Were there examples from Renaissance period of a relationship of erotic nature between a teacher and a student or during transmission of knowledge?

Were there examples from Renaissance period of a relationship of erotic nature between a teacher and a student or during transmission of knowledge?

The context for my question is drawn from a movie on teaching history. The question per se, pertains to history. I hope that it was triggered by a movie scene is only seen as a context and not as a diversion.

In the 2006 movie "The History Boys", at the 53rd minute, the following scene occurs. The headmaster is scolding the teacher Hector, for abuse. The teacher seems indifferent to the scolding for the most part. He makes a feeble attempt to defend himself by saying:

"The transmission of knowledge is in itself an erotic act".

Then, he is about to substantiate it by starting to say:

"In the Renaissance… "

The headmaster abruptly cuts him off by saying: "Hell with your renaissance, the literature, Plato, Michael Angelo and Oscar Wilde". (I have slightly edited the exact text of cutting off to avoid unparliamentary words used by the headmaster).

The question is : Say, Hector was allowed to continue his statement that began with "In Renaissance… ", what examples of personalities or historical episodes could he have quoted to substantiate the view that teaching as an activity may have an erotic angle to it ? Did the view exist at all ? Were there examples of this at all during the Renaissance period ? If yes, what were they ?

Alan Bennett was interviewed about the play The History Boys by the Telegraph. In the interview he was asked explicitly about that phrase. He replied:

The phrase actually comes from George Steiner - I asked his permission to use it - and it comes from his latest book called Lessons of the Masters. Steiner talks about the whole question of sexuality and teaching, and though I'd written the play before I'd read it I was heartened that some of the things - for instance the notion that Irwin's teaching is sexualised by the pupil who actually takes it all on board - wasn't just an idea I'd had, but can occur as part of the nature of teaching.

As far as I can see, Bennett seems to have paraphrased from Steiner, rather than quoting verbatim.

Outline of the history of Western civilization

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the history of Western civilization, a record of the development of human civilization beginning in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, and generally spreading westwards.

Ancient Greek science, philosophy, democracy, architecture, literature, and art provided a foundation embraced and built upon by the Roman Empire as it swept up Europe, including the Hellenic world in its conquests in the 1st century BC. From its European and Mediterranean origins, Western civilization has spread to produce the dominant cultures of modern North America, South America, and much of Oceania, and has had immense global influence in recent centuries.

Who Were the 9 Greek Muses?

The Muses were the daughters of Zeus, king of gods, and Mnemosyne, goddess of memory. They were born after the pair lay together for nine nights in a row. Each of the Muses is lovely, graceful and alluring, and gifted with a particular artistic talent. The Muses delight the gods and human beings with their songs, dances, and poems and inspire human artists to greater artistic achievements.

In legend, the Muses were variously described as living on Mt. Olympus, Mt. Helicon (in Boeotia), or Mt. Parnassus. While they were beautiful to behold and wonderfully gifted, their talents were not to be challenged. Myths regarding challenges to the Muses inevitably end in the challenger losing the challenge and suffering a terrible punishment. For example, according to one myth, King Pierus of Macedon named his nine daughters after the Muses, believing they were more beautiful and talented. The result: his daughters were turned into magpies.

The Muses appeared in paintings and sculptures throughout Greece and beyond, and were often the subject of the red and black pottery which was popular during the 5th and 4th century BCE. They have appeared, each with her own particular symbol, in paintings, architecture, and sculpture throughout the centuries.

The Scandalous History of Sex-Ed Movies

After excusing herself from the dinner table, the 13-year-old girl begins to shout, her excited voice ringing through her family’s Mid-Century Modern home, “I got it! I got it!!” Her mother, in a Donna Reed-type dress, beams, while her 10-year-old brother looks up quizzically and asks, “Got what?” The boy’s father turns to him and says, brusquely, “She got her period, son!”

I saw this film in a middle-school sex-education class in 1988, and even though I’d read, “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret,” the movie seemed embarrassingly old and this scene particularly laughable. How uncool did you have to be to announce the arrival of your period to the whole house? Is it really something you want your dad and brother discussing over potatoes? After all, our school felt girls had to be separated from the boys in our class just to watch this movie.

Today, most American adults can call up some memory of sex ed in their school, whether it was watching corny menstruation movies or seeing their school nurse demonstrate putting a condom on a banana. The movies, in particular, tend to stick in our minds. Screening films at school to teach kids how babies are made has always been a touchy issue, particularly for people who fear such knowledge will steer their children toward sexual behavior. But sex education actually has its roots in moralizing: American sex-ed films emerged from concerns that social morals and the family structure were breaking down.

Top: The 1938 movie “Human Wreckage: They Must Be Told” (later re-released as “Sex Madness”) tells the story of a chorus girl who is promiscuous with both men and women and contracts venereal disease. Above: Pamphlets entitled “Growing Up and Liking It!” were distributed to schoolgirls who watched Modess’ film on menustration in the 1960s. (Pamphlet courtesy of the Prelinger Archives)

When the first sex-ed films appeared in 1914, no one wanted to talk about sex, but venereal diseases, like syphilis and gonorrhea, were wreaking so much havoc on the American public, filmmakers took on the burden of educating adults about them. Film proved an ideal instructional medium for topics that made people blush, and over the century, movies were made with a wide range of agendas—to prevent VDs from weakening our military forces, to teach teens how to date, to promote birth control in the developing world, and to ward children away from sexual predators.

After watching more than 500 sex-ed films spanning 100 years, Brenda Goodman produced a documentary this year called “Sex(Ed): The Movie” (not to be confused with the recent raunchy romantic comedy “Sex Ed”) that follows the medium’s trajectory in America through the good, bad, and ridiculous. In the beginning, sex-ed films for teenagers served to reinforce middle-class norms, specifically the belief that sex is only for procreation in the context of a heterosexual marriage. Today, you’d think that we’d have a much more evolved point of view, embracing films that teach youth about safe, healthy, and respectful expression of diverse sexuality. But the most open-minded and detailed classroom sex-ed films were made and screened in the ’70s, and many of those are banned as pornographic now. Even though polls consistently show more than 80 percent of Americans support comprehensive sex education, less than half of all U.S. states require their schools to have sex-ed programs. Many of the films that are shown today focus on advocating chastity and upholding traditional family roles—often eschewing science in the process.

Of course, America has a long tradition of keeping tight-lipped about the facts of life. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the United States was by and large a rural country, and most children learned about sex by observing animals on the farm. Young women, expected to abstain from sex until marriage, often only learned about it the night before their weddings, but young men usually had earlier access to carnal knowledge: Older relatives or co-workers might take an adolescent to a brothel as a coming-of-age initiation. As industrialization and urbanization spread and immigrants flooded into the cities, vices seemed even more accessible and the self-righteous started to rail against all forms of excitement, from male masturbation and to rich, spicy, or processed food.

The frontispiece by J.A. Hertel for the 1903 book “Social Purity, or The Life of the Home and Nation” compares the lonely Old Bachelor and Fussy Old Maid with the happy Ideal Family Life. (Via Open Library at the Internet Archive)

In the mid-19th century, women, who were considered the moral compasses of their families, started organizing against their husband’s indiscretions, whether that was coming home violently drunk or infected with a venereal disease (VD). Long-suffering wives formed groups to push for temperance, abolition, and women’s suffrage. Such activism led to the social purity movement (“social” being a euphemism for “sexual”), which started out in the late 1860s to prevent the legalization of prostitution. Proponents went on to demand a legal age of consent and sexually segregated prisons. The activists also opposed abortion, contraception, and pornography. Such anxiety about living in an impure society led to the Comstock Obscenity Law of 1873, which made it illegal to send erotica and information about contraceptives and abortifacients through the U.S. mail.

