Analysis of Individualism During Renaissance: Critical Essay

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The Renaissance had an influence on many famous works of art and literature. Modernity and the Renaissance caused a rebirth and increase of individualism alongside an intellectual movement. Two literature pieces that were influenced include the work of Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince and Martin Luther’s, Address to The Nobility of the German Nation; as well as the following works of art: Pieter Bruege’s, Massacre of the Innocents.

First off, Machiavelli’s The Prince was considered one of the first works of modern political philosophy. Machiavelli himself had an informal education and a middle-class background. During the Italian Renaissance is when he wrote The Prince, in order to regain political prestige. He made this text like a handbook for new princes taking power. As stated, “for even whilst you exercise it you lose the power to do so, and so become either poor or despised or else, in avoiding poverty, rapacious and hated. And a prince should guard himself, above all things … Therefore, it is wiser to have a reputation for meanness which brings reproach without hatred,” (Machiavelli). The focus for princes, such as survival and glory, can justify the use of immoral means to achieve such ends. Reputation is important for a prince. The spark of the Renaissance allowed Machiavelli to put out a piece of literature that may have been seen as controversial to people; as well as Martin Luther’s work.

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As a further matter, also during the Renaissance, Luther realized the many illegitimate acts of the church and began work on his 95 theses as to why the religious ideology was corrupt. A goal of his was to shed light to the public on what was really happening behind the church’s doors, which added to this movement. According to section B, The Second Wall, “No one may interpret the Scriptures but the Pope. The second wall is even more tottering and weak: they alone pretend to be considered masters of the Scriptures; although they learn nothing of them all their life. They assume authority,” (Luther). He believed the Popes didn’t have as much power as they wanted everyone to think. Additionally, Luther’s protests started creating spin-offs of what those specific people thought was the one true way to worship God. For example, Anabaptists, Methodists, and Quakers. In Short, he who didn’t follow that religion was thought to go to hell. This of course led to fighting and years of religious mayhem followed. What started as a doctrinal dispute, turned into a social revolt. This same concept can be seen in many different artworks.

In Pieter Bruege’s, Massacre of the Innocents, the painting looks exactly what the title entails. A group of townspeople is invaded and threatened by an army of soldiers. Looking at the church in the background of the painting there is a soldier guarding a bridge, and he is most likely there to kill anyone who tries to escape from the massacre. To the middle left, there is another soldier casually urinating on the wall of that building. This shows that he is humble and confident about what his group has been sent there to do. In the foreground, there are two soldiers sitting on their horses and looking to be having a pleasant conversation. Meanwhile, there is a local man pleading and bowing down alongside the horse. In the middle, there is a tight group of soldiers and it shows several of them are killing what looks to be animals. There are a number of innocent townspeople shown in the middle of the painting who are praying while the madness continues around them. This piece also contributes to the Renaissance movement which may have been seen as contentious.

In conclusion, the Renaissance gave freedom to challenge the social norms in this period of time. Religion and religious views can be seen in all three examples of how the Renaissance was an influence. The increase in individualism can be read and shown through many different pieces of literature and artwork. These include Niccolò Machiavelli’s, The Prince, Martin Luther’s, Address to The Nobility of the German Nation and Pieter Bruege’s, Massacre of the Innocents.

Works Cited

  1. Bruegel, Pieter. Massacre of the Innocents (1565–67) file:///C:/Users/MicrosoftEdge_8wekyb3d8bbwe/TempState/Downloads/ch202_wk1_CR 2_image2_fa15 (1).pdf.
  2. Luther, Martin. Address to The Nobility of the German Nation, 1520. https://ares.library.unr.edu/ares/ares.dll?Action=10&Type=10&Value=129946.
  3. Machiavelli, Niccolò. The Prince, pp. Chapter IX-Chapter IX, file:///C:/Users/MicrosoftEdge_ 8wekyb3d8bbwe /TempState/Downloads/wk1_machiavelli (1).pdf.
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