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The Renaissance
The dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi on top of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, one of the first examples of Renaissance architecture.

"The Renaissance was a load of bloody Italians poncing around claiming to be the golden age of the Greeks come round again.''

A reawakening of Europe to the arts and sciences. This era took many distinct forms depending on decade and geographic location. In Hollywood History, The Renaissance is home to Tudor Mansions, Medici Palazzi and Valois Chateaus, William Shakespeare, King Henry the VI and his right wives (or was it King Henry the VIII and his six wives?), Queen Elizabeth I, Mary of Scotland, Charles the V, the Borgias, Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformation, global exploration, Ivan the Terrible, Mogul rajahs, Ming emperors and Sengoku warlords, and Leonardo da Vinci (who spent nearly all of his time painting The Last Supper or the Mona Lisa and working on that damn "code" of his...)

Actually, since "the Renaissance" as an overall historical phenomenon covered about 300 years, roughly between the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the invention of the first steam engine in the 1750s, it can be portrayed in a variety of different ways depending on the exact year or decade. Its essence also tends to vary according to geography, since the great artistic flowering associated therewith began in north-central Italy sometime in the 1300s (with Dante Alighieri, Giotto, etc.) and gradually (sometimes very, very slowly) spread throughout the rest of Europe after that. As a history buff, it can be quite annoying to see that most "Renaissance fairs" select England rather than Italy as their model, since England was slow to receive the Renaissance heritage and was still a fairly barbaric nation during the time of Michelangelo. So your average Renaissance fair in America will as likely as not feature a parade of dirty peasants and noisy farm animals - giving the impression that the Renaissance was a lot more backward than it actually was. Of course, it may also be because some people have a hard time in general telling apart the Renaissance from the Middle Ages aesthetics-wise.

How it all began

Arguably, the snowball began to roll with the birth of Humanism in the 1300s. Allegedly, the avalanche began with a florentine poet, Francesco Petrarch, when he accidentally stumbled upon a box with old roman letters, written by the known roman orator Cicero. Petrarch was, on some level, aware that the contemporary latin, used by the church, needed some kind of revival, because medieval times had corrupted the language. So, Petrarch began to read Cicero`s letters, at first to study the Latin of the classical age, and then to study what Cicero actually wrote about. When he learned that Cicero stressed the point of "humanity" (Humanitatis), the idea of humanism took form, in the head of Petrarch, and of his circle of scholars. The revival of Latin led to the revival of historical science, a more thorough study of history, architecture and art, and then to political dreams and experiments involving a united Italy, a "renaissance" of the Roman age. Thus, a new concept of learning was founded, which led to new science, new political theory, and in turn, a massive upheaval of the medieval society. The pope, puzzled at first, let the humanists struggle on, dumbfounded when he was witness to the excavation of Ancient Rome in his backyard, a little bit frightened when the same humanists began to ask questions around the topics of God and Man, and seriously batshit when the movement in turn led to full religious and social revolution. But then it was too late.

The growing Humanist movement might have changed some ideological perspectives and politics, but had good support from:

  • The fall of Constantinople in 1453, which led to a number of greek scholars fleeing westwards, taking their knowledge with them.
  • Which in turn closed the Silk Route to the east, and led to sailors trying to find another way to China. Cue Columbus, and circumnavigators like Magellan.
  • And then Johannes Gutenberg came along with his printing device, making it easier for people with bright ideas to spread them. Martin Luther was one of the first to use the press for political purposes, with great success.
  • To top it all, new mercantile power led to more use of money, and a breach with the old natural household. Cue Capitalism.

However, unlike the Enlightenment, the Renaissance whether in Italy, or its smaller offshoots in Holland, England, France, Germany and Spain, was the province of intellectual aristocrats and emerging middle-classes, a small minority at best. Protestantism and the Counter-Reformation succeeded in weakening the hold of the Church and brought power to the Royal Courts, but even then it was never a mass movement.