At one point, the Comstock Law even blocked anatomy textbooks the idea of students learning how their own sex organs function in books was apparently scandalous to Victorians. While social purity leaders urged parents to teach their children proper sexual morals, by the end of the 1800s they were looking to school as the next-best place to teach proper behavior. In 1892, the National Education Association teacher’s union, which was proposing a standard 12-year school curriculum, passed a resolution endorsing “moral education” in schools.

Margaret Sanger’s “Birth Control Review” magazine from 1919. (Via WikiCommons)

In the early 1900s, groups like the American Social Hygiene Association pushed for sex-ed programs in schools that promoted restricting sex to marital procreation and warned of the dangers of contracting VD from non-marital sex. As conservative as this sounds, it sparked outrage: After Chicago initiated the first sexual education program in its high schools in 1913, the Catholic Church campaigned against it, so fiercely the city quickly discontinued it and ousted superintendent Ella Flagg Young. It would be at least six years before another school system would introduce a sex-ed program.

Not every turn-of-the-century American engaged in such pearl-clutching. In fact, new ideas about sexuality and sex education were brewing in New York City. There, Margaret Sanger, a young nurse working with the immigrant population, encountered the horrific aftermath of self-induced abortion attempts. Moved, Sanger began publishing a frank sex-education column in 1912 in the socialist magazine the “New York Call,” and in 1914, launched a monthly newsletter, “The Woman Rebel,” which declared a woman should be “the absolute mistress of her own body” and made “birth control” a common term. The U.S. postal service prevented five of seven issues from being mailed, and in August of that year, Sanger was indicted for violating the Comstock Law.

Meanwhile, fears of a venereal disease reached a fever pitch, and in 1914, a short silent film called “Damaged Goods” addressed the topic on the silver screen for the first time. Based on a 1913 American play of the same name—which was adapted from Eugéne Brieux’s 1902 French play about syphilis, “Les Avaries”—it told the story of a man who has sex with a prostitute the night before his wedding and gets syphilis. He visits a doctor who takes him on a tour of the hospital filled with patients tormented by the disease and its sores. When his baby is born with syphilis, he commits suicide.

An ad for the 1917 update of “Damaged Goods.” Click image to see larger. (Via WikiCommons)

A “Variety” review in 1914 stated, “The ravages of syphilis were shown in patients, their limbs exposed, and to make the impression indelible, book illustrations from medical works were thrown upon the screen.” When the film was re-released in 1915, a “Variety” review asserted that “every American boy … should be made to see it, for they are to become the American manhood, and the cleaner physically, the better.”

“Damaged Goods” effectively shattered the taboo against talking about venereal disease in film, and soon dozens of movies on the topic hit the screen. “In the 1910s, there were a number of narrative films that concerned the issue of sex education, and the thrust of that trend was the issue of venereal disease,” says Robert Eberwein, Distinguished Professor of English at Oakland University in Michigan and the author of Sex Ed: Film, Video, and the Framework of Desire. “Both commercial narrative films and other kinds of films, like governmental films, were made at the time to alert people to the dangers of venereal disease, how to avoid it, and how to avoid quacks who foisted useless remedies on infected people.”

Although we have no record of how widespread syphilis and gonorrhea were in the early 20th century, Eberwein says the belief VD was epidemic drove America toward public sex education. Rick Prelinger, the archivist, writer, and filmmaker who co-founded of the Prelinger Archives with his wife, Megan, agrees. “VD was a huge public health issue that exacted a big toll upon the people and upon the public health system,” he says.

Donald Duck promotes birth control in the 1968 animation “Family Planning,” which was financed by the Rockefellers’ Population Council and shown all over the developing world.

The fear of the “other,” or immigrants flooding into the cities, also drove some of the earliest “guidance films,” explains Prelinger, who is interviewed in “Sex(Ed): The Movie.” Movies intended to teach immigrants “American morals” screened at movie theaters, community centers, settlement houses, and adult schools. Some corporations would show these films on the lunch hour.

“Films aimed at immigrants were trying to set examples of what it was like to be an American,” Prelinger says. “Part of that was strengthening family ties, encouraging people to settle down, to work steadily, to learn English. The moral panic over immigration in the ’10s and ’20s, which is similar to the panic over immigration now, was ‘These people aren’t like us. They create revolution, breed disease, and spread bad practices.’”

But progressive activists looked at immigrants with more sympathetic eyes, and saw that they were living in poverty and suffering from poor health. So the films also had an altruistic side, coming from progressives who hoped to alleviate some of the misery. “It’s one of these funny amalgams that you see so often in the history of the United States where there are real concerns to be addressed—and when we address them by enlisting the media, it turns into this public crusade that’s built upon racism, nativism, and fear,” Prelinger says.

This American Social Hygiene pamphlet for soldiers from 1918 warns in all caps, “KEEP AWAY FROM THE WHORES.” (Courtesy of Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries)

The summer of 1914 also marked the beginning of World War I in Europe. According to Prelinger, people like Franklin Lane, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, expressed worry that young American men who could be called on to fight would not be up to the task, thanks to a “high rate of illiteracy, poor nutrition, poor public health, and a high rate of VD.” In fact, nearly a quarter of the men drafted into the military learned they had VD during their physical exam.

Before the war, the Army and Navy presented lectures to soldiers on the dangers of VD, and distributed a pamphlet entitled “Keeping Fit to Fight.” Often, the men would be shown a scientific film about reproduction called “How Life Begins,” and sometimes a movie featuring photos of venereal disease symptoms and animated drawings of the male genital system. Showing penises in such films was considered more acceptable than in other movies because they were filtered through a lust-free “medical gaze,” seeing the body as if through a doctor’s eyes.

When the United States joined the Allied war effort in April 1917, the American Social Hygiene Association—led by New York physician Prince Morrow, religious crusader Anna Garlin Spencer, progressive reformer Katharine Bement Davis, and philanthropist and Standard Oil heir John D. Rockefeller, Jr.—joined forces with the U.S. government and other organizations to form the Commission on Training Camp Activities to protect soldiers from venereal disease.

This 1922 ASHA physical-education poster echoes the sentiments of “The Science of Life.” (Courtesy of Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries)

The question of what the men should be taught about sex was hotly debated. According to Eberwein’s book, Sex Ed , some people believed that sexually active men made better fighters, while others thought suggesting or encouraging men to have extramarital sex was outrageous. Since 1910, U.S. government had been issuing troops a Dough-Boy Prophylactic kit , which included a chemical disinfectant wash they were instructed to apply to their genitals after sexual contact. When the war started, the public questioned the morality of such kits.

But the Commission on Training Camp Activities decided to include instructions on how to use prophylaxis in its training materials, along with suggestions of sports and social activities meant to distract men from their “primitive instincts,” Eberwein writes. A popular tool for educating soldiers was the stereomotorgraph, an early slide protector. The training-camp slides usually included a mix of photos like images of disfigurement from syphilis and microscopic shots of germs with title cards that said things like, “We can show the disfigurements and sores. We cannot show the suffering, mental agony, divorces, and ruined homes caused by syphilis and gonorrhea.”

