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Renaissance DBQ

By Heather Mahe and Tiana Pirtle


The following question is based on the accompanying Documents 1-12. (Some of the documents have been edited for the pupose of this exercise.) Write your answer on the lined pages of the Section II free-response booklet.

This question is designed to test your ability to work with and understand historical documents. Write an essay that:
• Has revelent thesis and supports that thesis with evidence from the documents.
• Uses a majority of the documents.
• Analyzes the documents by grouping them in as many approprite ways as possible.Does not simply summerize the documents individually.
You may refer to relevent histprical information not metioned in the documents.

QUESTION: The Renaissance completely revolutionized European life, effecting various aspects such as the art, science, and ideology of the time. Each of these aspects were deeply interconnected with each other. Assess the validity of this statement.


Humanism became popular during the Renaissance. A humanist is a person who studied the classics, Greek and Roman works. They believed that by studying the classics, they could better understand human nature. Humanists thought human values were more important than religious ones, even though they were devoutly religious.

During the renaissance, art became much more life like. The artists used perspective and realism in the paintings to give them depth. Artists glorified individualism rather than spiritual idealism. They depicted the human body in a more scientific manner.

Science flowered during the renaissance. It became much more accepted. Many new invetions were created and many new discoveries occured.

Document 1

       "Is it better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but it is much safer to be feared than loved when one of the two much be chosen. . . .In general (men) are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowards, covetous. As long as you succeed, they are your entirely . . .Men have fewer scruples (principles) in offending (going against) one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which. . .is broken at every opportunity, but fear preserved you by a dread of punishment that never fails.

You must know there are two methods of fighting, the one by law, the other by force; the first method is of men, the second of beasts; but because the first is frequently not sufficient, one must have recourse to the second. Therefore it is necessary for a prince to understand how to use the methods of the beast and the man . . .
      A prince . . . ought to choose the fox and the lion; because the lion cannot defend himself against traps and the fox cannot defend himself against wolves. Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the traps and a lion to terrify the wolves. Those who rely simply on the lion do not understand this."

Source: The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli (1513)


Document 2

Source: Celestial Models of heliocentric theory, Nicholas Copernicus (1514)

Document 3

Source: Vitruvian Man, Da Vinci

Document 4

Source: David, Michealangelo (1504)

Document 5

          "You are now devoted to God and the church: on which account you ought to aim at being a good ecclesiastic, and to shew that you prefer the honor and state of the church and of the apostolic see to every other consideration. Nor, while you keep this in view, will it be difficult for you to favor your family and your native place. On the contrary, you should be the link to bind this city closer to the church, and our family with the city; and although it be impossible to foresee what accidents may happen, yet I doubt not but this may be done with equal advantage to all: observing, however, that you are always to prefer the interests of the church."

Source: Letter written by Lorenzo D'Medici to his son

Document 6

          Source: The Birth of Venus, Botticelli (1485)


Document 7

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle's compass come:

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Source: Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare

Document 8

"His genius was so versatile that you might almost judge all the fine arts to be his... He played ball, hurled the javelin, ran, leaped, wrestled, and above all delighted in the steep ascent of mountains... He learned music without teachers and his compositions were approved by learned musicians... When he had begun to mature in years, neglecting everything else, he devoted himself entirely to the study of letters, and spent some years of labor on canon and civil law... At the age of twenty-four he turned to physics and the mathematical arts... Thus showing by example that men can do anything with themselves if they will..."

Source: Self Portrait of a Universal Man, Alberti

Document 9

Source: Telescope: invented during the Renaissance

Document 10


Source: A: Astrolabe attributed to Johann Anton Linden (1583)

B: Astrolabe from workshop of Jean Fusoris? (1450)

C:Astrolabe signed by Gillis Coignet (1560)


Document 11

Source: Printing Press, Guttenburg (1436)

Document 12

"Anatomy should be recalled from the dead, so that if it did not achieve with us a greater perfection that at any other place or time among the old teachers of anatomy, it might at least reach such a point that one could with confidence assert that our modern science of anatomy was equal to that of old, and that in this age anatomy was unique both in the level to which it had sunk and in the completeness of its subsequent restoration."

De Fabrica, Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564)



The Renaissance was an age of adventure and curiosity. People became fascinated with the world around them and were determined to express it. This time period completely revolutionized European life, effecting many various aspects such as art, science, and the ideology of the times, which all were interconnected.

Art changed drastically during the Renaissance. It became a way of self-expression rather than simply a career or a way to glorify God. Artists glorified the individual instead. Whereas medieval artists limited themselves to religious themes. The renaissance artist favored portraits, landscapes, and paintings depicting the common life of the people. Math and science were used to achieve the correct proportions of the human body in the paintings and sculptors, as can be seen in Michealangelo’s David (Doc4). Painters used perspective and depth to give their pictures a life-like quality. The humanist’s ideas can also be seen in the artwork of the Renaissance. Botticelli uses a Greek myth in his painting The Birth of Venus (Doc 6). Literature also changed. Writings had an individual personality. Essays and biographies on spiritual writing were favored. Sonnets became very prevailent as well. Love became a very popular theme, which is evident in Shakespeare’s sonnet about love (Doc 8). Authors such as Dante, Boccaccio, astiglione, Cerventes, Sir Thomas More, and Machiavelli dominated the literature of this era.

