the 15th century, Italy emerged from the Dark Ages into a period of rebirth, referred to as the Renaissance. One of the characteristics of this age was renewed interested in classical texts from Greek and Roman antiquity. From these texts, Renaissance thinkers renewed their interest in humanism, or the importance of humans in the world. The belief in humanism affected many fields, including art, which began to focus on the beauty of the human form.

Humanism led to another characteristic of the Renaissance— questioning religion. As thinkers began to conduct scientific inquiries using observation and investigation, technology began to develop. In addition, Renaissance figures such as the artist Leonardo Da Vinci studied the human form and produced detailed studies of human anatomy that were important to medicine. Da Vinci was, in fact, the true Renaissance man—a term we use today to describe people who are good at a number of fields and who are motivated by an interest in everything that is human. 

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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!!

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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

 
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