Author: Sara Habibipour
So, in English class we are starting to read The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli (comment down below if you've read it), and to introduce the setting of the novel (Renaissance Italy) we had to choose a person/event and write something about it. Well, I chose the Black Death and I learned something new that I thought I should share!
The Black Death (bubonic plague) was spread to Italy from modern-day Russia/Mongolia. Genoese merchants spread the plague while fleeing Mongol attack at their trading posts in Crimea through fleas on rats that had infested their ships. There is no firm data on the impact of the plague on Italy, however half of the population of Europe died from 1347-1350, leading many to think that it was the apocalypse. Among economic crisis and the questioning of authority, the Black Death led to cultural change in Renaissance Italy.
The Black Death led to an obsession with death among many Italians. The Dance of Death was a popular motif in art and architecture (picture below). The general mood was one of pessimism, and many expected that sooner or later that the world would end. However, alongside this fear of death and the general mood of pessimism, there was a desire to experience the pleasures of life and to seize any happiness that was on offer. This contradictory impact of the Black Death on the culture of the time can be seen in the writings of two of the greatest figures in European literature, Petrarch and Boccaccio. These writers wrote in despair about the human condition, but they also wrote about the joys of life and the beauties of nature. Also, many viewed the plague as God's punishment for the wickedness and immorality of the people, leading to an upsurge in religious observance, as many believed that the Black Death was a sign that the end of the world was coming. Religious fanaticism spread throughout the peninsula and many men and women performed extreme religious practices.
Hope you found this interesting! If you know anything else about this topic, feel free to comment!
Dance of Death in Art