To What Extent Do Renaissance Texts Raise Specific Problems Of Reading?

1869 words - 7 pages

To what extent do Renaissance texts raise specific 'problems of reading'?The Renaissance began in Italy during the early 1300's. It spread to England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and other countries in the late 1400's and ended about 1600. The cultures of ancient Greece and Rome are often called classical antiquity. The Renaissance thus represented a rebirth of these cultures and is therefore also known as the revival of antiquity or the revival of learning. The problems of reading a Renaissance text are primarily related to its history. As time passes, a text becomes increasingly difficult to read due to the differences in the world it was produced by and the world that receives it today. I have chosen to look specifically at how changes in language and of attitude confuse the text originally intended by the author.Language is dynamic and changes from one day to the next, consequently, it is not surprising that the English language has changed significantly over the last 400 years and the Renaissance, particularly, was a period of change. The renewed interest in classical antiquity resulted in works by Homer, Aristotle, Plato and Pliny amongst others being translated from their original Greek or Latin form into English. This confronted translators with a problem as the English language simply didn't have all the necessary words or technical terms. Words from other languages were 'borrowed' to fill these voids , known as loan-words. 'Piazza' and 'portico' are examples of words which were taken from Italian as they didn't have a corresponding word in English. Writers were on the cusp of this radical change in language. Jonathan Swift was closely involved in the creation of the first dictionaries and many authors invented their own words as English was still developing. Some of these words have lasted through to the present day and are commonly accepted. 'Bubbles'1 was a word that Shakespeare created and is understood and used by all. Unsurprisingly, not all of these experimental words caught on and many have been discarded. For instance, the word 'smilets'2 appears nowhere else in the English language outside of King Lear. Semantic drift is the term used to describe the shift in word meanings. It takes various forms including amelioration and perjoration. In King Lear the word 'abused' is used to mean deceived on two occasions (Act 4, Scene 1, Line 23 & Act 4, Scene 7, Line 53) when usually in a similar context it would mean 'misused' . So, the language in which Renaissance texts are written can pose the reader problems as some meanings of words have changed whilst some of the words never entered contemporary vocabulary at all.Semantic drift and word change are only the beginning of the difficulty of interpretation for a contemporary reader. Each word that a modern day reader interprets is the product of his experiences within the society he inhabits. As result his reading will be heavily influenced by literary works that followed...

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