According to Eberwein’s book, the first film the CTCA introduced to soldiers followed the tradition of warning them against the siren call of prostitutes. “Fit to Fight,” now a lost film, told the story of five military recruits: the two that pay attention to the sex-education lecture—one abstains from sex and the other uses a prophylactic treatment—go home disease-free heroes, while the other three contract venereal disease. In July, just four months before Armistice Day, Congress passed the Chamberlin-Kahn Act that both funded sex education for the soldiers and also gave the U.S. government the authority to crack down on prostitutes who had set up shop near base camps.

A 1940 poster from the ASHA blames the spread of venereal disease on prostitutes. This 1922 ASHA physical-education poster echoes the sentiments of “The Science of Life.” (Courtesy of Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries)

“In World War I, women were singled out as the source of all this venereal disease,” Eberwein says. “The message was, ‘Prostitutes are the threat. They must be avoided.’ It’s a very anti-female tone. Of course, men pass on a lot of VD to women, which is one of the things that turns up in films where children are born blind or dead. During World War I, certainly a major element in the fight against VD is making women take the fall as the carriers.”

After the war, thanks in part to the writings of Margaret Sanger, who opened the first birth control clinic in Brooklyn in 1916 and started the American Birth Control League (which later became Planned Parenthood) in 1921, the idea that sex, especially marital sex, was for pleasure and not just procreation started to catch on. Young men, after facing their own mortality during the war, began to drink and dance at Jazz Age speakeasies, and young women embraced sexual liberation through the flapper movement.

Suddenly, teaching traditional sexual morals in high schools and at universities seemed more urgent, especially with VD still rampant. At the 1919 White House Conference on Child Welfare, the U.S. government came out in support of sex education for adolescents and young adults. According to “Newsweek,” during the 1920s, somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of high schools had sex-education programs.

The 1927 movie “Are You Fit to Marry?” promotes eugenics and includes the 1916 short movie, “The Black Stork,” which advocates the idea that babies born with syphilis and other deforming diseases should be left to die. Click image to see larger.

Made specifically for college and high school classrooms, U.S. government-sponsored films like “The Gift of Life” (1920) and “The Science of Life” (1922), created by Bray Productions, were shown for decades, although no one knows how many schools screened them. Both strongly moralistic films show young people grooming and keeping physically fit, with animated sequences depicting the process of menstruation and fertilization, and warnings about the risk of venereal disease.

“Those films are long, slow, and very difficult to watch,” Prelinger says. “They’re also extremely scientific they’re the birth of the ‘plumbing film.’ They’re also the earliest schoolroom films to show male genitalia, but they’re not really about intercourse and they’re certainly not about pleasure. I don’t think it’s until the ’60s that you see a sex-ed film that actually mentions why we have sex.”

“The Science of Life” even had separate segments meant for boys and girls. Part of the boy’s section voice-over states, “The sex impulse contributes to those masculine qualities which make men ambitious to strive and achieve. Controlled, the sex impulse, like the horse, may be a source of power and service. The sex impulse is like a fiery horse. Uncontrolled, it may be destructive and dangerous.” “The Gift of Life” warns, “Masturbation may seriously hinder a boy’s progress towards vigorous manhood. It is a selfish, childish, stupid habit.”

A depiction of the female reproduction system in “The Science of Life,” one of the first “plumbing movies.” (Still from “Sex(Ed): The Movie”)

“They delineate how sexuality affects men and how it affects women, with a lot about women’s roles as a future mother and men’s role in controlling their sexual impulses,” says Brenda Goodman, the director of “Sex(Ed).” Of course, the notion that women have sexual impulses wasn’t even considered. “That’s the theme that goes in sex-ed films today as well.”

“The Science of Life” also approached physical ugliness as a genetic disease, according to Martin S. Pernick’s The Black Stork: Eugenics and the Death of ‘Defective’ Babies in American Medicine and Motion Pictures Since 1915. “An attractive appearance goes hand in hand with health,” the film states, promoting a standard of beauty intended to influence teenagers as to whom they would select for mates. The idea was that if young people married and had children with partners who displayed a “fit” ideal of beauty—as opposed to the seductive but dangerous beauty of prostitutes infected with VD—the American gene pool would become more robust. As you might expect, the youth depicted as the ideals of fitness and beauty in the movie were white.

All these ideas derived from the study of eugenics, which deformed Darwin’s theory of evolution into the idea that humans could and should be bred for desirable traits. Birth control was seen as one means of reshaping the human race another was forced sterilization of prisoners and people held in insane asylums.

While they had very different views on women’s sexuality, Sanger and the American Social Hygiene Association had some common ground: Both opposed abortion, but aligned themselves with eugenicists. Given the times, it’s not surprising that the ideas about what makes person “defective” were usually based on prejudices such as racism, classism, homophobia, and ableism. Eugenics also laid the foundation for the Nazi genocide campaign to build a “perfect Aryan race” in the late 1930s and ’40s Germany. When the Nazis became the enemy—and the epitome of murderous evil—American thinkers and scientists disowned their formerly open beliefs in eugenics.

Once America entered World War II, the question again arose about the morality of teaching venereal disease prevention to young soldiers, many of whom arrived fresh from the farm, inexperienced in both warfare and sex. But the American Social Hygiene Association’s methods from World War I prevailed. This time, the U.S. government got ahead of a potential VD crisis among the troops by issuing condoms and aggressively marketing a prevention campaign.

Big-name Hollywood filmmakers like Darryl Zanuck, Frank Capra, John Huston, and George Stevens all made patriotic use of their talents, serving in a branch of the U.S. Army Signal Corps focused on making training films for military and civilian personnel and also documenting battles. “World War II was an important moment in the history of sex education,” Prelinger says. “The Signal Corps made a lot of sex-ed films for the American military because the U.S. government didn’t want the forces to be ravaged with venereal disease.”

A WWII training film demonstrates how to put on a condom. (Still from “Sex(Ed): The Movie”)

To cinephiles, the caliber of the talent makes these dated training-camp films well worth-watching. “In terms of pure cinema—cinematography, production design, and direction—there were some great films,” Goodman says.

The Oscar-winning director John Ford, known for his John Wayne Westerns like “Stagecoach” and “The Searchers,” made a movie for the U.S. military called “Sex Hygiene,” which may be the most watched sex-ed movie ever, according to Eberwein.

“He actually made it before World War II began,” Eberwein says. “It’s my understanding that everybody in the military, no matter what branch of service, saw this film four times. It’s completely candid about showing the gross-out effects of venereal disease on the genitals. And the ‘Sex Hygiene’ narrative isn’t just warning about a dangerous woman like a prostitute—it’s also the ‘nice girl.’ One of the posters during World War II even says, ‘Just because she’s a nice girl doesn’t mean you can’t get venereal disease.’”

A 1940s wartime poster warns troops, “She may look clean—but pick-ups, ‘good time’ girls, prostitutes spread syphilis and gonorrhea.” (Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine, History of Medicine Division)

The running theme through World War II sexual education films is that female sexuality is a serious threat to men’s dominance. In Eberwein’s book, he explains how the films gave servicemen—whose numbers reached 12 million in 1945—visions of emasculation and manhood diminished by openly sexual or promiscuous women. Eberwein argues that the message that women who have sex with multiple partners will emasculate men, and by extension, ruin American society, was so hammered into the minds of millions of American men who served in World War II that the fear lives on in our culture today.

Besides warning the men against women’s sexuality, Goodman says World War II training films were also shockingly frank about condom use for VD prevention, even showing how to put them on models of penises. “It was a real surprise to me that those military films were very much supportive of protecting yourself,” Goodman says. " I f you’re a smart soldier, you use a condom. There wasn’t a moral spin on tha t. There wasn’t anything about ‘Condoms may not be effective.’ It was just, ‘Use them.’ Now, we’ve come full circle, and condoms are suspect according to some agendas.”

