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ESL 86 - Intensive ESL Writing and Language - Textbook

OER- Textbook for ESL 86


In this unit we will reflect on the city as a center of  trade and commerce. We will study the rise of and power of the city states Venice and Florence,  explore how trade and concentration of wealth came to change European culture and a powerhouse of art, new technologies and science. We will study how these achievements and fierce competition led to the explorations and control of new territories in the Americas, Africa and Asia. You will also learn about the great centers of Islam in the so called Califates that dominated cultural development and propelled knowledge and science in the Middle East, Northern Africa and Spain.

Trade in Medieval Europe

Note: Visit this article on it's original page ( to listen to it read out loud, and for links to additional information (within the text of the original article).

Trade and commerce in the medieval world developed to such an extent that even relatively small communities had access to weekly markets and, perhaps a day’s travel away, larger but less frequent fairs, where the full range of consumer goods of the period was set out to tempt the shopper and small retailer. Markets and fairs were organised by large estate owners, town councils, and some churches and monasteries, who, granted a license to do so by their sovereign, hoped to gain revenue from stall holder fees and boost the local economy as shoppers used peripheral services. International trade had been present since Roman times but improvements in transportation and banking, as well as the economic development of northern Europe, caused a boom from the 9th century CE. English wool, for example, was sent in huge quantities to manufacturers in Flanders; the Venetians, thanks to the Crusades, expanded their trade interests to the Byzantine Empire and the Levant, and new financial instruments evolved which allowed even small investors to fund the trade expeditions which criss-crossed Europe by sea and land.

Late Medieval Market Scene

Late Medieval Market Scene by Unknown Artist (Public Domain)

Markets & Shops

In villages, towns, and large cities which had been granted the privilege of a license to do so by their monarch, markets were regularly held in public squares (or sometimes triangles), in wide streets or even in purpose-built halls. Markets were also organised just outside many castles and monasteries. Typically held once or twice a week, larger towns might have a daily market which moved around different parts of the city depending on the day or have markets for specific goods like meat, fish, or bread. Sellers of particular goods, who paid an estate owner, the town, or borough council a fee for the privilege to have a stall, were typically set next to each other in areas so that competition was kept high. Sellers of meat and bread tended to be men, but women stallholders were often the majority, and they sold such staples as eggs, dairy products, poultry, and ale. There were middlemen and women known as regrators who bought goods from producers and sold them on to the market stallholders or producers might pay a vendor to sell their goods for them. Besides markets, sellers of wares also went knocking on the doors of private homes, and these were known as hucksters.

Trade of common, low-value goods remained a largely local affair because of the costs of transportation. Merchants had to pay tolls at certain points along the road and at key points like bridges or mountain passes so that only luxury goods were worth transportation over long distances. Moving goods by boat or ship was cheaper and safer than by land but then there were potential losses to bad weather and pirates to consider. Consequently, local markets were supplied by the farmed estates that surrounded them and those who wanted non-everyday items like clothing, cloth, or wine had to be prepared to walk half a day or more to the nearest town.

In towns, the consumer had, besides markets, the additional option of shops. Tradespeople usually lived above their shop which presented a large window onto the street with a stall projecting out from under a wooden canopy. In cities, shops selling the same type of goods were often clustered together in the same neighbourhoods, again to increase competition and make the life of city and guild inspectors easier. Sometimes location was directly related to the goods on sale such as horse sellers typically being near the city gates so as to tempt the passing traveller or booksellers near a cathedral and its associated schools of learning. Those trades which involved goods whose quality was absolutely vital such as goldsmiths and armourers were usually located near a town council’s administration buildings where they could be kept a close eye on by regulators. Towns also had banks and money-lenders, many of which were Jews as usury was forbidden to Christians by the Church. As a consequence of this clustering of trades, many streets acquired a name which described the trade most represented in them, names which in many cases still survive today.

Trade Fairs

Trade fairs were large-scale sales events typically held annually in large towns where people could find a greater range of goods than they might find in their more local market and traders could buy goods wholesale. Prices also tended to be cheaper because there was more competition between sellers of specific items. Fairs boomed in France, England, Flanders, and Germany in the 12th and 13th centuries CE, with one of the most famous areas for them being the Champagne region of France.

The fairs which were held in June and October in Troyes, May and September in Saint Ayoul, at Lent in Bar-sur-Aube, and in January at Lagny were encouraged by the Counts of Champagne who also provided policing services and paid the salaries of the army of officials who supervised the fairs. Traders of wool, cloth, spices, wine, and all manner of other goods gathered from across France and even came from abroad, notably from Flanders, Spain, England, and Italy. Some of these fairs lasted up to 49 days and brought in a healthy revenue to the Counts; such was their importance, French kings even guaranteed to protect merchants travelling to and from the fairs. Not only did the fairs of Champagne become famed across Europe but they were a great boost to the international reputation of Champagne wine (at that time still not the sparkling drink that Dom Pérignon would pioneer in the 17th century CE).

For many ordinary people, fairs anywhere were a great highlight of the year. People usually had to travel more than a day to reach their nearest fair and so they would stay one or two days in the many taverns and inns which developed around them. There were public entertainments such as the dancing girls of Champagne and all kinds of performing street artists as well as a few more unsavoury aspects such as gambling and prostitution that gave the fairs a poor reputation with the Church. By the 15th century CE trade fairs had gone into decline as the possibilities for people to buy goods everywhere and at any time had greatly increased.

The Expansion of International Trade

Trade in Europe in the early Middle Ages continued to some degree as it had under the Romans, with shipping being fundamental to the movement of goods from one end of the Mediterranean to the other and via rivers and waterways from south to north and vice versa. However, the extent of international trade in this early period is disputed among historians. There was a movement of goods, especially luxury goods (precious metals, horses, and slaves to name a few), but in what quantities and whether transactions involved money, barter, or gift-exchange is unclear. Jewish and Syrian merchants may have filled the gap left by the demise of the Romans up to the 7th century CE while the Levant also traded with North Africa and the Moors in Spain. It is probable that international trade still remained the affair of only the elite aristocracy and it supported economies rather than drove them.

Into the 9th century CE, a clearer picture of international trade begins to emerge. The Italian city-states, under the nominal rulership of the Byzantine Empire, began to take over the trade networks of the Mediterranean, particularly Venice and Amalfi who would later be joined by Pisa and Genoa and suitable ports in southern Italy. Goods traded between the Arab world and Europe included slaves, spices, perfumes, gold, jewels, leather goods, animal skins, and luxury textiles, especially silk. Italian cities specialised in the exports of cloths like linen, unspun cotton, and salt (goods which originally came from Spain, Germany, northern Italy, and the Adriatic). There developed important inland trading centres like Milan which then passed on goods to the coastal cities for further export or more northern cities. The trade connections across the Mediterranean are evidenced in descriptions of European ports in the works of Arab geographers and the high numbers of Arab gold coinage found in, for example, parts of southern Italy.

Late Medieval Land & Maritime Trade Routes

Late Medieval Land & Maritime Trade Routes by Lampman (Public Domain)

In the 10th and 11th centuries CE, Northern Europe also exported internationally, the Vikings amassing large numbers of slaves from their raids and then selling them on. Silverwas exported from the mines in Saxony, grain from England was exported to Norway, and Scandinavian timber and fish were imported in the other direction. After the Norman Conquest of Britain in 1066 CE, England switched trade to France and the Low countries, importing cloth and wine and exporting cereals and wool from which Flemish weavers produced textiles.

As the Italian trio of Venice, Pisa, and Genoa gained more and more wealth, so they spread their trading tentacles further, establishing trading posts in North Africa, also gaining trade monopolies in parts of the Byzantine Empire and, in return for providing transport, men and fighting ships for the Crusaders, a permanent presence in cities conquered by Christian armies in the Levant from the 12th century CE. In the same century, the Northern Crusadesprovided southern Europe with yet more slaves. Also travelling south were such precious metals as iron, copper, and tin. The 13th century CE witnessed more long-distance trade in less valuable, everyday goods as traders benefitted from better roads, canals, and especially more technologically advanced ships; factors which combined to cut down transportation time, increase capacity, reduce losses and make costs more attractive. In addition, when the goods arrived at their point of sale, more people now had surplus wealth thanks to a growing urban population who worked in manufacturing or were traders themselves.

