Renaissance Figures Speak for Themselves
Please read the following quotes and find three examples that are evidence for the
importance of humanism, individualism, and classicalism in the Renaissance. Write
the quotes on another sheet of paper.
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (from Oration on the Dignity of Man):
God therefore took Man, and addressed him thus: . . ."The nature of all other beings is
limited and constrained within the bounds of laws prescribed by Us. Thou, constrained
by no limits, in accordance with thine own free will, in whose hand we have placed thee,
shall ordain for thyself the limits of thy nature. . . . with freedom of choice and with
honor, as though the maker and molder of thyself, thou mayest fashion thyself in
whatever shape thou shalt prefer. Thou shalt have the power to degenerate into the lower
forms of life, which are brutish. Thou shalt have the power, out of thy soul's judgement,
to be reborn into the higher forms, which are divine."
I dwelt especially on antiquity, for our own age always repelled me. I should have
preferred to have been born in any other period than our own.
What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form
and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the
paragon of animals! And yet to me what is this quintessence of
dust? Man delights not me- no, nor woman neither, though by your
smiling you seem to say so.
--From Hamlet (II, ii, 115-117)
Baldassare Castiglione (from The Courtier):
Besides his noble birth, I would have the Courtier endowed by nature not only with talent
and beauty of person and feature, but with a certain grace and air that shall make him at
first sight pleasing.
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.
Niccolo Machiavelli (fromThe Prince):
Generally speaking, one can say the following about men: they are ungrateful,
inconsistent, feigners and dissimulators, avoiders of danger, eager for gain, and whilst it
profits them they are all yours. They will offer you their blood, their property, their life
and their offspring when your need for them is remote. But when your needs are pressing,
they turn away. The prince who depends entirely on their words perishes when he finds
he has not taken any other precautions. This is because friendships purchased with money
and not by greatness and nobility of spirit are paid for, but not collected, and when you
need them they cannot be used.
Leon Battista Alberti:
With the forethought that we are mortal, and that every adversity can befall us, let us do
what the wise have so highly praised: let us work so that past and present will contribute
to the times that have not yet come. . . And we, brought into life like a ship which is not
meant to rot in port but to furrow long paths in the sea, we tend by our work to some
praiseworthy and glorious end.
To you (man), is given a body more graceful than other animals, to you power of apt and
various movements, to you most sharp and delicate senses, to you wit, reason, memory
like an immortal god. A man can do all things if he will.
Laura Cereta (from her letter to Bibolo Semproni):
May we women, then, not be endowed by God the grantor with any giftedness or rare
talent through any sanctity of our own. Nature has granted to all enough of her bounty;
she opens to all the gates of choice, and through these gates, reason sends legates to the
will, for it is through reason that these legates transmit desires. I shall make a bold
summary of the matter. Yours is the authority, ours is the inborn ability. But instead of
manly strength, we women are naturally endowed with cunning, instead of a sense of
security, we are naturally suspicious.
Lorenzo di Medici
Whoever wants to be happy, let him be so: about tomorrow, there is no knowing.
Michel de Montaigne:
Man in truth is a marvelous, vain, fickle, and unstable subject.
*That Men by various Ways arrive at the same End. Book i. Chapter i.
A wise man never loses anything, if he has himself. *Of Solitude. Chapter xxxviii..
Miguel de Cervantes:
The brave man carves out his fortune, and every man is the son of his own words.
*Don Quixote. Chapter iv.
Can we ever have too much of a good thing?
*Don Quixote. Chapter vi.