Condoms figure symbolically in 1944’s “Easy to Get,” the very first sex-ed movie featuring African American protagonists. When a black serviceman hooks up with a “nice girl” over the holidays, he reaches for a condom, but she—being the emasculator—pushes his hand away.

Another WWII-era poster, featuring cheesecake art, warns against the “booby trap.” (Courtesy of Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries)

“He comes back to the base camp and discovers some sore on his genitals,” Goodman says. “Then he goes to the white doctor on the base, who tells him that he’s had a ‘dirty woman.’ The young soldier says, ‘She looked so clean. She looked clean all over.’ And the doctor says, ‘Where you touched her, she was filthy and diseased inside,’ and it’s shocking. You’re like, ‘Oh my God, I cannot believe that any person would talk about anybody that way.’ But that was the only film from that period that we saw that was for black servicemen.”

During the war, Pfizer scientists developed a way to mass-produce pharmaceutical-grade penicillin, making syphilis and gonorrhea less dire. But the media was sounding the alarm bells for a new “national scandal”—juvenile delinquency. With fathers away fighting the war and mothers working in factories, adolescents had more freedom than ever before and, according to the December 20, 1943 issue of “LIFE” magazine, these unsupervised youth tended to engage in sexual exploits like orgies and violent crime, including rape. Plus, teenage girls known as “Victory girls” believed that having sex with young soldiers on leave was an act of patriotism.

“I don’t know if that was true or if it was moral panic,” Prelinger says. “A lot of people—educators, the clergy, anthropologists—were worried that the family was dead, that people felt they didn’t need to be married to have sex<. There wasn’t an incentive to be in codified and more easily regulated relationships. After the war, there was the sense of ‘Let’s get this country back on the rails.’”

With the war ended, 16mm film projectors from training camps were deaccessioned and made available to schools and nonprofits, leading to the proliferation of classroom films, most of which were meant to restore social order to a culture disrupted by the war effort. According to “Sex(Ed): The Movie,” by 1949, 84 percent of classrooms had projectors.

“You have this media infrastructure that had been built by the government during World War II that was then handed off to schools,” Prelinger says. “Although there had been many educational films in schools in the ’10s, ’20s, and ’30s, that just totally mainstreamed it.”

In attempt to correct the course of American youth, Coronet Instructional Media Company produced a number of films in the ’40s and ’50s that were intended to re-socialize teenagers and teach them how to engage with one another in traditional, gendered ways that would lead to becoming good workers and respectable married adults with children of their own. Coronet titles include “Going Steady?” “How to Be Well Groomed,” “Developing Friendships,” “Better Use of Leisure Time,” and “Dating: Do’s and Don’ts.” In Canada, B-film maker Budge Crawley put out similar guidance films like “Social-Sex Attitudes in Adolescence,” “How Much Affection?”, and “Age of Turmoil.”

“These films are less sexual in nature and more about interacting with other kids—like how to conduct oneself in social situations, how to get a date, and how to behave on a date,” Goodman says. “Some of the younger folks that worked on our documentary found them fascinating and said they wished they had something like that growing up.”

In Coronet’s 1947 film “Are You Popular?,” Jenny, the promiscuous high schooler, is shamed and compared unfavorably to proper, virginal Carolyn. The voice-over says, “Jenny thinks she has the keys to popularity, parking in cars with boys at night. When Jerry brags about taking Jenny out, he learns that she dates all the boys, and he feels less important. No, those who park in cars are not really popular, not even with the boys they park with. Not when they meet at school or elsewhere.”

“That was certainly a message in these films, which I think still exists today, that a young woman who is interested in sexual relationships, who maybe initiates sex, is seen as the ‘bad girl’—and that’s the girl nobody wants to sustain a relationship with.” Goodman says. “That was a burdensome message to many young women.”

The back of the 1960 “Growing Up and Loving It!” pamphlet encourages girls to buy Teen-Age by Modess sanitary napkins and “Princess” Vee-Form belts. (Courtesy of the Prelinger Archives)

Other movies dealt with the changes a boy or girl’s body will go through during puberty. Often, the makers of feminine hygiene products such as Johnson & Johnson, which produced Modess, and Kimberly-Clark, which produces Kotex, sponsored the films for girls. After classroom screenings, girls would receive branded pamphlets on menstruation and the process of “becoming a woman,” as well as period journals, with prominent advertising for the company’s sanitary napkins.

“Some of movies produced by feminine hygiene companies were wonderful,” Goodman says. “‘Molly Grows Up’ is a great film, even if the list of what you can do and can’t do on your period—like no fast dancing or horseback riding—seems silly now. Anybody with skin in the game was willing to finance these films. I don’t think there was a thought on the part of the schools to say, ‘Okay, wait a minute, where are these messages coming from?’”

In 1946, for example, Disney, in partnership with Kimberly-Clark, released a classroom film called “The Story of Menstruation” featuring a petite doe-eye redhead, who wouldn’t be out of place among the company’s fairy-tale princesses. While the scenes explaining menstruation are frank and scientific, the male narrator also instructs the young woman on how to cope with PMS without offending anyone with a disheveled, unattractive appearance or improper displays of emotion.

“During this time, you may feel less pep, or a twinge, or a touch of nerves,” he intones, as the pretty girl cries in the mirror. “No matter how you feel, you have to live with people. You have to live with yourself, too. Once you stop feeling sorry for yourself and take those days in your stride,” he says, as she perks up on command, “you’ll find it easier to keep smiling and even-tempered. It’s smart to keep looking smart.”

“Buck up!” Goodman says. “ Buck up and look good, that’s the message of that film. We saw several films that asserted women needed to look good and act appropriate. There’s a lot of appropriateness, for everybody, in these films.”

Such films didn’t get much attention, until a sex-ed class was splashed on the pages of “LIFE” magazineon May 24, 1948. Eddie Albert, an American actor and activist, known later for his role in “Green Acres,” had teamed up with the Portland social hygiene organization E.C. Brown Trust, which is affiliated with the University of Oregon, to produce sex education films that would be appropriate to show kids as young as 11 years old. The trust bankrolled the first production called “Human Growth,” UO psychology professor Lester F. Beck wrote the film, director Sy Wexler shot it, and Albert Productions produced it.

A still from the animation in 1947’s “Human Growth.”

“Human Growth,” released in 1947, starts out with a nuclear family in the living room, the son and daughter gawking at the sight of Native Americans in loincloths in a book. This segues to the daughter in a mixed-gender classroom where the teacher is leading a discussion about the change from child to adolescent. When the movie teacher then presents an animated film on “the cycle of human growth,” which takes over the screen. When the animation ends, the movie teacher quizzes the movie kids and fields their polite questions. At the end, she breaks the fourth wall and addresses the real audience directly, “You students who’ve been watching this film, you’ve heard the questions we’re going to discuss. You can discuss these same questions with your teacher, and you can add any others.”

“It dealt with the basic mechanics of conception without graphic photographs or things like that,” Eberwein says. “It was very tastefully done. You have the model family—the boy, girl, mother, and father in the living room—a monument to middle-class normality. There’s nothing sleazy about it. It’s okay, if Mom and Dad and the teacher are there.”

Of course, the trajectory for the boy and girl in the film is a heteronormative path to dating (while staying chaste), getting married, and having children. Homosexuality was never addressed in these movies, and the actors were never people of color. “I grew up in North Carolina, and nothing deviated from that notion of that sex education was really to train you to get together, as a man and a woman, to reproduce—but not before the time that is sanctioned,” Goodman says. Honestly, if you were a gay or trans kid or just someone who saw things a little bit differently, you didn’t get to see yourself represented. Probably you had questions like, ‘Is there something wrong with me?'"

