• Maria Li

Quick Rundown of Shakespeare's Context: Renaissance Humanism

Renaissance humanism was an intellectual movement which focussed on what it is to be human. Shakespeare both celebrated and practiced its ideals of intellectual freedom through his work.


Some elements of Renaissance Humanism:

  • Venture into non-religious studies - history went beyond Christian history and Christians views were being increasingly questioned.

  • An emphasis on the individual

  • Personal autonomy and individualism

  • Self-inquiry, scrutiny and critical analysis

  • Interest in uncovering what it means to be human

  • Gradual acceptance of secular attempts to understand the natural world

  • Loss of certainty

  • Previously, there was almost unquestioned belief that all human experiences were part of a divine plan

  • However, Renaissance Humanism saw many people beginning to believe in chance and felt that he or she had some control over their daily life.

Prior to Renaissance Humanism, society was governed by the Great Chain of Being which stated that everyone had a specific role and was expected to perform their duty and stay in their fated class. However, Renaissance Humanism preached ideas of individualism which encouraged individuals to self-actualise.


Humanists believed that:

  • Man has potential and many opportunities which God created for us and which we need to make the most out of

  • Man is a rational and sentient being, with the ability for independent thought

  • Man is inherently good by nature

  • Man has control over their daily lives


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