Trading Ports & Regulation

International business was now booming as many city-ports established international trading posts where foreign merchants were allowed to live temporarily and trade their goods. In the early 13th century CE Genoa, for example, had 198 resident merchants of which 95 were Flemish and 51 French. There were German traders on the famous (and still standing) Rialto bridge of Venice, in the Steelyard area of London, and the Tyske bryggequarter of Bergen in Norway. Traders from Marseille and Barcelona permanently camped in the ports of North Africa. Economic migration reached such numbers that these ports developed their own consulates to protect the rights of their nationals and shops and services sprang up to meet their particular tastes in food, clothing, and religion.   

With this growth, trade relations became more complex between states and rulers, with middlemen and agents added to the mix. Trading expeditions were financed by rich investors who, if they put up all the initial capital, often got 75% of the profits, the rest going to the merchants who amassed the goods and then shipped them to wherever they were in demand. This arrangement, used for example by the Genoese, was called a commenda. An alternative setup, the societas maris, was for the investor to provide two-thirds of the capital and the merchant the rest. The profits would then be split 50-50. Behind these major investors, there developed consortiums of smaller investors who put up their money for a future return but who could not afford to pay for a whole expedition. Thus, there developed sophisticated mechanisms of borrowing and lending, which involved a very large number of families in the Italian cities, in particular. There were more and more financial instruments to tempt investors and extend credit such as credit notes, bills of exchange, maritime insurance, and shares in companies.

Trade was now assuming the guise we would recognise today with well-established businesses run by generations of merchants from the same family (for example, the Medici of Florence). There were increased efforts at standardisation in product quality and helpful treatises on how to compare weights, measurements, and coins across different cultures. State control increased with a codification of customary trade laws and regulations and, so too, the now all-too-familiar imposition of taxes, duties, and protectionist quotas. Finally, there was, as well, advice on how to best get around these regulations, as mentioned in this extract on Constantinople’s trade officials, taken from the 14th-century CE Florentine trader Francesco Balducci Pegolotti’s guide to world trade, La Practica della Mercatura:

Remember well that if you show respect to customs officials, their clerks and ‘turkmen’ [sergeants], and slip them a little something or some money, they will also behave very courteously and will tax the goods that you later bring by them lower than their real value. (Blockmans, 244)

By the mid-14th century CE, the Italian city-states were even trading with as distant partners as the Mongols, although this increase in global contact brought unwanted side effects such as the Black Death (peaked 1347-52 CE) that entered Europe via the rats which infested Italian trading ships. Undeterred, European pioneers - both religious and commercial - would head off into the other direction, and so the Cape Verde Islands were discovered by the Portuguese in 1462 CE and three decades later Christopher Columbus would open up the way to the New World. Next, in 1497 CE, Vasco da Gama boldly sailed around the Cape of Good Hope to reach India so that by the end of the Middle Ages, the world was suddenly a much more connected place, one which would bring riches for a few and despair for many.   


The Renaissance

The Renaissance - Art and Learning 

(Text by Christopher Brooks from Portland Community College, available at LibreTexts)


The starting point with studying the Renaissance is just learning what the word means: rebirth. But what was being reborn? The answer is the culture and ideas of classical Europe, ancient Greece and Rome. Renaissance thinkers and artists very consciously made the claim that they were reviving long-lost traditions from the classical world in areas as diverse as scholarship, poetry, architecture, and sculpture. The feeling among most Renaissance thinkers and artists was that the ancient Greeks and Romans had achieved truly incredible things, things that had not been, and possibly could never be, surpassed. Much of the Renaissance began as an attempt to mimic or copy Greek and Roman art and scholarship (corresponding to one another in classical Latin, for example), but over the decades the more outstanding Renaissance thinkers struck out on new paths of their own - still inspired by the classics, but seeking to be creators in their own right as well.

Of the various themes of Renaissance thought, perhaps the most important was humanism, an ancient intellectual paradigm that emphasized both the beauty and the centrality of humankind in the universe. Humanists held that humankind was inherently rational, beautiful, and noble, rather than debased, wicked, or weak. They sought to celebrate the beauty of the human body in their art, of the human mind and human achievements in their scholarship, and of human society in the elegance of their architectural design. Humanism was, among other things, an optimistic attitude toward artistic and intellectual possibility that cited the achievements of the ancient world as proof that humankind was the crowning achievement of God’s creation.

Renaissance humanism was the root of some very modern notions of individuality, along with some specific phenomena such as the idea that education ought to arrive at a well-rounded individual. The goal of education in the Renaissance was to to realize as much of the human potential as possible with a robust education in diverse disciplines. This was a true, meaningful change over medieval forms of learning in that education’s major purpose was no longer believed to be the clarification of religious questions or better intellectual support for religious orthodoxy; the point of education was to create a more competent and well-rounded person instead.

Along with the idea of a well-rounded individual, Renaissance thinkers championed the idea of Civic Humanism: one’s moral and ethical standing was tied to devotion to one’s city. This was a Greek and Roman concept that the great Renaissance thinker Petrarch championed in particular. Here, the Medici of Florence are the ultimate example: there was a tremendous effort on the part of the rich and powerful to invest in the city in the form of building projects and art. This was tied to the prestige of the family, of course, but it was also a heartfelt dedication to one’s home, analogous to the present-day concept of patriotism.

Practically speaking, there was a shift in the practical business of education from medieval scholasticism, which focused on law, medicine, and theology, to disciplines related to business and politics. Renaissance learning was born in the cities of northern Italy because of the wealth of northern Italy. Princes and other elites wanted skilled bureaucrats to staff their merchant empires; they needed literate men with a knowledge of law and mathematics, even if they themselves were not merchants. City governments began educating children (girls and boys alike, at least in certain cities like Florence) directly, along with the role played by private tutors. These schools and tutors emphasized practical education: rhetoric, math, and history. Thus, one of the major effects of the Italian Renaissance was that this new form of education, usually referred to as "humanistic education" spread from Italy to the rest of Europe by the late fifteenth century. By the sixteenth century, a broad cross-section of European elites, including nobles, merchants, and priests, were educated in the humanistic tradition.

A “Renaissance man” (note that there were important female thinkers as well, but the term "Renaissance man" was used exclusively for men) was a man who cultivated classical virtues, which were not quite the same as Christian ones: understanding, benevolence, compassion, fortitude, judgment, eloquence, and honor, among others. Drawing from the work of thinkers like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Virgil, Renaissance thinkers came to support the idea of a virtuous life that was not the same thing as a specifically Christian virtuous life. And, importantly, it was possible to become a good person simply through studying the classics – all of the major figures of the Renaissance were Christians, but they insisted that one’s moral status could and should be shaped by emulation of the ancient virtues, combined with Christian piety. While the Renaissance case for the debasement of medieval culture was overstated - medieval intellectual life prospered during the High Middle Ages, there was definitely a distinct kind of intellectual courage and optimism that came out of the return to classical models over medieval ones during the Renaissance.

Important Thinkers

The Renaissance is remembered primarily for its great thinkers and artists, with some exceptional individuals (like Leonardo da Vinci) being renowned as both. What Renaissance thinkers had in common was that they embraced the ideals of humanism and used humanism as their inspiration for creating innovative new approaches to philosophy, philology (the study of language), theology, history, and political theory. In other words, reading the classics inspired Renaissance thinkers to emulate the great writers and philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome, creating poetry, philosophy, and theory on par with that of an Aristotle or a Cicero. Some of the most noteworthy included the following.

Dante (1265 - 1321)

Durante degli Alighieri, better remembered as Dante, was a major figure who anticipated the Renaissance rather than being alive during most of it (while there is no “official” start to the Renaissance, the life of Petrarch, described below, lends itself to using 1300 as a convenient date). Experiencing what would later be called a mid-life crisis, Dante turned to poetry to console himself, ultimately producing the greatest written work of the late Middle Ages: The Divine Comedy. Written in his own native dialect, the Tuscan of the city of Florence, The Divine Comedy describes Dante’s descent into hell, guided by the spirit of the classical Roman poet Virgil. Dante and Virgil emerge on the other side of the earth, with Dante ascending the mountain of purgatory and ultimately entering heaven, where he enters into the divine presence.

