Source 1

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Renaissance Sources – Scholars and Thinkers
Source 1: Quotes from Desiderius Erasmus (one of the first major humanists)
1. “Only by the good influence of our conduct may we bring salvation in human affairs; or like a fatal
comet we may bring destruction in our train.”
2. “By a Carpenter mankind was made, and only by that Carpenter can mankind be remade.”
3. “Now I believe I can hear the philosophers protesting that it can only be misery to live in folly, illusion,
deception and ignorance, but it isn't --it's human.”
Source 2: Excerpt from Utopia, Book 2 by Thomas Moore
Beside agriculture, so common to them, every man hath some peculiar trade, as the manufacture of
wool or flax, masonry, smith's or carpenter's work. No other trade is in great esteem among them.
Throughout the island they wear one sort of clothes, without any other distinction than what is necessary
for different sexes, and the married and unmarried. The fashion, never changes, is easy and agreeable,
suited to the climate, and for summer as well as winter.
Every family maketh clothes for itself; and women as well as men all learn some one of the trades
before mentioned. The women generally engage in the wool and flax, leaving the ruder trades to the men.
One trade is generally followed by father and son, their inclinations often agreeing. But if any man's
genius pointeth another way, he is adopted into a family professing the trade he prefers, and care is taken
by his father and by the magistrate that his master be a proper person. If, when one hath learned a certain
trade, he desire to acquire another, that is also allowed, and is managed as before. And when he hath
learned both, he follows that which he prefers, unless the public hath more occasion for one than the
other.
Source 3: Information on Francesco Petrarch
Petrarch is most readily remembered as a lyric poet, the author of 366 poems collected in his Canzoniere
or song book. It would be difficult to imagine the fate of the sonnet, even for Shakespeare, without the
masterful examples of Petrarch’s poems about the love of his life, Laura. Petrarch’s other major collection
of poetry, the Trionfi, takes the poet from his intense worldly love for Laura, joined by loves and lovers
throughout the ages, to the contemplation of the successive victories of Love, Chastity, Death, Fame,
Time, and Eternity. The poet becomes the moralist and philosopher who searches for meaning, as life
passes from one stage to the next. Beyond earthly bonds, Petrarch envisions eternal bliss, but not one
without his great love.
Not only was Petrarch a poet, philosopher, and moralist, he was above all a scholar of exceptional
intellectual curiosity and competence. Beginning as a child, he dedicated his life passionately to the
pursuit of knowledge, especially from the classical world of ancient Greece and Rome. As an adult he
brought the past to life, collecting the words of ancient thinkers and writers and passing them on to later
generations.
Source 4: Soleasi Nel Mio Cor – a sonnet by Francesco Petrarch
She ruled in beauty o'er this heart of mine,
A noble lady in a humble home,
And now her time for heavenly bliss has come,
'Tis I am mortal proved, and she divine.
The soul that all its blessings must resign,
And love whose light no more on earth finds room,
Might rend the rocks with pity for their doom,
Yet none their sorrows can in words enshrine;
They weep within my heart; and ears are deaf
Save mine alone, and I am crushed with care,
And naught remains to me save mournful breath.
Assuredly but dust and shade we are,
Assuredly desire is blind and brief,
Assuredly its hope but ends in death.
Source 5: The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
Concerning Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether it is Better to be Loved than Feared
Upon this a question arises: whether it is better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be
answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is
much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with. Because this is to be
asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you
successed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, as is said
above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you. And that prince who,
relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined; because friendships that are
obtained by payments, and not by nobility or greatness of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not
secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is
beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the
baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserved you by a dread of
punishment which never fails.
Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred;
because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated, which will always be as long as he
abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects and from their women.
(From: Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, ed. W. K. Marriott. London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1908, pp.
117-118, 129-131.)
Source 6: Information from the History Channel on Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was a painter, architect, inventor, and student of all things scientific. His
natural genius crossed so many disciplines that he epitomized the term “Renaissance man.” Today he
remains best known for his art, including two paintings that remain among the world’s most famous and
admired, Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Art, da Vinci believed, was indisputably connected with
science and nature. Largely self-educated, he filled dozens of secret notebooks with inventions,
observations and theories about pursuits from aeronautics to anatomy. But the rest of the world was just
beginning to share knowledge in books made with moveable type, and the concepts expressed in his
notebooks were often difficult to interpret. As a result, though he was lauded in his time as a great artist,
his contemporaries often did not fully appreciate his genius—the combination of intellect and imagination
that allowed him to create, at least on paper, such inventions as the bicycle, the helicopter and an airplane
based on the physiology and flying capability of a bat.
Source 7: Information on Michelangelo from historychannel.com
Michelangelo (1475-1564) was a sculptor, painter and architect widely considered to be one of the
greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance period—and arguably of all time. His work demonstrated a
blend of psychological insight, physical realism and intensity never before seen. His contemporaries
recognized his extraordinary talent, and Michelangelo received commissions from some of the most
wealthy and powerful men of his day, including popes and others affiliated with the Catholic Church. His
resulting work, most notably his Pietà and David sculptures and Sistine Chapel ceiling paintings, has been
carefully tended and preserved, ensuring that future generations would be able to view and appreciate
Michelangelo’s genius. Michelangelo made a career from painting and sculpting the human figure. While
most, if not all, Renaissance artists depicted the human form, Michelangelo specialized in such a way that
there are few surviving examples of landscape, still life, or any imagery by his hand that doesn’t
emphasize the human body as its principal, if not only, concern.
Source 8: William Shakespeare Sonnet 18 – “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?”
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Questions for “Scholars and Thinkers” Packet
Source 1: Using all three quotes by Erasmus, explain whether he views humans and human nature as
perfect or flawed.
Source 2: In your own words, describe what Thomas Moore is saying. Does his thoughts conflict with the
idea of individualism that is at the center of the Renaissance?
Source 3: Using the information in source 3, explain why Petrarch is considered a Humanist and someone
who promotes individualism during the Renaissance.
Source 4: In the sonnet, what or who do you think Petrarch is talking about? Explain.
Source 5: How does Machiavelli view men? Also, is it better to be feared than loved according to him?
Source 6: Why is Da Vinci considered a “Renaissance Man” and what were some of his inventions?
Source 7: How did Michelangelo’s work relate to the Renaissance and the concept of Humanism?
Source 8: Would you consider Shakespeare’s sonnet to be secular or religious? Explain.
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