The spread on sex education in the May 24, 1948 issue of “LIFE” showed seventh-grade students watching “Human Growth” in Oregon.

One of the first groups to see “Human Growth” was a class of seventh graders at Theodore Roosevelt Junior High School in Eugene, Oregon. By the time “LIFE” magazine did its big five-page feature on the movie, it had screened for 2,200 Oregon students. It also received a thumbs-up from magazines like “Time” and “Better Homes & Gardens.” Still, it was banned in many parts of the country, including New York State. “People were outraged that such a thing would be shown in the classroom,” Eberwein says.

“It got a lot of media attention because it was a real stretch,” Prelinger says. “First off, it’s for younger kids, and second off, it’s mainstream. The idea was look, ‘We’re going to talk about this in class. It isn’t going to be a regulated curriculum we’re going to let the kids ask their questions.’ A lot of parents didn’t want their kids engaging in discussions like that. The idea that it wasn’t hierarchical or teachers reading from the script but kids talking about it on their own, I think that was symbolically threatening.”

Despite the objections, “Human Growth” was an extremely popular film. As “Sex(Ed)” explains, the first run distributed 1,200 prints of the film across the United States. “The master film actually wore out,” Eberwein says. “So they remade it using the same actress who played the chief educator in the film, and tried to follow precisely the terms of the original movie. It was shown all over, except where it was banned.”

In 1957’s “As Boys Grow,” a coach is shown telling the boys in his class how they can expect their bodies to change.

Because it was such a hit, sex education started to take off in the United States, with films meant to be shown to boys and girls together, like 1947’s “ Human Reproduction ,” and separately, like 1953’s “ Molly Grows Up, ” 1957’s “ As Boys Grow ,” and the 1962 companion films, “ Girl to Woman ” and “ Boy to Man .” Interestingly, sex-ed films for mixed-gender classes tended to use techniques such as scenes of students listening to a lecture and medical graphics to distance the kids from identifying too closely with the movie, whereas movies for specific genders featured characters, like Molly, meant for the children to relate to.

The same year the “LIFE” magazine article on “Human Growth” appeared, the shocking Kinsey Report “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” was published, discussing taboo topics such as oral sex and homosexuality. Among the finding, the report stated that 92 percent of men interviewed had masturbated. In “As Boys Grow,” the coach presenting the lesson on puberty tells the boys, “Sometimes you hear that masturbation affects your mind or your manhood, but for boys your age it’s natural,” which is a long way from the views espoused in “The Gift of Life” from 1920. In “Boy to Man,” the voice-over states, “Many boys are worried by masturbation and nocturnal emissions, yet doctors know that neither causes mental disease nor physical injury, that both are natural outlets in no way harmful.”

Even though the Kinsey Report on “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female” in 1953 also found that 62 percent of women interviewed had masturbated, the girls’ films never addressed masturbation or sexual pleasure, “Sex(Ed)” explains. Instead, girls’ films—like the one I watched in sixth grade—centered on menstruation and reproduction, while advertising menstrual pads and tampons.

The 1962 sex-ed film “Boy to Man” tells teenage boys not to worry about nocturnal emissions.

While films focusing solely on the threat of venereal disease were a staple of military sex ed, the first such movie intended for teenagers didn’t appear until 1959 when the Kansas State Board of Health commissioned “ The Innocent Party ” (now available thanks to Prelinger’s videos on the Internet Archive) from Centron Corp. The film gives short shrift to the science of how syphilis is transmitted, prevented through condoms, or treated with penicillin. Instead, it draws audiences in with a melodramatic narrative promoting the notion that premarital sex—and women giving it up too easily—can only lead to anguish and shame. In 1961, the Kansas health board and Centron teamed up again to produce “ Dance, Little Children .”

“‘The Innocent Party’ is about an upper middle-class boy who goes out with a woman who’s poor or working class,” Prelinger says. “She is desperate to be taken seriously, and so she gives herself to him. But he catches a disease from her and passes it on to his ‘nice girl’ girlfriend. ‘Dance, Little Children’ is about the brassy blonde under the bleachers at the game who gives all these kids VD—and it’s about contact tracing. Again, the woman is the vector.”

But VDs weren’t even parents’ worst fear. In the postwar era, cities grew larger and more hostile, and even new suburbs spread into one another, creating unbroken sprawl. Suddenly, parents felt they no longer knew everyone in town, and their children faced all sorts of risk when they rode out to the ballpark on their bikes.

“In the new urban landscape of the postwar period, Los Angeles was no longer a series of villages where everybody knew each other,” Prelinger says. “It’s endless sprawl filled with all sorts of dangers that lurked in the sunlight. The broad boulevards were filled with sexual predators and dope. Somebody wanted to run your bicycle down, and somebody wanted to steal something from you. There were drunken drivers, too. It was a world filled with all kinds of danger for kids.”

Former child actor Sid Davis became the driving force behind “stranger danger” guidance films. “Sid Davis is very much his own phenomenon,” says Prelinger, who was friends with the director before his death. “He was a chancer himself. He had been a juvenile delinquent and a bit of a gambler, and he’d made fortunes and lost them. Before he died, he told me the story of how he was working as John Wayne’s stand-in on the set of ‘Red River,’ and he was talking with the Duke about a case of kidnapping and child molestation in L.A. And the Duke said, ‘Why don’t you make a film?’ and staked him money to make ‘The Dangerous Stranger’ (1950), which was the first film about abduction and sex crimes—the sex crimes being suggested, if not shown.

Sid Davis’ 1961 stranger-danger film, “Girls Beware,” warns girls of all the trouble they could get into talking to men they don’t know.

“Sid said he sold tens of thousands copies of it, and he realized he was on to something,” Prelinger continues. “So he made similar films over and over again. ‘Girls Beware’ (1958) is about rapists abducting girls. The message is, ‘Don’t go in cars with strange boys. Don’t answer ads tacked up at the supermarket for babysitting unless you know who’s there. Don’t do stupid things.’ Perfectly good advice, actually, for anybody. But he put a real moral spin on it. There are several editions of ‘Girls Beware,’ and the best one is from 1961, where there are two ‘nice girls’ who are sitting at the drive-in, and this punk teenager in a pickup picks one of them up. They develop the kind of relationship where he keeps wanting more and more. There’s that great scene where you see them sitting in the park, the camera pans up to the sky, and it’s clear what’s happening. Then she’s pregnant.”

Davis made a companion film to “Girls Beware” in 1961 called “Boys Beware” in partnership with the Inglewood, California, Police Department and Inglewood Unified School District. In it, boys innocently befriend older men who offer them rides home. The voice-over intones: “Jimmy didn’t know was that Ralph was sick, a sickness that isn’t visible like small pox but no less dangerous and contagious. A sickness of the mind. You see, Ralph was a homosexual, a person who demands an intimate relationship with persons of their own sex.”

At the time, traditionalists saw homosexuality as a serious threat to the fabric of the American family. But whether Sid Davis himself was homophobic is up for debate. “He made a homophobic film,” Prelinger says. “I’ve never been able to find out how many prints were sold. There were never many films like that. He made it four times. I think the third time, it was called ‘Boys Aware,’ and it became more generalized. We don’t have a print of it anymore, but in it, the knee-jerk equation of gay men with child molestation disappeared. When I talked to Sid about it, I didn’t see him as a deep homophobe. I saw him as a profiteer. I’m not trying to get him off the hook. That film has great force, and it’s offensive.”