Dante’s work, which soon became justly famous in Italy and then elsewhere in Europe, presaged some of the essential themes of Renaissance thought. Dante’s travels through hell, purgatory, and heaven in the poem are replete with encounters with two categories of people: Italians of Dante’s lifetime or the recent past, and both real and mythical figures from ancient Greece and Rome. In other words, Dante was indifferent to the entire period of the Middle Ages, concentrating instead on what he imagined the spiritual fate of the great thinkers and heroes of the classical age would have been (and gleefully relegating Italians he hated to infernal torments). Ultimately, his work became so famous that it established Tuscan as the basis of what would eventually become the language of “Italian” in so many words - all educated people in Italy would eventually come to read the Comedy as a matter of course and it came to serve as the founding document of the modern Italian language in the process.

Petrarch (1304 – 1374)

Francesco Petrarca, known as Petrarch in English, was in many ways the founding father of the Renaissance. Like Dante, he was a Florentine (native of the city of Florence) and single-handedly spearheaded the practice of studying and imitating the great writers and thinkers of the past. Petrarch personally rediscovered long-lost works by Cicero, widely considered the greatest writer of ancient Rome during the republican period, and set about training himself to emulate Cicero's rhetorical style. Petrarch wrote to friends and associates in a classical, grammatically spotless Latin (as opposed to the often sloppy and error-ridden Latin of the Middle Ages) and encouraged them to learn to emulate the classics in their writing, thought, and values. He went on to write many works of poetry and prose that were based on the model provided by Cicero and other ancient writers.

Petrarch was responsible for coming up with the very idea of the "Dark Ages" that had separated his own era from the greatness of the classical past. His own poetry and writings became so popular among other educated people that he deserves a great deal of personal credit for sparking the Renaissance itself; following Petrarch, the idea that the classical world might be "reborn" in northern Italy acquired a great deal of popularity and cultural force.

Christine de Pizan (1364 - 1430)

Christine de Pizan was the most famous and important woman thinker and writer of the Renaissance era. Her father, the court astrologer of the French king Charles V, was exceptional in that he felt it important that his daughter receive the same quality of education afforded to elite men at the time. She went on to become a famous poet and writer in her own right, being patronized (i.e. receiving commissions for her writing) by a wide variety of French and Italian nobles. Her best-known work was The Book of the City of Ladies, in which she attacked the then-universal idea that women were naturally unintelligent, sinful, and irrational. Instead, she argued, history provided a vast catalog of women who had been moral, pious, intelligent, and competent, and that it was men's pride and the refusal of men to allow women to be properly educated that held women back. In many ways, the City of Ladies was the first truly feminist work in European history, and it is striking that she was supported by, and listened to by, elite men due to her obvious intellectual gifts despite their own deep-seated sexism.

Painting of Christine de Pizan presenting her book.
Figure 4.2.1: In the illustration above, Christine de Pizan presents a copy of The City of Ladies to a French noblewoman, Margaret of Burgundy. The illustration itself is in the pre-Renaissance “Gothic” style, without linear perspective, despite its approximate date of 1475. This is one example of the relatively slow spread of Renaissance-inspired artistic innovations.

Desiderius Erasmus (1466 - 1536)

Erasmus was an astonishingly erudite priest who benefited from both the traditional scholastic education of the late-medieval church and the new humanistic style that emerged from the Renaissance. Of his various talents, one of the most important was his mastery of philology: the history of languages. Erasmus became completely fluent not just in classical and medieval Latin, but in the Greek of the New Testament (i.e. most of the earliest versions of the New Testament of the Bible are written in the vernacular Greek of the first century CE). He also became conversant in Hebrew, which was very uncommon among Christians at the time.

Erasmus in his study.
Figure 4.2.2: In the above well-known portrait of Erasmus, he is depicted in heavy, fur-lined robes and hat, a necessity even when indoors in Northern Europe for much of the year. Realistic portraiture was another major innovation of the Renaissance period.

Armed with his lingual virtuosity, Erasmus undertook a vast study and re-translation of the New Testament, working from various versions of the Greek originals and correcting the Latin Vulgate that was the most widely used version at the time. In the process, Erasmus corrected the New Testament itself, catching and fixing numerous translation errors (while he did not re-translate the Old Testament from the Hebrew, he did point out errors in it as well).

Erasmus was criticized by some of his superiors within the Church because he was not officially authorized to carry out his studies and translations; nevertheless, he ended up producing an extensively notated re-translation of the New Testament with numerous corrections. Importantly, these corrections were not just a question of grammatical issues, but of meaning. The Christian message that emerged from the “correct” version of the New Testament was a deeply personal philosophy of prayer, devotion, and morality that did not correspond to many of the structures and practices of the Latin Church. He was also an advocate of translations of the Bible into vernacular languages, although he did not produce such a translation himself.

Some of his other works other included In Praise of Folly, a satirical attack on corruption within the church, and Handbook of the Christian Soldier, which de-emphasized the importance of the sacraments. Erasmus used his abundant wit to ridicule sterile medieval-style scholastic scholars, the corruption of “Christian” rulers who were essentially glorified warlords, and even the very idea of witches, which he demonstrated relied on a faulty translation from the Hebrew of the Old Testament.

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 – 1527)

Machiavelli was a "courtier," a professional politician, ambassador, and official who spent his life in the court of a ruler - in his case, as part of the city government of his native Florence. While in Florence, Machiavelli wrote various works on politics, most notably a consideration of the proper functioning of a republic like Florence itself. Unfortunately for him, Machiavelli was caught up in the whirlwind of power politics at court and ended up being exiled by the Medici.

While in exile, Machiavelli undertook a new work of political theory which he titled The Prince. Here, Machiavelli detailed how an effective ruler should behave: training constantly in war, forcing his subjects to fear (but not hate) him, studying the ancient past for role models like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, and never wasting a moment worrying about morality when power was on the line. In the process, Machiavelli created what was arguably the first work of "political science" that abandoned the moralistic approach of how a ruler should behave as a good Christian and instead embraced a practical guide to holding power. He dedicated the work to the Medici in hopes that he would be allowed to return from exile (he detested the rural bumpkins he lived among in exile and longed to return to cosmopolitan Florence). Instead, The Princecaused a scandal when it came out for completely ignoring the role of God and Christian morality in politics, and Machiavelli died not long after. That being noted, Machiavelli is now remembered as a pioneering political thinker; it is safe to assume that far more rulers have consulted The Prince for ideas of how to maintain their power over the years than one of the moralistic tracts that was preferred during Machiavelli's lifetime.

Baldassarre Castiglione (1478 - 1529)

Castiglione was the author of The Courtier, published at the end of his life in 1528. Whereas Machiavelli's The Prince was a practical guide for rulers, The Courtier was a guide to the nobles, wealthy merchants, high-ranking members of the church, and other social elites who served and schemed in the courts of princes: courtiers. The work centered on what was needed to win the prince’s favor and to influence him, not just avoiding embarrassment at court. This was tied to the growing sense of what it was to be “civilized” – Italians at the time were renowned across Europe for their refinement, the quality of their dress and jewelry, their wit in conversation, and their good taste. The relatively crude tastes of the nobility of the Middle Ages were “revised” starting in Italy, with Castiglione serving as both a symptom and cause of this shift.

The effective courtier, according to Castiglione, was tasteful, educated, clever, and subtle in his actions and words, a true politician rather than merely a warrior who happened to have inherited some land. Going forward, growing numbers of political elites came to resemble a Castiglione-style courtier instead of a thuggish medieval knight or "man-at-arms." When he died, no less a personage than the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V lamented his loss and paid tribute to his memory.

Art and Artists

Perhaps the most iconic aspect of the Renaissance as a whole is its tremendous artistic achievements - figures like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti are household names in a way that Petrarch is not, despite the fact that Petrarch should be credited for creating the very concept of the Renaissance. The fame of Renaissance art is thanks to the incredible creativity of the great Renaissance artists themselves, who both imitated classical models of art and ultimately forged entirely new artistic paths of their own.

Medieval art (called "Gothic" after one of the barbarian tribes that had conquered the Roman Empire) had been unconcerned with realistic depictions of objects or people. Medieval paintings often presented things from several angles at once to the viewer and had no sense of three-dimensional perspective. Likewise, Gothic architecture tended to be bulky and overwhelming rather than refined and delicate; the great examples of Gothic architecture are undoubtedly the cathedrals built during the Middle Ages, often beautiful and inspiring but a far cry from the symmetrical, airy structures of ancient Greece and Rome.