The Renaissance spirit of curiosity and exploration was the driving force behind the scientific revolution of the Renaissance. Inventions such as the telescope (Doc 10), which revolutionized astrology and the astrolabe (Doc 7) which helped sailors navigate by determining the altitude of the sun and other celestial bodies. The invention of the printing press (Doc 11) allowed for the distribution of literature, making it much more popular and much more available. Scientist like Andreas Vesalius (Doc 12) and Leonardo DaVinci dissected cadavers in order to study how the human body worked; DaVinci’s studies can be seen in his Vitruvian Man (Doc 3). Copernicus studied the skies and made the discovery that the Earth revolved around the sun(heliocentric theory) rather than the previously believed geocentric theory (Doc2). Humanism had a great impact on science. The humanist movement made old scientific writings from the Greeks and Romans available.

The ideology of the Renaissance was radically different from that of the medieval times. Men began to think of themselves as glorified individuals rather than an anonymous group philosophy. They also became fascinated with every aspect of human life. They took immense pride in their own achievements and began judging others by talent and worth rather than birth. This emphasis on man created the philosophy called humanism. Humanists studied grammar, history, ethics, poetry, and rhetoric. Humanists studied the classics, Greek and Roman works. They believed that by studying the ancient classics, they could better understand human nature. Humanists glorified the “renaissance man,” a man who had multiple talents and educated intellectually, physically, and morally, like the man described in Alberti’s Self Portrait of a Universal Man (Doc 9).

The politics during the Renaissance were very ruthless, which can be seen in Doc 1, an excerpt from Machiavelli’s The Prince. The belief was that it was better to be feared than to be loved, and to be a devious as possible to keep power. The families in power were also very shrewd, constantly making connections to expand their power, for example Lorenzo Medici’s letter to his son (Doc 5) in which he explains how they must bond together to be more powerful.

The Renaissance was a time of change, a change that brought Europe out of the dark ages and into a new era of technology and knowledge.


Alexander VI - (1492-1503) Corrupt Spanish pope. He was aided militarily and politically by his son Cesare Borgia, who was the hero of The Prince.

Dante Alighieri - Italian poet wrote Inferno and Divine Comedy.

Boccaccio - (1313-1375) Wrote the Decameron which tells about ambitious merchants, portrays a sensual, and worldly society.

Botticelli - One of the leading painters of the Florentine renaissance, developed a highly personal style. The Birth of Venus

Brunelleschi - (1377-1446) Italian architect, celebrated for work during Florentine Renaissance. He was anti-Gothic. Foundling Hospital in Florence.

Michalangelo Buonarroti - (1475-1564) Worked in Rome. Painted the Sistine Chapel. Sculpted the statue of David.

Castiglione - Wrote The Courtier which was about education and manners and had a great influence. It said that an upper class, educated man should know many academic subjects and should be trained in music, dance, and art.

Leonardo Da Vinci - (1452-1519) Artist who made religious paintings and sculptures like the Last Supper.

Lorenzo de Medici - r(1469-1492) The Medici’s were a great banking family in Florence in the 15th century. Ruled government of Florence from behind the scene.

Miguel De Cervantes - (1547-1616) Spanish writer. Wrote Don Quixote.

Pico Della Mirandola - Wrote On the Dignity of Man which stated that man was made in the image of God before the fall and as Christ after the Resurrection. Man is placed in-between beasts and the angels. He also believed that there is no limits to what man can accomplish.

Donatello - (1386-1466) Sculptor. Probably exerted greatest influence of any Florentine artist before Michelangelo. His statues expressed an appreciation of the incredible variety of human nature.

Erasmus - (1466?-1536) Dutch Humanist, religious education. Wrote Praise of Folly.

Giotto - (1276-1337) Florentine Painter who led the way in the use of realism.

Hans Holbein the Younger - Painter noted for his portraits and religious paintings.

Humanism - Studied the Latin classics to learn what they reveal about human nature. Emphasized human beings, their achievements, interests, and capabilities.

Individualism - Individualism stressed personality, uniqueness, genius, and the fullest development of capabilities and talents.

Julius II - r(1503-1513) Pope - very militaristic. Tore down the old Saint Peter’s Basilica and began work on the present structure in 1506.

Niccolo Machiavelli - (1469-1527) Wrote The Prince which contained a secular method of ruling a country. "End justifies the means."

Montaigne - (1533-1592) The finest representative of early modern skepticism. Created a new genre, the essay.

Sir Thomas More - (1478-1535) Englishman, lawyer, politician, Chancellor for Henry VIII. Wrote Utopia which presented a revolutionary view of society. Executed for not compromising his religious beliefs.

"New Monarchs" - Monarchies that took measures to limit the power of the Roman Catholic Church within their countries.

Petrarch - (1304-1374) Father of the Renaissance. He believed the first two centuries of the Roman Empire to represent the peak in the development of human civilization.

Rabelais - French satirical author.Gargantua and Pantagruel.

"Renaissance Man" - A man that is multitalented and is well educated.

Revival of antiquity - The awakening from the dark ages and the focusing on the Roman’s.

Secularism - The belief in material things instead of religious things.

Lorenzo Valla - (1406-1457) On Pleasure, and On false Donation of Constantine. Father of modern historical criticism.

Vernacular - Everyday language of a specific nation.

Virtu - The striving for excellence. Humanistic aspect of Renaissance.