Despite all the people who longed for more innocent times, a sexual revolution was underway. The FDA approved oral contraception, or birth control pills, for prescription use in the United States in 1960. Four years later, Mary Calderone, medical director at Planned Parenthood, established the national nonprofit organization Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) in New York City to promote comprehensive “sexuality education” based on the idea that sexuality is a natural and healthy part of life and individuals should be educated and trusted to make responsible decisions around sex. SIECUS programs for schools began to include information on birth-control methods, teen pregnancy, masturbation, gender relations, and later, homosexuality. This challenged the more conservative programs promoted by the American Social Hygiene Association (which had become the American Social Health Association in 1960) that still emphasized abstinence until marriage while also teaching disease prevention.

As America got more and more involved in the War in Vietnam, young people faced with their own mortality started to reject the war and the traditional culture they felt brought America into it, experimenting with drugs and “free love.” In San Francisco, the Multimedia Resource Center (MMRC), now known as the Center for Sex and Culture, “distributed a whole bunch of films, many of which were artsy and extremely explicit,” Prelinger says. “They were about gay or lesbian sex, or people who were severely disabled having sex. Anybody could rent them. Some churches even showed these films as part of the general trend to openness.”

Of course, all this brought on a whole new round of panic about young people having sex without consequence. The ultra-conservatives felt that kids were getting too much information about sex at school, thanks to SIECUS—and putting it to use. In 1965, a strangely titillating anti-obscenity propaganda film, “Perversion for Profit,” was released, warning against the “world of lesbians, homosexuals, and other sexual deviants.” Television news reporter George Putnam narrates, “We know that once a person is perverted, it is practically impossible for that person to adjust to normal attitudes in regards to sex.”

The 1965 anti-obscenity Citizens for Decent Literature production “Perversion for Profit” features strangely titillating images barely covered with black bars.

“That film was made by Citizens for Decent Literature, a lay Catholic group formed to lend support to local efforts to pass obscenity laws because after the Supreme Court said that the definition of pornography was up to local norms,” Prelinger says. “I think it was shown pretty widely.’”

“Perversion for Profit” was unintentionally ironic, Goodman points out. “This film was about what happens if you have too much access to sexual material,” she says. “Yet it showed these pictures of women who were in some provocative poses—let’s say their breasts were somewhat exposed—and they would put a banner over their eyes. So it just made no sense whatsoever. Just the way they chose to cover things up was titillating. It’s hilarious.”

But, oddly enough, some conservatives—fiscal conservatives—embraced oral contraception and other forms of birth control in the 1960s. As people grew more aware of the dangers of the degrading environment, peak oil, and diminished food supplies, a population-control movement emerged. While it was couched as an altruistic attempt to alleviate strain on limited resources and improve life on earth, campaigns largely targeted the non-white developing world.

That’s how beloved children’s character Donald Duck ended up schilling contraception on the big screen in 1968. The film “Family Planning,” another of the several Disney-produced sex-education animations, focuses on a nuclear family of an unspecified non-white ethnic group who faces disaster if too many children are born. The way these babies are made—sex—is not mentioned, and the wife is so demure, she refuses to speak out loud, instead whispering her questions in her husband’s ear.

As surprising as it may seem in the era of “anti-contraception conservatives,” the financial backers of this pro-birth control film were, in fact, business-minded Republicans—Standard Oil-fortune heir John D. Rockefeller III and his Population Council. Rockefeller’s father had also been a big proponent of eugenics in the original American Social Hygiene Association. In the late ’60s and ’70s, “Family Planning” was translated into 25 languages and distributed throughout Asia and Central and South America to urge population control in developing countries.

Sociologist and sexologist Carol Queen talks about the women’s movement in “Sex(Ed): The Movie.” (Still from “Sex(Ed): The Movie”)

As the birth control pill was altering the American landscape, so were ’60s and ’70s activists. The Stonewall Riots of 1969, prompted by a clash between the New York City gay community and police, gave birth to the gay rights movement. Four years later, the feminist movement scored a victory when the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade gave American women the right to abortion.

Thanks to those advances, the ’60s and ’70s sex-education films started to address issues around feminism and homosexuality and began to show people of color and mixed-race couples. “When the ’60s came, we were much more open about sex and sexuality,” Goodman says. “The women’s movement, civil rights movement, and the gay rights movement, all coalesced at the same time.”

New films challenged the traditional notion of marriage and sexuality. In 1979’s “Who Happen to Be Gay,” six professionals discuss frankly the effect their homosexuality has had on their lives, while 1974’s “Early Homosexual Fears” presents different views of homosexuality.

In 1974’s “Self Awareness and Sex Roles,” Maureen McCormick, a.k.a. Marcia Brady, plays a young feminist explaining why she dumped her boyfriend: “He wanted me to do his laundry. Can you believe it?” The 1975 guidance film “Getting Married” describes a range of marriage types from “traditional” (the wife devotes her life to her husband) to “egalitarian” (both husband and wife make money and share household duties).

The makers of 1974’s “Taking Our Bodies Back: The Women’s Health Movement” intended to give women knowledge about their bodies that had been restricted by the male-dominated medical industry. The young woman leading the lecture in the film, at one point, removes her underwear, pulls up her skirt, and demonstrates a speculum self-exam of her vagina. The startlingly open film also addresses home birth, abortion, hysterectomy, and breast cancer. Other films from the women’s movement explored female sexual pleasure and orgasm—the first time any sex-ed films acknowledged that they exist.

Sexual pleasure and communication between partners is explicit in 1974’s “Would You Kiss a Naked Man?”, wherein two young, inexperienced heterosexual lovers get naked and talk about their desires—the first time a sex-ed film meant for teenagers showed full-frontal male nudity. Today, this film is considered obscene and is impossible to show in a public setting. “‘Would You Kiss a Naked Man?’ is great, actually,” Goodman says. “In it, two people who obviously are attracted to each other but haven’t been with anybody work through how and what they communicate with each other.”

The country song accompanying the 1976 sex-ed movie, “Masturbatory Story,” has lyrics like, “I reached down in the bubbles and started feeling around, and oh lordy, oh mercy, what I found!” (Still from “Sex(Ed): The Movie”)

Even more peculiar is 1976’s celebration of male masturbation, “Masturbatory Story.” “Some of the ’70s films should have never been made,” Goodman says. “‘Masturbatory Story’ shows this 30-year-old guy in a bathtub while a country song about masturbation plays. I was like, ‘This could not have been shown anywhere!’, but then I looked at the leader on the film, and it said the ‘Los Angeles School System.’”

“There was this brief period of openness where diverse and more explicit films could be shown in schools,” Prelinger says. “Part of that was a shift in authority: Instead of these incredibly hierarchical, often preachy, educational films that tend to propose very specific ways of looking at things, you began to see movements by educators in Cambridge and Berkeley to disrupt ideological hegemony.

“It’s amazing how short that period of openness was,” he continues. “Now, those books with photographs about sexuality for kids are considered child porn, and no bookstore will sell them over the counter. But they’re actually an important part of the history. It seems like these periods of openness and diverse expression are very, very short. And the periods of mystification and anxiety are much longer.”

But even communities that successfully buttressed themselves from the influences of Berkeley and Cambridge in the ’60s and ’70s crumbled under the looming threat of a new epidemic in the early 1980s: a deadly sexually transmitted disease (STD) known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS.