Example of a painting made before the advent of linear perspective in art.
Figure 4.3.1: Another example of Gothic art. The artist, Lorenzo Monaco, painted during the Renaissance period, but the work was created before linear perspective had replaced the “two-dimensional” style of Gothic painting.

In contrast, Renaissance artists studied and copied ancient frescoes and statues in an attempt to learn how to realistically depict people and objects. And, just as Petrarch "invented" the major themes of Renaissance thought by imitating and championing classical humanist thought, a Florentine artist, architect, and engineer named Filippo Brunelleschi "invented" Renaissance art through the imitation of the classical world.

Filippo Brunelleschi (1377 - 1446)

Brunelleschi was an astonishing artistic and engineering genius. He became a prominent client of the Medici, and with their political and financial support he undertook the construction of what would be the largest free-standing domed structure in all of Europe: the dome of the cathedral of Florence. For generations, the cathedral of Florence had stood unfinished, its main tower having been built too large and and too tall for any architect to complete. Literally no one knew how to build a freestanding stone dome on top of a tower over 350 feet high. By studying ancient Roman structures and employing his own incredible intellect, Brunelleschi built the dome in such a way that it held its internal structure together during the construction process. He invented a giant, geared winch to raise huge blocks of sandstone hundreds of feet in the air and was even known to personally ascend the construction to place bricks. The dome was completed in 1413, crowning both his fame as an architect and the Medici's role as the greatest patrons of Renaissance art and architecture at the time.

While the dome is usually considered Brunelleschi's greatest achievement, he was also the inventor of one of the most important artistic concepts in history: linear perspective. He was the first person in the Western world to determine how to draw objects in two dimensions, on a piece of paper or the equivalent, in such a way that they looked realistically three-dimensional (i.e. having depth, as in looking off into the distance and seeing objects that are farther away "look smaller" than those nearby). Unlike other Renaissance innovations that had direct parallels in other cultures, like the study of ancient texts or a recognizably humanistic approach to philosophy, linear perspective does appear to be one truly unprecedented intellectual invention originating in Europe. This innovation spread rapidly and completely revolutionized the visual arts, resulting in far more realistic drawings and paintings.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519)

Da Vinci was famous in his own time as both one of the greatest painters of his age and as what we would now call a scientist – at the time, he was sought after for his skill at engineering, overseeing the construction of the naval defenses of Venice and swamp drainage projects in Rome at different points. He was hired by a whole swath of the rich and powerful in Italy and France; in his old age he was the official chief painter and engineer of the French king, living in a private chateau provided for him and receiving admiring visits from the king.

Da Vinci's Last Supper, with Christ in the center of the table surrounded by the apostles.
Figure 4.3.2: Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Note how the walls and ceiling tiles appear to slant downwards toward a point at the horizon behind Jesus (in the center). That imaginary point - the “vanishing point” - was one of the major artistic breakthroughs associated with linear perspective first discovered by Brunelleschi.

Leonardo's most important "scientific" work at the time had to do with human anatomy. The church banned the dissection of corpses on religious grounds - the fear was that the soul needed a site to return to during the Second Coming of Christ at the end of the world, so human bodies were not to be tampered with. Da Vinci received special dispensation from the church to perform human dissections on the bodies of executed criminals, however, ostensibly to look for the physical organ that contained the soul. In fact, he was just interested in seeing how the body worked, and his anatomical drawings inspired new generations of physicians to learn how the body functioned based on empirical observation.

One of Da Vinci's anatomical drawings, a realistic depiction of musculature.
Figure 4.3.3: One of Da Vinci’s anatomical sketches, in this case examining the musculature of the shoulder and neck.

Da Vinci is famous today thanks as much to his diagrams of things like flying machines as for his art. Ironically, while he was well known as a practical engineer at the time, no one had a clue that he was an inventor in the technological sense: he never built physical models of his ideas, and he never published his concepts, so they remained unknown until well after his death.

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475 - 1564)

Michelangelo was the most famous artist of the Renaissance during his own lifetime, patronized by the city council of Florence (run by the Medici) and the pope alike. He created numerous works, most famously the statue of the David and the paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The latter work took him four years of work, during which he argued constantly with the Pope, Julius II, who treated him like an artisan servant rather than the true artistic genius Michelangelo knew himself to be. Michelangelo was already the most famous artist in Europe thanks to his sculptures. By the time he completed the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, he had to be accepted as one of the greatest painters of his age as well, not just the single most famous sculptor of the time.

Michelangelo's The David, a towering marble sculpture of a nude David before his battle with Goliath.
Figure 4.3.4: Michelangelo’s David, completed in 1504 (it took three years to complete). The statue was meant to celebrate an ideal of masculine beauty, inspired by the example of Greek sculpture and by the work of an earlier Renaissance artist, Donatello.

In the end, a biography of Michelangelo written by a friend helped cement the idea that there was an important distinction between mere artisans and true artists, the latter of whom were temperamental and mercurial but possessed of genius. Thus, the whole idea of the artist as a ingenious social outsider derives in part from Michelangelo's life.


Renaissance art and scholarship was enormously influential. While the process took many decades, both humanist scholarship and education on the one hand and classically-inspired art and architecture on the other spread beyond Italy over the course of the fifteenth century. By the sixteenth century, the study of the classics became entrenched as an essential part of elite education itself, joining with (or rendering obsolete) medieval scholastic traditions in schools and universities. The beautiful and realistic styles of sculpture and painting spread as well, completely surpassing Gothic artistic forms, just as Renaissance architecture replaced the Gothic style of building. Along with the political and technological innovations described in the following chapters, Renaissance learning and art helped bring about the definitive end of the Middle Ages.


Merchant of Venice

Merchant of Venice, Act III (from Project Gutenberg)





Ner. The prince of Arragon hath ta'en his oath,
And comes to his election presently.

Flourish of Trumpets. Enter the PRINCE OF ARRAGON, PORTIA, and their Trains.

Por. Behold, there stand the caskets, noble prince;
If you choose that wherein I am contain'd,
Straight shall our nuptial rites be solemniz'd;
But if you fail, without more speech, my lord,
You must be gone from hence immediately.

Arr. I am enjoin'd by oath to observe three things:
First, never to unfold to any one
Which casket 'twas I chose; next, if I fail
Of the right casket, never in my life
To woo a maid in way of marriage; lastly,
If I do fail in fortune of my choice,
Immediately to leave you and be gone.

Por. To these injunctions every one doth swear
That comes to hazard for my worthless self.

Arr. And so have I address'd me:[72] Fortune now
To my heart's hope!—Gold, silver, and base lead.

'Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.'

What says the golden chest? ha! let me see:

'Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.'

What many men desire.—That many may be meant[73]
By the fool multitude,[74] that choose by show,
Why, then, to thee, thou silver treasure-house;
Tell me once more what title thou dost bear:

'Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves;'

And well said too. For who shall go about
To cozen fortune, and be honourable
Without the stamp of merit!
O, that estates, degrees, and offices,
Were not deriv'd corruptly! and that clear honour
Were purchas'd by the merit of the wearer!
How many then should cover that stand bare?
How many be commanded that command?
And how much honour
Pick'd from the chaff and ruin of the times,
To be new varnish'd? Well, but to my choice:

'Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves:'

I will assume desert:—Give me a key for this,
And instantly unlock my fortunes here.

Por. Too long a pause for that which you find there.

Arr. What's here: the portrait of a blinking idiot,
Presenting me a schedule? I will read it.

Some there be that shadows kiss;Such have but a shadow's bliss:There be fools alive, I wis,[75]Silver'd o'er; and so was this.'

Still more fool I shall appearBy the time I linger here:With one fool's head I came to woo,But I go away with two.

Sweet, adieu! I'll keep my oath,
Patiently to bear my wroath.[76]

[Exeunt ARRAGON and Train.

Por. Thus hath the candle sing'd the moth.
O these deliberate fools! when they do choose,
They have the wisdom by their wit to lose.

Ner. The ancient saying is no heresy;—
Hanging and wiving goes by destiny.


Ser. Madam, there is alighted at your gate
A young Venetian, one that comes before
To signify the approaching of his lord:
From whom he bringeth sensible regreets;[77]
To wit, besides commends and courteous breath,
Gifts of rich value; yet I have not seen
So likely an ambassador of love.

