Free «To Posterity by Petrarch» Essay Paper

Free «To Posterity by Petrarch» Essay Paper

Petrarch who lived in the fourteenth century was one of the most prominent Renaissance thinkers and writers. He was also often called “the father of humanism,” which highlighted his significant contribution to the development of the abovementioned philosophy. In his works, he paid much attention to the major Renaissance concepts such as the revival of ancient knowledge, glorifying the human potential and devotedness to Christianity. This paper is focused on the analysis of the Petrarch’s letter titled To Posterity and the study of its significance for the general Renaissance progress.

Renaissance humanism was largely based on the revival of ancient doctrines that were influential at the time of ancient Greece and Rome. The scholars of the medieval period did not pay much attention to the studies of the ancient philosophy and literature, but Petrarch and other innovators of the Italian Renaissance exerted every effort to find and popularize the teachings of ancient authors. Petrarch writes in his letter, “I devoted myself particularly to the study of antiquity, since I always disliked the age in which I lived.”[1] He acknowledges that the society needs urgent changes, which can be modeled according to the ancient philosophic principles as they offer a substantially solid moral, legal and ethic basis.


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Another aspect of Petrarch’s humanism is his overwhelming attention to an individual with all his strengths and weaknesses. This idea is the major argument of this text. Petrarch invites the readers to accept people as they are and allow them to make errors. To Posterity is written to the future generations, and the very concept of drawing the attention of descendants to some particular person (not a saint) proves the basic ideas of humanism. Petrarch writes, “Perhaps you will want to know what kind of man I was.”[2] This phrase shows that from the Petrarch’s perspective, people should always be interested in the achievements and failures of other human beings. When the author speaks about himself, he does not avoid describing some physical aspects of his life. One of the first elements in the description that Petrarch gives to himself is a rather detailed account of his body. He says, “My body was always very sound.”[3] It is another strong connection to the ancient philosophy and culture, where the beauty of the human body was appreciated to a considerable degree. However, Petrarch also mentions negative experiences related to the functioning of his body. He says he was not “free from physical lust.”[4] He does not see anything good in his weaknesses, but at the same time, he does not support the medieval idea of lust being an all-destroying sin.

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As the majority of the Renaissance humanists, Petrarch does not draw any dividing line between the revival of ancient philosophy and sincere devotedness to the Catholic ideals. He frequently refers to Christian teachings. For instance, when he speaks of the source of his wisdom and knowledge, he says, “I was given the lesson by the Creator of all times and ages.”[5] Although Petrarch does not deny some drawback of the current situation in the Catholic church, he sees religion as a key to the harmonious development of any individual.

All things considered, To Posterity is a highly significant document for the study of the Renaissance humanism. It allows the readers to better understand what Renaissance humanists wanted to change in the society of that time, and how they managed to combine the principles of antique philosophy and dogmas of Catholicism. This letter is also very valuable as it offers a rather conversational and individualistic approach of the author to describing his life and major achievements. This personalized interpretation of the Renaissance society and the role of an individual there makes the studies of this period multidimensional and universal.

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