Due to the work of Byzantine and Islamic scholars, ancient Greek science and scholarship found their way into the West. Europeans had been separated from their classical cultural heritage for almost eight centuries. No other world civilization had experienced such a disjunction from its cultural past. There were many events in history prior to this that led to the unfolding of this classic revival. Between 1300 and 1500, education had become far more accessible, their was the birth of humanism, and the invention of the printing press. Many prominent men influenced this time: Dante, Chaucer, Erasmus, Calvin, and Leonardo. The later Middle Ages were thus a period of growth and creativity leading into the renaissance.
One of the greatest works of the Middle Ages literature is Dante's Divine Comedy. Despite his engagement in political affairs and the fact that he was a layman, he managed to acquire an awesome mastery of the religious, philosophic, and literary knowledge of his time. In 1302, Dante was expelled from Florence after a political upheaval and was forced to live the rest of his life in exile. Dante's Divine Comedy is a monumental narrative in powerful rhyming Italian verse, which describes the poet's journey through hell, purgatory, and paradise. Historically Dante summed up the best of learning in the Middle Ages in such an artistically manner. Dante stressed the precedence of salvation, but he viewed the earth as existing for human benefit. He allowed humans free will to choose well and avoid evil, and accepted Greek philosophy as authoritative in its own sphere. Dante's sense of hope and his ultimate faith in humanity, was the most powerful expressed the dominant mood of the High Middle Ages.
Chaucer was a founding father of England's mighty literary tradition and one of the four or five greatest contributors to it. Chaucer wrote several highly impressive works, but his masterpiece is unquestionably the Canterbury Tales, dating from the end of his career. Chaucer's stories are told in sparkling verse instead of prose, and they are recounted by people of all different classes- from a chivalric knight to a dedicated university student to a thieving miller. Each character tells a story that is particularly illustrative of his or her own occupation and outlook on the world. By this device Chaucer is able to create a highly diverse "human comedy." His range is frank, witty, and lusty as the Italian, he is sometimes more profound. ~'
Desiderius Erasmus, Dutch humanist and theologian, was known as "the prince of the Christian humanist." Erasmus was extraordinarily learned and witty. He excelled in irony and created dazzling verbal effects, and coined puns. Erasmus propagated what he called the "philosophy of Christ." He published three different categories: clever satire meant to show people the error of their ways, serious moral treaties meant to offer guidance toward proper Christian behavior, and scholarly...