Por. No more, I pray thee.
Come, come, Nerissa; for I long to see
Quick Cupid's post that comes so mannerly.

Ner. Bassanio, lord love, if thy will it be!




—so have I address'd me: To address is to prepare—id est I have prepared myself by the same ceremonies.


That many may be meant; Many modes of speech were familiar in Shakespeare's age that are now no longer used. "May be meant," id est, meaning by that, &c.


—the fool multitude; The foolish multitude.


—I wis,; I know.




Salar. Why, man, I saw Bassanio under sail;
With him is Gratiano gone along;
And in their ship, I am sure, Lorenzo is not.

Sal. The villain Jew with outcries rais'd the duke;
Who went with him to search Bassanio's ship.

Salar. He came too late, the ship was under sail;
But there the duke was given to understand,
That in a gondola were seen together
Lorenzo and his amorous Jessica;
Besides, Antonio certified the duke,
They were not with Bassanio in his ship.

Sal. I never heard a passion so confus'd,
So strange, outrageous, and so variable,
As the dog Jew did utter in the streets;
"My daughter!—O, my ducats!—O, my daughter!
Fled with a Christian!—O, my Christian ducats!—
Justice! the law! my ducats, and my daughter.!"

Let good Antonio look he keep his day,
Or he shall pay for this.

Salar. Marry, well remember'd: I reason'd[78] with a Frenchman yesterday, who told me that Antonio hath a ship of rich lading wreck'd on the narrow seas that part the French and English,—the Goodwins, I think they call the place—a very dangerous flat and fatal, where the carcases of many a tall ship lie buried, as they say, if my gossip report be an honest woman of her word.

Sal. I would she were as lying a gossip in that, as ever knapp'd ginger,[79] or made her neighbours believe she wept for the death of a third husband: But it is true, that the good Antonio, the honest Antonio,—O, that I had a title good enough to keep his name company!—

Salar. Come, the full stop.

Sal. Why, the end is, he hath lost a ship.

Salar. I would it might prove the end of his losses!

Sal. Let me say amen betimes, lest the devil cross my prayer; for here he comes in the likeness of a Jew.


Salar. How now, Shylock? what news among the merchants?

Shy. You knew, none so well, none so well as you, of my daughter's flight?

Sal. That's certain. I, for my part, knew the tailor that made the wings she flew withal.

Salar. And Shylock, for his own part, knew the bird was fledg'd; and then it is the complexion of them all to leave the dam.

Shy. She is damn'd for it.

Sal. That's certain, if the devil may be her judge.

Shy. My own flesh and blood to rebel!

Salar. But tell us, do you hear whether Antonio have had any loss at sea or no?

Shy. There I have another bad match: a bankrupt, a prodigal, who dare scarce show his head on the Rialto; a beggar, that used to come so smug upon the mart.—Let him look to his bond: he was wont to call me usurer;—let him look to his bond: he was wont to lend money for a Christian courtesy;—let him look to his bond.

Sal. Why, I am sure, if he forfeit, thou wilt not take his flesh? What's that good for?

Shy. To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies: and what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? revenge: If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? why, revenge. The villany you teach me I will execute: and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.

Salar. Here comes another of the tribe; a third cannot be matched, unless the devil himself turn Jew.

[Exeunt SALANIO, SALARINO, and Servant.

Enter TUBAL.

Shy. How now, Tubal, what news from Genoa? hast thou found my daughter?

Tub. I often came where I did hear of her, but cannot find her.

Shy. Why, there, there, there, there! a diamond gone, cost me two thousand ducats in Frankfort! The curse never fell upon our nation till now; I never felt it till now:—two thousand ducats in that; and other precious, precious jewels.—I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear! 'would she were hears'd at my foot, and the ducats in her coffin! No news of them?—Why, so:—and I know not what's spent in the search: Why, thou loss upon loss! the thief gone with so much, and so much to find the thief; and no satisfaction, no revenge: nor no ill luck stirring but what lights o' my shoulders; no sighs but o' my breathing; no tears but o' my shedding.

Tub. Yes, other men have ill luck, too. Antonio, as I heard in Genoa,—

Shy. What, what, what? ill luck, ill luck?

Tub. Hath an argosy cast away, coming from Tripolis.

Shy. I thank God, I thank God:—Is it true? is it true?

Tub. I spoke with some of the sailors that escaped the wreck.

Shy. I thank thee, good Tubal;—Good news, good news: ha! ha!—Where? in Genoa?

Tub. Your daughter spent in Genoa, as I heard, one night, fourscore ducats!

Shy. Thou stick'st a dagger in me:—I shall never see my gold again: Fourscore ducats at a sitting! fourscore ducats!

Tub. There came divers of Antonio's creditors in my company to Venice, that swear he cannot choose but break.

Shy. I am very glad of it: I'll plague him; I'll torture him; I am glad of it.

Tub. One of them showed me a ring, that he had of your daughter for a monkey.

Shy. Out upon her! Thou torturest me, Tubal: it was my turquoise;[80] I had it of Leah, when I was a bachelor: I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys.

Tub. But Antonio is certainly undone.

Shy. Nay, that's true, that's very true: Go, Tubal, fee me an officer, bespeak him a fortnight before: I will have the heart of him, if he forfeit; for were he out of Venice, I can make what merchandize I will. Go, Tubal, and meet me at our synagogue: go, good Tubal; at our synagogue, Tubal.




—to bear my wroath.; Misfortune.


—regreets; i.s., salutations.


I reason'd; Id est, I conversed.


—knapp'd ginger,; To knap is to break short. The word occurs in the common prayer—"He knappeth the spear in sunder."


turquoise; A precious stone found in the veins of the mountains on the confines of Persia to the east, subject to the Tartars. Many superstitious qualities were imputed to it, all of which were either monitory or preservative to the wearer.




Por. I pray you, tarry; pause a day or two,
Before you hazard; for, in choosing wrong
I lose your company; I could teach you
How to choose right, but then I am forsworn;
So will I never be: so may you miss me;
But if you do, you'll make me wish a sin,
That I had been forsworn.

Bas. Let me choose;
For, as I am, I live upon the rack.
Come, let me to my fortune and the caskets.

Por. Away then: I am lock'd in one of them;
If you do love me, you will find me out.
Let music sound, while he doth make his choice:
Then, if he lose, he makes a swan-like end,
Fading in music.(B)—That the comparison
May stand more proper, my eye shall be the stream
And wat'ry death-bed for him.

[Music, whilst BASSANIO comments on the Caskets to himself.


1. Tell me where is fancy bred.Or in the heart, or in the head?How begot, how nourishedReply, reply.

2. It is engender'd in the eyes,With gazing fed; and fancy diesIn the cradle where it lies:Let us all ring fancy's knell;I'll begin it.—Ding, dong, bell.All. Ding, dong, bell.

[Exeunt all but PORTIA and BASSANIO.

Bas. So may the outward shows be least themselves;[82]
The world is still deceiv'd with ornament.
In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt,
But, being season'd with a gracious voice,[83]
Obscures the show of evil? In religion,
What damned error, but some sober brow
Will bless it and approve it[84] with a text,
Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?
There is no vice so simple, but assumes
Some mark of virtue on his outward parts.
Thus ornament is but the guiled[85] shore
To a most dangerous sea; the beauteous scarf
Veiling an Indian beauty. Therefore, thou gaudy gold,
Hard food for Midas, I will none of thee:
Nor none of thee, thou pale and common drudge
'Tween man and man. But thou, thou meagre lead,
Which rather threat'nest than dost promise aught,
Thy plainness moves me more than eloquence,
And here choose I. Joy be the consequence!

Por. How all the other passions fleet to air!
O love, be moderate, allay thy ecstacy,
I feel too much thy blessing, make it less,
For fear I surfeit!

Bas. What find I here!

[Opening the leaden casket.

Fair Portia's counterfeit?[86]—Here's the scroll,
The continent and summary of my fortune.

'You that choose not by the view,Chance as felt, and choose as true!Since this fortune falls to you,Be content, and seek no new.If you be well pleas'd with this,And hold your fortune for your bliss.Turn you where your lady is,And claim her with a loving kiss.'

A gentle scroll.—Fair lady, by your leave,
I come by note, to give and to receive.
Yet doubtful whether what I see be true,
Until confirm'd, sign'd, ratified by you.