A man wears a giant condom costume in 1981’s “Condom Sense.” (Still from “Sex(Ed): The Movie”)

In September 1986, U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop asserted that the United States needed to change its approach to sex education. Instead of just explaining the biology of puberty, schools felt obligated to discuss, in detail, how sexually transmitted diseases were spread (including the formerly taboo subjects of premarital sex, homosexuality, and anal sex) and how transmission (as well as pregnancy) could be prevented through condoms. By 1993, 47 states had mandated sex education in schools. During the late ’70s and ’80s, the proliferation of video technology also made it easier and cheaper to produce and distribute sex-ed movies.

“The impetus for a definite change in and acceleration of warning films came with AIDS,” Eberwein says. “Those movies are quite powerful, actually, and in the context of those, you get a lot of very frank discussions about sexuality and women’s sexual needs are given more foregrounding. You see stuff in these movies that you would never have seen five years before the AIDS crisis.”

Movies promoting condom use like 1981’s campy “Condom Sense” hit the market, but the movement quickly lost steam, Goodman says, as finger-pointing and the fear of otherness emerged once again. Congress passed the Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) that year to create programs intended to prevent teen pregnancy through “chastity and self-discipline.” While many schools embraced expanded sex education that described condoms as effective in preventing AIDS and pregnancy, two new abstinence-only sex-ed curricula called Teen Aid and Sex Respect characterized premarital sex as damaging to everyone, upheld traditional gender roles and sexual orientations, and often gave kids medically inaccurate information about AIDS and other STDs.

“At first, the message was ‘Use condoms,” Goodman says. “In the beginning of the AIDS crisis, there was so much not known and a tremendous amount of fear. It’s like the Ebola virus now. There was a lot of confusion and concern about various populations such as drug users and homosexuals. Right away, one movement said, ‘Look, you can protect yourself. We believe we know how this is spread. And if you protect yourself from fluids —and one way is with a condom—you will be safe.’ On the other hand, a lot of people felt that the ‘undesirables’ in our society were responsible for AIDS. So all that came together and boiled up.”

America has always been prudish about sex, Prelinger says. “The abstinence movement goes so far back. They used to joke that the best contraceptive is an aspirin tablet held closely between the legs. There’s a million ways that has been said. It’s just now there are million more channels by which any idea can be expressed, and people can sell it or put it out for free. That’s how films like ‘The Gay Agenda,’ the homophobic movie about gays trying to take over, find their audience.”

But thanks to video technology, members of communities most affected by the spread of AIDS were able to make their own documentaries on the topic. “Sex, Drugs, and AIDS” (1986), which was shown widely in New York City schools, featured interracial youth discussing AIDS risk and safe sex.

“The one good thing that came out of the AIDS crisis was this great, flowering of community-based video and video made by people who are most at risk,” Prelinger says. “Video collectives like the lesbian organization DIVA TV (Damned Interfering Video Activists) in New York were testing the limits of the format. Then in 1991, Ellen Spiro made a really inspirational video called ‘DiAna’s Hair Ego.’ DiAna was a black cosmetician in South Carolina who gave AIDS advice and counseling to her clients. She would give out condoms for safe sex, along with mousse and cosmetics samples.”

“AIDS changed everything and made what had been somewhat political majorly political,” Goodman says. “In her book Talk About Sex: The Battles Over Sex Education in the United States, Janice Irvine’s point is that the whole rise of the American Right happened around people getting on school boards and fighting about sex education. It became a big flashpoint in the 1990s. They argued that we’ve become a sexual society and we’ve got to cut it out.”

In 1996, $50 million in federal funding for abstinence-only education each year was tacked onto Clinton’s welfare reform bill in Title V. Because states wanted this money, the films and programs used in schools in the 1990s were often created by religious organizations as opposed to public health nonprofits. “Under the guise of ‘We’re going to protect young people from AIDS,’ there was a heavy, heavy moral message that came along with it,” Goodman says.

This Abstinence.net image echoes a poster slogan from the Sex Respect program, “Pet Your Dog … Not Your Date.”

The 1991 sex-ed film “ No Second Chance ” was produced and distributed by Jeremiah Films, a company that claims to “promote patriotism, traditional values, and the Biblical worldview of [the] founding fathers.” In it, the movie teacher tells her class, “When you use a condom, it’s like you’re playing Russian roulette, there’s less chance when you pull the trigger you’re going to get a bullet in your head, but who wants to play Russian roulette with a condom?” When one blond popular boy asks her, “What happens if I want to have sex before I get married?”, she gets morbid: “Well, I guess you’ll just have to be prepared to die. And you’ll probably take with you, your spouse and one or more of your children.”

Under President George W. Bush, funding for abstinence-only education skyrocketed. In 2000, Congress created even more funding and more restrictions for abstinence-only education with the passing of Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE). According to “Sex(Ed): The Movie,” in 2000, $60 million was awarded for abstinence-only education in 2002, $102 million in 2008, $176 million. Meanwhile, states that required sex education in schools dropped from 47 to 22. The number of states that require sex education be based on scientific evidence is only 19.

“The most funding that’s ever been given by the federal government for sex ed has gone to abstinence-only education,” Goodman says. “A lot of organizations sprung up to take advantage of the millions and millions of dollars that suddenly became available for the purpose of communicating an abstinence message to young people.”

A 1960s “Growing Up and Liking It!” pamphlet instructs girls on “How to Take Those Days in Your Stride.” Click image to see larger. (Courtesy of the Prelinger Archives)

In 2004, Democratic congressman Henry Waxman issued a report called The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs that found the curricula often had scientifically inaccurate information, used tones of fear and shame, mixed religion and science, and perpetuated stereotypes about gender roles. A program called WAIT Training, for example, taught kids that the AIDS virus HIV can be transmitted through tears or sweat, which contradicts facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Abstinence-only programs, like films by James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, often point to a study that said condoms have only a 69 percent effectiveness rate, even though the study was discounted by the CDC and FDA in 1997.

“Some of the pro-abstinence films argue that condoms do not always offer protection,” Eberwein says. “It’s interesting shift to see the shift from using condoms to prevent venereal disease in some of the military training films to using condoms to prevent conception in schools. But people can get angry about both of them because in either case, you’re saying the kid can use a condom, you’re saying a kid can have sex outside marriage, when the function of marriage is to produce children.”

Starting in 2001, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) have been working on bills to offer federal funding for comprehensive sex-education programs. Their current legislation, which has not yet passed Congress, would also block federal funding to programs that “deliberately withhold life-saving information about HIV are medically inaccurate or have been scientifically shown to be ineffective promote gender stereotypes are insensitive and unresponsive to the needs of sexually active youth or lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender youth or are inconsistent with the ethical imperatives of medicine and public health.”

In the 1973 Disney animation “VD Attack Plan!”, Contagion Corps Sergeant gives a pep talk to armies of syphilis and gonorrhea germs, surrounded by phony pills that don’t hurt him.

But in 2009, Congress did pass a law that eliminated the Bush’s CBAE funding for abstinence-only education programs, and $100 million in funding was reallocated to evidence-based sex education. However, the Affordable Care Act in 2010 made funding available to both evidence-based and abstinence-only sex-education programs. Oregon, one of the most liberal states in the nation, doesn’t mandate abstinence-only education, but its diverse-cast “My Future—My Choice” film still focuses on the dangers of having sex, including teen pregnancy and AIDS. In the film, a teenage girl says, “The only 100 percent sure way to prevent pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease is to say ‘no’ to sexual involvement.” According to Bitch Media, while condoms are not mentioned in the film, they are discussed in the film’s companion classroom material.

