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Women in the Renaissance

In: English and Literature

Submitted By ashleycharnell91
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New Art Forms of the High Middle Ages Throughout history Europe has experienced countless changes in culture and other aspects. The Middle Ages, or Medieval Period, lasted from around 800 into the 1400’s (349). This period can be subdivided into three categories: early, high, and late. The Middle Ages brought about changes in religion, law, and daily life. Changes also occurred in the arts with the introduction of Gothic architecture and troubadour poetry. Although the Middle Ages began as a time of violence, the emergence of Gothic architecture and troubadour poetry are examples of devotion and expression. During the tenth and eleventh centuries cathedrals were constructed (367). The style of the cathedrals resembled Roman architecture, which was the preceding time period. (367). Features of Roman architecture included “massive walls, rounded stones arches, and small windows” (367). By the twelfth century, this new style gained the name “Gothic.” The Gothic style introduced new engineering improvements and emphasized more emotional expression. The structures of Gothic architecture consisted of pointed arches, high ceilings, and flying buttresses (367). A flying buttress carried the weight of the roof. “Midieval Archtechture” states:
“The walls of Gothic buildings could be thinner than previous styles of architecture because the weight of the roof was supported by the arches rather than by the walls. The pointed Gothic arch provided greater flexibility could also span greater distances, allowing vaults to be taller and wider. Thinner walls had wider window openings which encouraged the use of stained glass and the distinctive Gothic Rose windows.”
The style was adopted by most religious buildings proving a devotion to faith. In France there stood eighty cathedrals, five hundred abbey churches and thousands of churches constructed in Gothic style. Town within Europe often competed to have to most extravagant cathedral to prove which had the most dedication (367). Not only were the structures used for religious purposes, cathedrals served secular purposes as well. Business deals and political meetings were held in many of the cathedrals. The ultimate purpose of the buildings was to teach the Christian faith, while simultaneously showing that devotion through the building of magnificent structures. Poetry was an art form that grew throughout the Middle Ages. Prior to the Medieval period, texts were mainly written in Latin (368). Songs and poetry were written in local dialects and focused on daily issues and concerns of ordinary people. In areas of southern France, troubadours wrote and performed lyric poetry celebrating the love between knights and ladies (368). Most troubadours composed their own music and wrote original lyrics to entertain people. The poetry was often written, and then put to music. During the Middle Ages the practices of troubadours spread throughout Europe. Prior to this time period all written documents were educational or religious. The emergence of the troubadour style of poetry was a turning point for writing and entertainment.
The Middle Ages were marked by the diversification and growth through the arts. Religion and devotion to God was becoming more prevalent throughout this time which was displayed through the beautiful cathedrals fashioned in Gothic style. Gothic cathedrals were a way to show power and clarity of the Catholic Church. Both Gothic architecture and troubadour poetry are examples of expression. The Middle Ages opened up the world to not only expression through art, but more focus on Christianity.

Women During the Renaissance The women of the Renaissance era, just as those before that time, were limited in their roles in society. During the Renaissance, women were considered to be inferior to men. Women were considered “devious, domineering, and demanding” (385). Discussions such as the “debate about women” portrayed women as they were represented during the medieval period which was either worthy and chaste or seductive and deceptive. A woman’s main role was largely domestic. Women’s roles as daughters, wives, and mothers were considered their most supplemental contribution to society. As the time progressed, women gained rights as the religious and political face of Europe changed. The influence of the arts played a major role in the shaping of the perception of women. Although women were considered inferior, women of different classes were granted diverse roles. The evolution of the female role was gradual and continuous throughout the Renaissance Period and throughout the Reformation. During the beginning of the Renaissance Era women played the epic role that they played in prior history, silent and almost nonexistent. Women went through phases of life, first starting as a daughter, then a wife, then a mother (Encyclopedia). According to, “Daughters were expected to remain virgins until they were married, or for their entire lives if they were not married.” ). As a young girl, females were taught from an early age how to become a wife and were instructed to refrain from sexual acts (Encyclopedia). It was most important that a woman marry and bear children. Marriage was viewed as a contract, whether it is with a physical male or with God (395). Women were usually in their mid to late teens when they became bound in marriage. As a wife, a woman was expected to perform the normal household duties. These responsibilities included sewing, cooking, and cleaning (Encyclopedia). Being a mother led to the responsibility of educating the children and ensuring their appearance was up kept.
The class difference between women determined the extent of their roles. Women of all classes were expected to perform the normal household duties. These responsibilities included sewing, cooking, and cleaning (Encyclopedia). Wealthier females were basically forced have one occupation which was to marry. Unmarried women were frowned upon (395). Women of the upper classes were not allowed, to work outside the home. Women in the middle class worked in shops, or were servants or merchants. Peasant women worked in the field and ran the home. Lower class women did have a bit more freedom, as they were able to communicate and walk in the streets (Encyclopedia). Women who earned wages were often paid less than half of what men were paid, even if the work was equivalent (385).
The Reformation Period led to increased importance of marriage for women. Martin Luther, an influential Protestant, preached that a wife should not be viewed as “simply a new type of priest’s concubine” (395). A wife should exude Christian morals. Females were able to speak their minds, but their thoughts and ideas were shaped by men. Protestants believed a wife should be subjective to her husband (395). The concept of patriarchy was enforced, which involved male control over nearly all aspects of society.
Over the course of the time women did experience a gradual change. Initially women were viewed as sinful and corrupt. The Renaissance was not only a rebirth of the arts, but also a rebirth of the perspective of women. A man now needed a woman to fulfill the expectations of God. Although women were denied political rights, they were not neglected and dismissed in the way they had been in prior times.

Works Cited
Beck, Roger B., John Buckler, Patricia Buckley Ebrey, Clare Haru Crowston, Bennett D. Hill,John P. McKay, Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks. Understanding World Societies. Bedford/St.Martin’s: Boston, NY, 2013. HighBeam Research, n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2014.
"Medieval Architecture." Medieval Architecture. N.p., June 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

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