Por. You see, my lord Bassanio, where I stand,
Such as I am: though, for myself alone,
I would not be ambitious in my wish,
To wish myself much better; yet, for you,
I would be trebled twenty times myself.
But now I was the lord
Of this fair mansion, master of my servants,
Queen o'er myself; and even now, but now,
This house, these servants, and this same myself.
Are yours, my lord,—I give them with this ring;
Which, when you part from, lose, or give away,
Let it presage the ruin of your love,
And be my vantage to exclaim on you.

Bas. Madam, you have bereft me of all words;
Only my blood speaks to you in my veins:
But when this ring
Parts from this finger, then parts life from hence;
O, then be bold to say, Bassanio's dead.

Ner. My lord and lady, it is now our time,
That have stood by and seen our wishes prosper,
To cry good joy; God joy, my lord and lady!

Gra. My lord Bassanio, and my gentle lady,
I wish you all the joy that you can wish;
For I am sure you can wish none from me:
And, when your honours mean to solemnize
The bargain of your faith, I do beseech you
Even at that time I may be married too.

Bas. With all my heart, so thou canst get a wife.

Gra. I thank your lordship; you have got me one.
My eyes, my lord, can look as swift as yours:
You saw the mistress, I beheld the maid;
You lov'd, I lov'd; for intermission[87]
No more pertains to me, my lord, than you.
Your fortune stood upon the caskets there;
And so did mine too, as the matter falls:
For wooing here, until my roof was dry
With oaths of love, at last,—if promise last,—
I got a promise of this fair one here,
To have her love, provided that your fortune
Achiev'd her mistress.

Por. Is this true, Nerissa?

Ner. Madam, it is, so you stand pleas'd withal.

Bas. And do you, Gratiano, mean good faith?

Gra. Yes, faith, my lord.

Bas. Our feast shall be much honour'd in your marriage.

Gra. But who comes here? Lorenzo, and his infidel?
What, and my old Venetian friend, Solanio.


Bas. Lorenzo, and Solanio, welcome hither;
If that the youth of my new interest here
Have power to bid you welcome:—By your leave,
I bid my very friends and countrymen,
Sweet Portia, welcome.

Por. So do I, my lord;
They are entirely welcome.

Lor. I thank your honour:—For my part, my lord,
My purpose was not to have seen you here;
But meeting with Solanio by the way,
He did entreat me, past all saying nay,
To come with him along.

Sal. I did, my lord,
And I have reason for it. Signior Antonio
Commends him to you.

[Gives BASSANIO a letter.

Bas. Ere I ope this letter,
I pray you tell me how my good friend doth.

Sal. Not sick, my lord, unless it be in mind:
Nor well, unless in mind: his letter there
Will show you his estate.

Gra. Nerissa, cheer yon stranger; bid her welcome.
Your hand, Solanio. What's the news from Venice?
How doth that royal merchant, good Antonio?
I know he will be glad of our success;
We are the Jasons, we have won the fleece.

Sal. 'Would you had won the fleece that he hath lost!

Por. There are some shrewd contents in yon same paper,
That steal the colour from Bassanio's cheek;
Some dear friend dead; else nothing in the world
Could turn so much the constitution
Of any constant man.[88] What, worse and worse?—
With leave, Bassanio; I am half yourself,
And I must freely have the half of any thing
That this same paper brings you.

Bas. O sweet Portia,
Here are a few of the unpleasant'st words
That ever blotted paper! Gentle lady,
When I did first impart my love to you,
I freely told you, all the wealth I had
Ran in my veins,—I was a gentleman:
And then I told you true: and yet, dear lady,
Rating myself at nothing, you shall see
How much I was a braggart: When I told you
My state was nothing, I should then have told you
That I was worse than nothing; for, indeed,
I have engag'd myself to a dear friend,
Engag'd my friend to his mere enemy,
To feed my means. Here is a letter, lady;
The paper as the body of my friend,
And every word in it a gaping wound,
Issuing life-blood. But is it true, Solanio?
Have all his ventures fail'd? What, not one hit?
From Tripolis, from Mexico, and England,
From Lisbon, Barbary, and India?
And not one vessel 'scape the dreadful touch
Of merchant-marring rocks?

Sal. Not one, my lord.
Besides, it should appear, that if he had
The present money to discharge the Jew,
He would not take it: Never did I know
A creature that did bear the shape of man,
So keen and greedy to confound a man.
He plies the duke at morning, and at night;
And doth impeach the freedom of the state
If they deny him justice: twenty merchants,
The duke himself, and the magnificoes
Of greatest port, have all persuaded with him;
But none can drive him from the envious plea
Of forfeiture, of justice, and his bond.

Por. Is it your dear friend that is thus in trouble?

Bas. The dearest friend to me, the kindest man,
The best condition'd and unwearied spirit
In doing courtesies, and one in whom
The ancient Roman honour more appears,
Than any that draws breath in Italy.

Por. What sum owes he the Jew?

Bas. For me, three thousand ducats.

Por. What, no more?
Pay him six thousand, and deface the bond;
Double six thousand, and then treble that,
Before a friend of this description
Shall lose a hair through Bassanio's fault.
First, go with me to church, and call me wife:
And then away to Venice to your friend!
For never shall you stay by Portia's side
With an unquiet soul. You shall have gold
To pay the petty debt twenty times over;
When it is paid, bring your true friend along:
My maid Nerissa, and myself, mean time,
Will live as maids and widows. Come, away;
For you shall hence, upon my wedding-day:
But let me hear the letter of your friend.

Bas. (reads.)

'Sweet Bassanio, my ships have all miscarried, my creditors grow cruel, my estate is very low, my bond to the Jew is forfeit; and since, in paying it, it is impossible I should live, all debts are cleared between you and me, if I might but see you at my death: notwithstanding, use your pleasure: if your love do not persuade you to come, let not my letter.'

Por. O love, despatch all business, and be gone.

Bas. Since I have your good leave to go away,
I will make haste: but, till I come again,
No bed shall e'er be guilty of my stay,
Nor rest be interposer 'twixt us twain.




Sung by Miss POOLE, and Chorus of Ladies.


So may the outward shows be least themselves; Bassanio begins abruptly; the first part of the argument having passed in his mind while the music was proceeding.


—gracious voice,; Pleasing—winning favour.


—approve itId est, justify it.


—guiled; Treacherous—deceitful.


Fair Portia's counterfeit?; Counterfeit, which is at present used only in a bad sense, anciently signified a likeness, a resemblance, without comprehending any idea of fraud.


—intermission; Intermission is pause—intervening time—delay.


—any constant man.; Constant, in the present instance signifies grace.




Shy, Gaoler, look to him. Tell not me of mercy;—
This is the fool that lends out money gratis;—
Gaoler, look to him.

Ant. Hear me yet, good Shylock.

Shy. I'll have my bond; speak not against my bond;
I have sworn an oath that I will have my bond:
Thou call'dst me dog, before thou had'st a cause:
But, since I am a dog, beware my fangs:
The duke shall grant me justice.—I do wonder,
Thou naughty gaoler, that thou art so fond[89]
To come abroad with him at his request.

Ant. I pray thee, hear me speak.

Shy. I'll have my bond; I will not hear thee speak:
I'll have my bond; and therefore speak no more.
I'll not be made a soft and dull-ey'd fool,
To shake the head, relent, and sigh, and yield
To Christian intercessors. Follow not;
I'll have no speaking; I will have my bond.


Salar. It is the most impenetrable cur
That ever kept with men.

Ant. Let him alone;
I'll follow him no more with bootless prayers.
He seeks my life.

Salar. I am sure the duke
Will never grant this forfeiture to hold.

Ant. The duke cannot deny the course of law,[90]
For the commodity that strangers have
With us in Venice, if it be denied,
'Twill much impeach the justice of the state;[91]
Since that the trade and profit of the city
Consisteth of all nations.
Well, gaoler, on:—Pray heaven, Bassanio come
To see me pay his debt, and then I care not.




—fondId est, foolish.




Lor. Madam, although I speak it in your presence,
You have a noble and a true conceit
Of god-like amity; which appears most strongly
In bearing thus the absence of your lord.
But, if you knew to whom you show this honour,
How true a gentleman you send relief,
How dear a lover of my lord your husband,
I know you would be prouder of the work,
Than customary bounty can enforce you.

