The Renaissance, a period of expanding knowledge in the arts and sciences, is considered to be a bridge from the Middle Ages to the modern era. Beginning in Italy in the fourteenth century, it spread to northern Europe in the late fifteenth century. The word means “rebirth” in its Italian form (
The first person many historians identify as embodying the Renaissance spirit is poet Dante Alighieri (Florence, 1265–1321), famous for
Petrarch (full name Francesco Petrarca; 1304–1374), educated in the law but more interested in literature and writing, is considered, with Dante, a major early figure in the Renaissance and the father of the term “Dark Ages” to describe the period after the fall of Rome. He was named the first poet laureate of Rome since antiquity, and also worked as a diplomat.
During the Renaissance, new breakthroughs also occurred in architecture and, most notably, in sculpture and painting. Some believe that much of the innovation was spurred by the patronage of the De Medicis of Florence, whose money inspired new heights of creativity. Probably the most famous Florentine painter, among many, is Leonardo da Vinci, whose
In England, the Elizabethan-era Renaissance produced William Shakespeare, John Milton, Christopher Marlowe, and Edmund Spenser, all writers and playwrights. Albert Durer, Pieter Bruegels, and van Eycks are also Renaissance painters who worked in the northern European Renaissance.
In science, the Renaissance was led by Kepler, Galileo, Nicolaus Copernicus, Sir Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton.