The definition of Renaissance man, a definition based on a balance of intelligence and artistry, is found in many influential people from George Washington to Maya Angelou.
However, in the time of Hamlet, to be a Renaissance man was to live up to the characteristics of the gods.
After reading Shakespeare's Hamlet, students use visual and literary tools to identify, analyze, and explain how elements in Botticelli's painting The Birth of Venus and examples from the play illustrate the philosophy of Renaissance Humanism. Students analyze Botticelli's painting by sketching it and then taking notes in relation to specific elements in the painting. Next, students explore how literary elements in Hamlet reflect Renaissance Humanism. Finally, students explain in writing how the elements in The Birth of Venus and Hamlet establish them as examples of Renaissance Humanism. While this lesson focuses on Hamlet in its examples, any Shakespearean play could be substituted for the analysis.
(All of this isgood Renaissance thought, and familiar from many times and places -- andI hope you've felt this as well.) Now he has lost his ability to derive enjoyment, though he knows the earth, sky, and people should stillseem wonderful.
Based on their investigation of Renaissance Humanism in Hamlet and The Birth of Venus, ask students to write an essay that identifies, analyzes, and explains how two elements from The Birth of Venus and two examples from The Tragedy of Hamlet reflect a characteristic of Renaissance Humanism. Share the and/or the before students begin so that they can monitor their own progress as they work. Students can write formal papers or complete this activity in their journals. You can use the as a grading sheet, if desired. For more formal assessment, use the .
As an alternate assessment, you can ask students to write a letter from Shakespeare to Botticelli (or vice versa) complimenting him on how their two works are similar.
An opposing aspect of the Renaissance is
, which proposes that human existence in fact has no meaning and thus there is no real purpose to life.
Renaissance and Hamlet as a Renaissance Man
14th to 17th century
Time and again this course has brought me back to William Shakespeares Hamlet, and the challenge here is irresistable: to demonstrate how this play assists an understanding of the ideology of the society of the Renaissance, with reference to Italy.
The story is set in Denmark, the author is English, and so perhaps the ideology is more generally European than specifically Italian; but that generality does not preclude the plays bearing on the Italian Renaissance, especially when it is remembered that the general Renaissance sprang from and leant on the Italian one.
Because of the constraints of word limit, this essay will confine its exploration to the character of Hamlet himself to exemplify the plays reflection of the Italian Renaissance.
Hamlet displays the ideals of the Renaissance through his indecisiveness and uncertainty much like the Catholics who questioned their religious beliefs.
The end of this quote also indicates Hamlets very human problem and a very real consideration for the humanists and humanistically trained public men of the Renaissance.
In attempting to do this he actually applies the respected Renaissance quality of prudence, which is why Hamlet is often accused of indeed thinking too precisely on the event.
There are six characteristics of a Renaissance Man:
Intelligence- a deep think and a highly analytical and developed brain
Knowledgeable- absorb information easily and have knowledge in a wide variety of fields
Artistic- can either sing, play an instrument, write, paint, sculpt, dance, or express themselves in some way through fine arts
Physical- in good physical shape
Social- have excellent social skills and have strong relationships
Cool- smooth and sophisticated
A Renaissance man does not have to fit all of these characteristics but ideally does.
~Like Father Like Son~
It is evident that the characteristics of a Renaissance man are the characteristics of a god; a king, the supposed messenger of god, strives to embody these characteristics of a Renaissance man.
Hamlet sees the good and bad in people and the futility in being "perfect" like the gods; he realizes that people should stop comparing themselves to gods and instead live to better humanity.
Hamlet, the Renaissance Man
Lillian Dukes, Ashlyn Sasser, and Arfa Ul-Haque
While Hamlet himself is his own budding Renaissance man, his true inspiration, as does his motive for revenge, comes from his father.
Maynard Mack expands upon this idea by saying, "The conjunction of Hyperion with Jove, Mars with Mercury, makes old Hamlet a true Renaissance ideal, displaying a perfect balance of virtues--and indeed the seal of every god" (79).