Por. I never did repent for doing good,
Nor shall not now.
This comes too near the praising of myself;
Therefore, no more of it: hear other things.[92]
Lorenzo, I commit into your hands
The husbandry and manage of my house,
Until my lord's return: for mine own part,
I have toward heaven breath'd a secret vow,
To live in prayer and contemplation,
Only attended by Nerissa here;
There is a monastery two miles off,
And there we will abide. I do desire you
Not to deny this imposition;
To which my love, and some necessity,
Now lays upon you.

Lor. Madam, with all my heart,
I shall obey you in all fair commands.

Por. My people do already know my mind,
And will acknowledge you and Jessica
In place of lord Bassanio and myself.
So fare you well, till we shall meet again.

Lor. Fair thoughts and happy hours attend on you!

Jes. I wish your ladyship all heart's content.

Por. I thank you for your wish, and am well pleas'd
To wish it back on you: fare you well, Jessica!


Now, Balthazar,
As I have ever found thee honest, true,
So let me find thee still: Take this same letter;
See thou render this
Into my cousin's hand, doctor Bellario;
And, look, what notes and garments he doth give thee
Bring them, I pray thee, with imagin'd speed[93]
Unto the tranect,[94] to the common ferry
Which trades to Venice:—waste no time in words,
But get thee gone; I shall be there before thee.

Bal. Madam, I go with all convenient speed.


Por. Come on, Nerissa; I have work in hand,
That you yet know not of: we'll see our husbands,
Before they think of us.

Ner. Shall they see us?

Por. They shall, Nerissa:
But come, I'll tell thee all my whole device
When I am in my coach, which stays for us
At the park gate; and therefore haste away,
For we must measure twenty miles to-day.





(A) The present stone structure superseded an older one of wood. This celebrated edifice was commenced in 1588.

(B) That the swan uttered musical sounds at the approach of death was credited by Plato, Chrysippus, Aristotle, Euripides, Philostratus, Cicero, Seneca, and Martial. Pliny, Ælian, and Athenæus, among the ancients, and Sir Thomas More among the moderns, treat this opinion as a vulgar error. Luther believed in it. See his Colloquia, par. 2, p. 125, edit. 1571, 8vo. Our countryman, Bartholomew Glanville, thus mentions the singing of the swan: "And whan she shal dye and that a fether is pyght in the brayn, then she syngeth, as Ambrose sayth," De propr. rer. 1. xii., c. 11. Monsieur Morin has written a dissertation on this subject in vol. v. of the Mem. de l'acad. des inscript. There are likewise some curious remarks on it in Weston's Specimens of the conformity of the European languages with the Oriental, p. 135; in Seelen Miscellanea, tom. 1. 298; and in Pinkerton's Recollections of Paris, ii. 336.—Douce's illustrations.

(C) These two magnificent granite columns, which adorn the Piazzetta of St. Mark, on the Molo or Quay, near the Doge's Palace, were among the trophies brought by Dominico Michieli on his victorious return from Palestine in 1125; and it is believed that they were plundered from some island in the Archipelago. A third pillar, which accompanied them, was sunk while landing. It was long before any engineer could be found sufficiently enterprising to attempt to rear them, and they were left neglected on the quay for more than fifty years. In 1180, however, Nicolo Barattiero[A], a Lombard, undertook the task, and succeeded. Of the process which he employed, we are uninformed; for Sabellico records no more than that he took especial pains to keep the ropes continually wetted, while they were strained by the weight of the huge marbles. The Government, more in the lavish spirit of Oriental bounty, than in accordance with the calculating sobriety of European patronage, had promised to reward the architect by granting whatever boon, consistent with its honour, he might ask.

It may be doubted whether he quite strictly adhered to the requisite condition, when he demanded that games of chance, hitherto forbidden throughout the capital, might be played in the space between the columns: perhaps with a reservation to himself of any profits accruing from them. His request was granted, and the disgraceful monopoly became established; but afterward, in order to render the spot infamous, and to deter the population from frequenting it, it was made the scene of capital executions; and the bodies of countless malefactors were thus gibbeted under the very windows of the palace of the chief magistrate. A winged lion in bronze, the emblem of St. Mark, was raised on the summit of one of these columns; and the other was crowned with a statue of St. Theodore, a yet earlier patron of the city, armed with a lance and shield, and trampling on a serpent. A blunder, made by the statuary in this group, has given occasion for a sarcastic comment from Amelot de la Houssaye. The saint is sculptured with the shield in his right hand, the lance in his left; a clear proof, says the French writer, of the unacquaintance of the Venetians with the use of arms; and symbolical that their great council never undertakes a war of its own accord, nor for any other object than to obtain a good and secure peace. The satirist has unintentionally given the republic the highest praise which could flow from his pen. Happy, indeed, would it have been for mankind, if Governments had never been actuated by any other policy. De la Houssaye informs us also that the Venetians exchanged the patronage of St. Theodore for that of St. Mark, from like pacific motives; because the first was a soldier and resembled St. George, the tutelary idol of Genoa.—Sketches of Venetian History.



The Duke cannot deny, &c.; As the reason here given seems a little perplex'd, it may be proper to explain it. If, says he, the duke stop the course of law, it will be attended with this inconvenience, that stranger merchants, by whom the wealth and power of this city is supported, will cry out of injustice. For the known stated law being their guide and security, they will never bear to have the current of it stopped on any pretence of equity whatsoever.—WARBURTON.


For the commodity that strangers have With us in Venice, if it be denied, &c.; Id est, for the denial of those rights to strangers, which render their abode at Venice so commodious and agreeable to them, would much impeach the justice of the state. The consequence would be, that strangers would not reside or carry on traffick here; and the wealth and strength of the state would be diminished. In the Historye of Italye,by W. Thomas, quarto, 1567, there is a section On the libertee of straungers, at Venice—MALONE.


—hear other things.; Id est, she'll say no more in self-praise, but will refer to a new subject.


—with imagin'd speedId est, with celerity, like that of imagination.


Unto the tranect,; Probably this word means the tow-boat of the ferry.


Doglioni fixes the erection of these columns in 1172, Sabellico in 1174, the common Venetian Guide-books, a few years later. The Abbate Garaccioli, writes the name of the engineer Starrattoni.

Protestant Reformation

(Content by Christopher Brooks (Portland Community College), available at

The Protestant Reformation was the permanent split within the Catholic church that resulted in multiple competing denominations (versions, essentially) of Christian practice and belief. From the perspective of the Catholic hierarchy, these new denominations - lumped together under the category of "Protestant" - were nothing more or less than new heresies, sinful breaks with the correct, orthodox beliefs and practices of the Church. The difference between Protestant churches and earlier heretical movements was that the Church proved unable to stamp them out or re-assimilate them into mainstream Catholic practice. Thus, what began as a protest movement against corruption within the Church very quickly evolved into a number of widespread and increasingly militant branches of Christianity itself.

The Context of the Reformation

The context of the Reformation was the strange state of the Catholic Church as of the late fifteenth century. the Church was omnipresent in early-modern European society. About one person in seventy-five was part of the Church, as priests, monks, nuns, or members of lay orders. Practically every work of art depicted Biblical themes. the Church oversaw births, marriages, contracts, wills, and deaths - all law was, by implication, the law of God Himself. Furthermore, in Catholic doctrine, spiritual salvation was only accessible through the intervention of the Church; without the rituals (sacraments) performed by priests, the soul was doomed to go to hell. Finally, popes fought to claim the right to intervene in secular affairs as they saw fit, although this was a fight they had never had much luck with, losing even more ground as the new, more powerful and centralized, monarchies rose to power in the fifteenth century.

Simply put, as of the Renaissance era, all was not well with the Church. The Babylonian Captivity and the Great Western Schism both undermined the Church’s authority. The stronger states of the period claimed the right to appoint bishops and priests within their kingdoms, something that the monarchs of England and France were very successful in doing. This led both laypeople and some priests themselves to look to monarchs, rather than the pope, for patronage and authority.

