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Difference Between Writings of the Renaissance and the Middle Ages

Difference Between Writings of the Renaissance and the Middle Ages

Introduction Renaissance and the middle ages:

The English Renaissance and the middle age are two different eras in the history of English Literature with different subjects of discussion, the writing style, the portrayal of social norms, and ethnicity. Every era in history introduced new ideas and new thoughts which changed the traditional ways and brought about a new way of life. In every era, literature attempted to preserve those old traditions and several notable incidents which were to be forgotten with time. We shall attempt to find the difference between the renaissance and the middle ages.

Hence, scholars attempt to study the differences between ages to understand the causes and situations that lead to these changes through the literary works of the era. Also, if we observe, there are quite some obvious differences between these two ages. For instance, the literature of the middle era revolved around religion and spirituality. On the other hand, literature during the renaissance focused more on man, humanism, arts, and science, etc.


On comparing renaissance with the middle age, the observer would find several differences such as:

  • Historical
  • Linguistics
  • Philosophical
  • Thematic

We would thoroughly study these aspects, their importance in literature, and how these differences made their impacts on literature.

Historical Differences:

The middle-age lasted from the 5th century to the 15th century or from the beginning of the Norman Conquest of 1066. The main focus of literature of the time remained over the social and political formation of Britain, which includes knights, Kings, the king’s court and its affairs, and the everyday struggles of the common class. The most suitable example of the literature of the age is Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales”. It is a complete reflection of the social formation of the middle ages.

The renaissance was also known as the revival of literature. It remained from 14th to the 17th century after the “dark ages” were over. The dark ages revolved around the late medieval era when wars, plagues, famines, and other destructions took place, while literature was completely forgotten. The renaissance revived literature and rediscovered all of the philosophical elements that existed before. The literature of this era focused on royal dynasties and man himself. Many notable authors, painters, and philosophers emerged during the renaissance. Such as Dante, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Raphael, Leonardo Da Vinci, etc.

Linguistic Differences:

As the term clarifies itself, the middle-aged English or writing pattern was quite different from that in the renaissance. As per its historical origin, medieval English was a mixture of Scandinavian, Latin, and even French languages. This linguistic era initiated from 1150 and lasted till 1500. Any literary work written during this time is considered a work of the linguistic period in history.

Modern English started to overtake the Middle English language from 1500 and lasted not more than 200 years till 1700. After 1700, the English language did evolve with time but as an example, the works of William Shakespeare are considered to be written in modern English.

Philosophical Difference:

Literature always had a philosophical aspect that is usually the topic of debate as well among critics and philosophers. The middle ages had a philosophical aspect that focused on spirituality and its concerns, opening a wide range of aspects to cover.

But as we discussed above that literature in the renaissance had less focus on spirituality and dealt with the social or political concerns of man. Philosophical aspects in renaissance literature provoked several activists’ movements, one of which is the French revolution. Similarly, Renaissance literature had philosophical concerns over religion and the conversion of religious institutions towards secularism.  An example of such a literary work is Thomas More’s “Utopia”.

Thematic Differences:

As spirituality was very dominant in medieval English literature, the theme of most of the literary works of the time revolved around religion and spirituality and anything associated with it. For instance, the concepts of angels or Satan, good and evil, hell and heaven, Man and God, etc. were dominant in medieval literature. William Langland’s “Pier’s Plowman” is a good example of such poetry.

The literature from the renaissance, as its focus on man its social or political concerns had its themes associated with him. Most of the themes were such as chivalry, moral courage, self-esteem, motivation or determination and heroism. Examples of such are Shakespeare’s Macbeth.


Literature always had an impact on its reader and served at crucial times when man lost his identity during the dark times such as during wars or famines, authors always promoted literature and attempted their ways to preserve the mirror image of the society of the era in words. This furthermore helped scholars and philosophers in identifying the social or other concerns of the time and how man evolved ass per his society. His psychological effects and other behavioral changes were also a matter of discussion according to literary works and their studies. The way how our society evolved from the Middle Ages to the renaissance is very unique in its forms. The differences that we discussed not only helped us learn the conditions either political or social of the time. Man learned his own identities and as time evolved, more and more authors contributed to the social cause with an aim to highlight the moral or social issues of the time which helped man realize the negativity in his society and boosted up his aims to create a change in the social flaws of the time. These changes and other movements resulted in the creation of new political ways and social behaviors.

Read Also: Theory of Transformational Rules by Noam Chomsky

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