Renaissance: Rest of Europe (14th)

Compared to the Italian peninsula the rest of Europe the Renaissance came later, in the High Middle Ages, but with a different engine of change.

The Italian Renaissance was influenced by classical Rome. Instead, the rest of Europe still used medieval and Christian sources to propel the movement. They emphasized the role of the individual, but in a religious tone.

In Italy there had been a literary effort to compose in the vernacular instead of Latin. Northern Europe followed the same path.

William Langland wrote in Middle English, the characteristic English of the Middle Ages. His work, Piers Plowman, is an allegorical poem that translates monastic concepts into the language of the layman. It bridges the ecclesiastical and the secular.

John Gower wrote three major works in French, English, and Latin. It has themes of religious ethics and blames English social shortcomings for the great peasant revolt in 1381.

Geoffrey Chaucer chose Anglo-Saxon and is considered the 'Dante' of the English language because he brought the language to the status of literature with his Canterbury Tales. The tales are told among pilgrims who are on a pilgrimage to the grave of Saint Thomas Becket. The central theme is ethics in the Socratic sense of the meaning of existence but entertaining in its variety and humor.

The chronicler Jean Froissart also wrote his works in French. His Chroniques are documents of European feudal life and set forth the chivalrous and courtly ideals of the time.

Juan Hus, rector of the University of Prague, advocated religious reform especially in taxes, land and simony practices. It was a source of inspiration for Lutherans later. He was burned at the stake for his beliefs.

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William Langland (1332 -1400)
John Gower (1330 -1408)
Jean Froissart (c. 1337 - 1404)
Geoffrey Chaucer (1343 - 1400)
John Hus (1370 - 1415)

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