See also: The Renaissance And Industrial Revolution


Popular tropes from this time period are

  • Antiquated Linguistics:
    • Altum Videtur: The choice language of educated scholars of the time since the revived Roman interest.
    • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Well, it's from this time that Early Modern English with thee, thou, yon, etc. originates. Most writers don't really know how to make an actual sentence in Early Modern English.
  • Art Evolution:
    • While medieval art was decent and colourful in terms of the illuminated manuscripts, the Renaissance suddenly went overboard with paintings and sculptures filled with historical, religious and mythological motifs made out of egg yolk, and later oil, that were even more realistic, more detailed and more extravagant. And less clothed. It caused a major scandal all over Europe to see such bold, majestic masterpieces that the patrons and art enthusiasts immediately commissioned famous artists for more.
    • In music, after the monotonous, Latin-packed Ominous Gregorian Chanting stood its places in the churches, suddenly, out of the blue, came an influx of harmoniously vernacular multi-vocal pieces accompanied with harps, trumpets and newly invented instruments such as lutes, organs, keyboards and violins.
  • Corrupt Church: So much worse than before, that a priest named Martin Luther (name does not end with King) sparked a spiritual revolution that will divide Europe in religious conflict for the next century. A major irony noted by many historians is that Luther was protesting the Renaissance itself. The lax Church values and worldly nature led to greater intellectual influence and interest in classical knowledge. The wealth and success of Florence and other city states, led to the The Papal States seeking to assert itself and this made Rome the center of gravity of the Renaissance during the early 1500s. It must be noted that Pope Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope of excess was unusually tolerant in religious matters whereas Luther was a rabid anti-semite.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Henry VIII, Leonardo da Vinci, and Elizabeth I. alone have probably clocked more time in fictions than their combined actual lifetimes. The Borgias are also fairly popular historical domain characters, though subject to villain upgrades.
  • Knight in Shining Armor:
    • For the first few decades of the era, it wasn't uncommon for knights to be employed. However, because of guns and cannons becoming more available to Europeans, wearing heavy, slow, armor became outdated when a simple musket ball would pierce it. In Italy, the Knights were not romantic or "shiny" at all. Many ex-Knights from France and even England (e.g. the famous Sir John Hawkwood) served as brutal Private Military Contractors. Indeed this led to Machiavelli starting the first civilian army of Florence and dreaming of nascent nationalism, only to be crushed by the Medici and the Pope.
    • This era also started to break down the elements of the chivalric knight as a stock character when knights and chivary started to become unpopular due to gunpowder, Machiavellian principles, and some guy who reads too much romances and jousting windmills.
  • Only One Name: Generally used by people who were at the top of their fields; Michelangelo Buonarroti, Palladio, Petrarch etc.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The Middle Ages actually had them rather low key. This is when they started to really get fancied up.
  • Renaissance Man: The Trope Namer. They tended to be more common in reality than fiction produced at the time.
  • War Is Hell: From about 1490 to 1530, Northern Italy was ravaged with war. Mercenaries (Swiss and Spanish) harassed commoners and looted the countryside, and the French and German princes feuded with local Italian princes and the pope for supreme control of Italy. Different cities were sacked, most prominently Prato in 1512 and Rome in 1526. This was at the same that many of the legendary artists like Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael produced their greatest masterpieces.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: It was this era that saw the massive expansion of long-distance sea travel and exploration, and new ship designs such as carracks, caravels and galleons were created for these purposes. It was also around this time that the first true navies in the modern sense emerged. Medieval navies had usually been ad-hoc flotillas of merchant ships pressed into temporary service, with sea battles consisting largely of individual boarding actions. In the 16th century, however, Europe's increasingly centralised national governments started to build dedicated warships outfitted with cannon and gun ports, such as the famous Mary Rose.


Works associated with this time period are:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • The Chibitalia chapters of Axis Powers Hetalia take place here. More specifically, the Chibitalia stories tell of the Holy Roman Empire's involvement and influence on the young Italy. Austria's artistic talent gives Italy the inspiration to develop his art skills, and an appreciation for music. Hungary lent Italy some of her clothes, because it wasn't until he actually matured that ANYONE knew Italy was male. Spain had his own hands busy dealing with Chibiromano (South Italy) and how much of a mean brat he was in comparison to his younger, more talented brother.

    Art 

    Film 

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blackadder, second series
  • Da Vinci's Demons
  • Elizabeth R
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII
  • The Doctor Who episode "The Shakespeare Code" was set here, shortly after the premiere of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, and took remarkable trouble to get their dates right. The Doctor frequently quoted Shakespeare to Shakespeare, causing the playwright to say things like "I might use that," until he quoted Henry V, and got the response of "That's mine!" as it had already been written. Martha was surprised to learn that Shakespeare wasn't bald yet and hadn't written anything about witches yet.
    The Doctor: ... Rage, rage against the dying of the night...
    Shakespeare: I might use that.
    The Doctor: You can't, it's someone else's.
  • The Borgias, a series set in Renaissance Rome around 1500, which follows the schemes of Pope Alexander VI and his family.
  • Leonardo, set in 1467 Florence; a kids' adventure series about a teenaged Leonardo da Vinci.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade, a historical version of Mage: The Ascension, takes place in this period, covering from the early 1400s to the early 1500s.

    Video Games 

The Papal StatesUsefulNotes/ItalyWars of Italian Independence
Arabian Nights DaysHollywood HistoryClock Punk
Ominous Latin ChantingEurope IndexSwashbuckler
RMS TitanicUseful NotesRomanovs And Revolutions
ReichstropenImageSource/PhotographyReptile And Amphibian Tropes

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