At the same time, elite churchmen (including the popes themselves) continued to live like princes. The papacy not only set a bad example, but attempts to reform the lifestyles and relative piety of priests generally failed; the papacy was simply too remote from the everyday life of the priesthood across Europe, and since elite churchmen were all nobles, they usually continued to live like nobles. In many cases, they openly lived with concubines, had children, and worked to ensure that their children receive lucrative positions in the Church. Laypeople were well aware of the slack morality that pervaded the Church. Medieval and early-modern literature is absolutely shot through with satirical tracts mocking immoral priests, and depictions of hell almost always featured priests, monks, and nuns burning alongside nobles and merchants.

These patterns affected monasticism as well. The idea behind monastic orders had been imitating the life of Christ, yet by the early modern period, many monasteries (especially urban ones) ran successful industries, and monks often lived in relative luxury compared to townspeople. Furthermore, the monasteries had been very successful in buying up or receiving land as gifts; by the late fifteenth century a full 20% of the land of the western kingdoms was owned by monasteries. The contrast between the required vow of poverty taken by monks and nuns and the wealth and luxury many monks and nuns enjoyed was obvious to laypeople.

The result of this widespread concern with corruption was a new focus on the inner spiritual life of the individual, not the focus on and respect for the priest, monk, or nun. New movements sprung up around Europe, including one called Modern Devotion in the Netherlands, that focused on moral and spiritual life of laypeople outside of the auspices of the Church. The handbook of the Modern Devotion was called The Imitation of Christ, written in the mid-fifteenth century and published in various editions after that, which was so popular that its sales matched those of the Bible at the time. It promoted the idea of salvation without needing the Church as an intermediary at all.

Within the Church, there were widespread and persistent calls for reform to better address the needs of the laity and to better live up to the Church’s own moral standards. Numerous devout priests, monks, and nuns abhorred the corruption of their peers and superiors in the Church and called for change - the Spanish branch of the Church enjoyed a strong period of reform during the fifteenth century, for example. Despite this reforming zeal within the Church and the growing popularity of lay movements outside of it, however, almost no one anticipated a permanent break from the Church’s hierarchy itself.


The specific phenomenon that brought about the Protestant Reformation was the selling of indulgences by the Church. An indulgence was a certificate offered by the Church that offered the same spiritual power as the sacrament of confession and penance: to have one’s sins absolved. Each indulgence promised a certain amount of time that the individual would not have to spend in purgatory after death. Catholic doctrine held that even the souls of those who avoided hell did not go straight to heaven on death. Instead, they would spend years (centuries, usually) in a spiritual plane between earth and heaven called purgatory - there, their sins would be purged (note the overlap between the words "purge" and "purgatory") through fire until they were purified. Only then could they ascend to heaven. Naturally, most people would much rather proceed directly to heaven if possible, and so the Church found that the sale of indulgences to avoid time in purgatory was enormously popular.

At first, indulgences were granted by the pope for good acts that were supported by the Church; they were heavily associated with the crusades, both in terms of mitigating the normal spiritual consequences of the atrocities committed by the crusaders and in rewarding the crusaders for trying to recapture the Holy Land for the Church. Later, popes came to succumb to the temptation to sell them in order to raise revenue, especially as the Renaissance-era popes built up both their own secular power and patronized the art and architecture associated with the Vatican. By the early sixteenth century the practice was completely out of control. Roaming salesmen, contracted by the Church, sold indulgences without the slightest concern for the moral or spiritual status of the buyer, and even invented little jingles like “when the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs” – that was the jingle of John Tetzel, the specific indulgence salesman who infuriated the key figure in the Reformation, Martin Luther.

The concept of indulgences relied on the notion of a “treasury of merit” – a kind of spiritual bank – whose savings had been deposited by the sacrifices made by Christ and the saints. When someone bought an indulgence, she drew against that treasury in order to avoid time in purgatory. Another way to gain access to the treasury of merit was to possess, or even come into contact with, holy relics (typically the bones of saints). Thus, many rulers did everything in their power to create large collections. One German prince had his court preacher calculate the total number of years that his (the ruler's) large collection of relics would eliminate from his and his subjects' time in Purgatory; the total was 1,902,202 years and 270 days. There was another prince whose total was 39,245,120 years of get-out-of-Purgatory-free time. From this context, of widespread corruption and the fairly blatant abuse of the notion of spiritual salvation through the Church, Martin Luther emerged.

The English Reformation

Whereas Lutheranism and Calvinism had both come about as protests against the perceived moral and doctrinal failings of the Catholic church, the English Reformation happened because of the selfish desires of a king. Henry VIII (r. 1509 – 1547) had received a special dispensation from the papacy to marry his brother’s widow (a practice banned in the Old Testament of the Bible), Catherine of Aragon, aunt of Charles V and hence a member of the most powerful royal line in Europe. Catherine, however, was only able to bear Henry a daughter, Mary, and failed to produce a son. Henry decided he needed a new wife and another chance at a male heir, so he started an affair with Anne Boleyn, a young noblewoman in his court. Simultaneously, Henry petitioned the pope for a divorce - a practice that was strictly forbidden. The pope refused, and in defiance in 1531 Henry, under the auspices of a compliant local Catholic leader, divorced Catherine and married Anne.

When Anne did not produce a male heir in a timely manner, Henry trumped up charges of adultery and had her beheaded. In 1534, as papal threats escalated over his impiety, Henry issued the Acts of Supremacy and Succession, effectively separating England from the Catholic Church and founding in its stead the Church of England. The Church of England was almost identical to the Catholic Church in its doctrine and rituals, it simply substituted the king at its apex and discarded allegiance to the Roman pope. It also gave Henry an excuse to seize Catholic lands and wealth, especially those of England’s rich monasteries, which funded the crown and its subsequent military and naval buildup into the reign of his daughter Elizabeth.

Portrait of Henry VIII in his robes of office looking very pleased with himself.
Figure 7.5.1: Easily the best-known portrait of Henry VIII in the prime of life.

Henry went on to marry an astonishing total of six wives over the course of his life, with two divorced, two executed, one dying of natural causes, and the last, Katherine Parr, surviving him. In the end, Henry had three children: a young son, Edward, and two older half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth. They each took the throne in fairly rapid succession after his death in 1547; under Edward and Mary (both of whom died of natural causes after only a few years), the kingdom oscillated between a more extreme form of Protestantism and then an attempted Catholic resurgence. Elizabeth I went on to rule for decades (r. 1558 – 1603) as one of Europe’s most effective monarchs. Part of her success was in stabilizing the religious issue in England: she insisted that her subjects be part of the Church of England, but she did not actively persecute Catholics.

The end result of the English Reformation was that England and Scotland were divided between competing Christian factions, but ones very distinct to the British Isles in comparison to the more straightforward Catholic versus Protestant conflicts on the continent of Europe. The Church of England, whose adherents are known as Anglicans, had an official "high church" branch supported by the nobility and the monarchy itself. A growing movement within the Church of England, however, openly embraced Calvinism, and that movement became known as Puritanism (or "low church") - still technically Anglican, but rejected by the Church hierarchy. Meanwhile, numerous Catholics continued to worship in secret. Finally, most of Scotland became devoutly Calvinist, under the Presbyterian branch of the Calvinist movement (many Scottish nobles remained Catholic until well into the seventeenth century, however).

The Effects of the Reformation

By the late sixteenth century, the lines of division within western Christianity were permanently drawn. Christianity was (and remains, although the enmity between the different groups is much less pronounced in the modern era) divided as follows:

The Catholic (Roman/Latin) Church

The Catholic Church remained dominant in almost all of southern Europe, including Italy, Spain, Austria, parts of the Balkans, and kingdoms like Poland as well. Catholic minorities existed either openly or in secret depending on the relative hostility of the local rulers throughout much of the rest of Europe.

The Eastern Orthodox Church

The Orthodox Church was the product of medieval divisions within the Church itself, pitting the western papacy against the Byzantine emperors. It was unaffected by the Protestant Reformation, since the Reformation occurred in Western Europe. Thus, the Orthodox church remained in place in Greece, parts of the Balkans, and Russia.

The Protestant Churches

"Protestant" came to mean all of the different groups that broke away from the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century. These denominations included Lutheranism, Calvinism, Anglicanism, and other (generally smaller and less historically significant at the time) denominations like Anabaptism. Protestant churches dominated in northern Europe, including much of Germany, the Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, England and Scotland. There was also a very significant minority of Huguenots - French Calvinists - in the southern half of France.

Image Citations (Wikimedia Commons):

Henry VIII - Public Domain

Explorations and Conquest

Grammar Skills