To what extent do Renaissance texts raise specific problems of reading?

Essay by johngaynerUniversity, Master'sB, May 2004

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To what extent do Renaissance texts raise specific 'problems of reading'?

The Renaissance began in Italy during the early 1300's. It spread to England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and other countries in the late 1400's and ended about 1600. The cultures of ancient Greece and Rome are often called classical antiquity. The Renaissance thus represented a rebirth of these cultures and is therefore also known as the revival of antiquity or the revival of learning. The problems of reading a Renaissance text are primarily related to its history. As time passes, a text becomes increasingly difficult to read due to the differences in the world it was produced by and the world that receives it today. I have chosen to look specifically at how changes in language and of attitude confuse the text originally intended by the author.

Language is dynamic and changes from one day to the next, consequently, it is not surprising that the English language has changed significantly over the last 400 years and the Renaissance, particularly, was a period of change.

The renewed interest in classical antiquity resulted in works by Homer, Aristotle, Plato and Pliny amongst others being translated from their original Greek or Latin form into English. This confronted translators with a problem as the English language simply didn't have all the necessary words or technical terms. Words from other languages were 'borrowed' to fill these voids , known as loan-words. 'Piazza' and 'portico' are examples of words which were taken from Italian as they didn't have a corresponding word in English. Writers were on the cusp of this radical change in language. Jonathan Swift was closely involved in the creation of the first dictionaries and many authors invented their own words as English was still developing. Some of these words have lasted...