It’s worth noting that wealthier kids in private schools are more likely to get comprehensive sex education—and are less likely to get pregnant or contract a sexually transmitted disease—than poor kids in public schools with abstinence-only education. States with the highest pregnancy rates are ones that don’t require sex education. However, Goodman says by far the best sex-ed program she’s encountered, which is taught in some public schools, have come from a religious but not evangelical organization—the Unitarian Universalist’s Our Whole Lives (OWL) program, a sexuality education curricula developed in the 1970s.

“The OWL program, which is being taught in some schools, is the best thing out there because it starts when you’re just a little guy with a few things about ‘This is my body’ and maybe a little bit about where you came from,” she says. “But then it grows up with you and deals with the psychological and the physical aspects of what it means to relate to yourself and to relate to another human being.

“I came up to the San Francisco Bay Area and trained with some OWL folks who were training the teachers,” she continues. “I learned a lot about how sex ed could be done well, and it was an eye-opening experience for me. I remember coming home to L.A., having dinner with some friends, and telling them I am fascinated by the OWL notion that we should teach kids about sexual pleasure. These are all progressive Los Angelenos, and their mouths fell to the table. That’s a really tough concept, I think.”

Today, of course, kids who don’t learn about sex at school or in the home can turn to the Internet. Unfortunately, online, misconceptions about sex abound, although self-produced videos like “The Midwest Teen Sex Show” and Laci Green’s “Sex+” offer helpful, accurate, sex-positive information.

“I don’t think teen videos on YouTube are enough,” Goodman says. “They’re helpful if perhaps your school system or your family is struggling with who you think you are and giving you a message that you’re not okay. It’s great to be able to go online and get an affirming message. But there’s also a lot of damaging stuff out there. That’s why schools are a great place for sex education. If we could keep this in the schools in a neutral fashion where people could be passively watching a film and taking in information but then actively role-playing and working things out with a neutral authority figure, that would be ideal.”

Even though sex education has not progressed as far as we think, time has not stood still, either, which is obvious when we watch the old videos. It’s tempting to laugh at how dated, uptight, or even offensive they seem to us—the same way the recollection of my middle school’s menstruation video sends me into giggles. But Prelinger says we have to remember where those films were coming from.

“A lot of the films that appear ridiculous today have a kernel of truth in them,” he says. “They were made in part for good reasons, in some cases, to try and relieve suffering. They may have been racist and nativist, but they were also trying to make people healthier. We can laugh, but if we take a nuanced look, there’s much more than that going on.”

3. Problems of Interpretation

Nietzsche’s work in the beginning was heavily influenced, either positively or negatively, by the events of his young life. His early and on-going interest in the Greeks, for example, can be attributed in part to his Classical education at Schulpforta, for which he was well-prepared as a result of his family’s attempts to steer him into the ministry. Nietzsche’s intense association with Wagner no doubt enhanced his orientation towards the philosophy of Schopenhauer, and it probably promoted his work in aesthetics and cultural criticism. These biographical elements came to bear on Nietzsche’s first major works, while the middle period amounts to a confrontation with many of these influences. In Nietzsche’s later writings we find the development of concepts that seem less tangibly related to the biographical events of his life.

Let’s outline four of these concepts, but not before adding a word of caution regarding how this outline should be received. Nietzsche asserts in the opening section of Twilight of the Idols that he “mistrusts systematizers” (“Maxims and Arrows” 26), which is taken by some readers to be a declaration of his fundamental stance towards philosophical systems, with the additional inference that nothing resembling such a system must be permitted to stand in interpretations of his thought. Although it would not be illogical to say that Nietzsche mistrusted philosophical systems, while nevertheless building one of his own, some commentators point out two important qualifications. First, the meaning of Nietzsche’s stated “mistrust” in this brief aphorism can and should be treated with caution. In Beyond Good and Evil Nietzsche claims that philosophers today, after millennia of dogmatizing about absolutes, now have a “duty to mistrust” philosophy’s dogmatizing tendencies (BGE 34). Yet, earlier in that same text, Nietzsche claimed that all philosophical interpretations of nature are acts of will power (BGE 9) and that his interpretations are subject to the same critique (BGE 22). In Thus Spoke Zarathustra’s “Of Involuntary Bliss” we find Zarathustra speaking of his own “mistrust,” when he describes the happiness that has come to him in the “blissful hour” of the third part of that book. Zarathustra attempts to chase away this bliss while waiting for the arrival of his unhappiness, but his happiness draws “nearer and nearer to him,” because he does not chase after it. In the next scene we find Zarathustra dwelling in the “light abyss” of the pure open sky, “before sunrise.” What then is the meaning of this “mistrust”? At the very least, we can say that Nietzsche does not intend it to establish a strong and unmovable absolute, a negative-system, from which dogma may be drawn. Nor, possibly, is Nietzsche’s mistrust of systematizers absolutely clear. Perhaps it is a discredit to Nietzsche as a philosopher that he did not elaborate his position more carefully within this tension or, perhaps such uncertainty has its own ground. Commentators such as Mueller-Lauter have noticed ambivalence in Nietzsche’s work on this very issue, and it seems plausible that Nietzsche mistrusted systems while nevertheless constructing something like a system countenancing this mistrust. He says something akin to this, after all, in Beyond Good and Evil, where it is claimed that even science’s truths are matters of interpretation, while admitting that this bold claim is also an interpretation and “so much the better” (aphorism 22). For a second cautionary note, many commentators will argue along with Richard Schacht that, instead of building a system, Nietzsche is concerned only with the exploration of problems, and that his kind of philosophy is limited to the interpretation and evaluation of cultural inheritances (1995). Other commentators will attempt to complement this sort of interpretation and, like Löwith, presume that the ground for Nietzsche’s explorations may also be examined. Löwith and others argue that this ground concerns Nietzsche’s encounter with historical nihilism. The following outline should be received, then, with the understanding that Nietzsche’s own iconoclastic nature, his perspectivism, and his life-long projects of genealogical critique and the revaluation of values, lend credence to those anti-foundational readings which seek to emphasize only those exploratory aspects of Nietzsche’s work while refuting even implicit submissions to an orthodox interpretation of “the one Nietzsche” and his “one system of thought.” With this caution, the following outline is offered as one way of grounding Nietzsche’s various explorations.

The four major concepts presented in this outline are:

  • (i) Nihilism and the Revaluation of Values, which is embodied by a historical event, “the death of God,” and which entails, somewhat problematically, the project of transvaluation
  • (ii) The Human Exemplar, which takes many forms in Nietzsche’s thought, including the “tragic artist”, the “sage”, the “free spirit”, the “philosopher of the future”, the Übermensch (variously translated in English as “Superman,” “Overman,” “Overhuman,” and the like), and perhaps others (the case could be made, for example, that in Nietzsche’s notoriously self-indulgent and self-congratulatory Ecce Homo, the role of the human exemplar is played by “Mr. Nietzsche” himself)
  • (iii) Will to Power (Wille zur Macht), from a naturalized history of morals and truth developing through subjective feelings of power to a cosmology
  • (iv) Eternal Recurrence or Eternal Return (variously in Nietzsche’s work, “die ewige Wiederkunft” or “die ewige Wiederkehr”) of the Same (des Gleich), a solution to the riddle of temporality without purpose.


Renaissance Quarterly is the leading journal in the field. It began as Renaissance News in 1948 and assumed its current title in 1967. Back issues are available online through several subscription services. Humanistica Lovaniensia has detailed studies on northern humanism in particular, while Italia Medioevale e Umanistica concentrates on the connections between late medieval and early Renaissance scholarly developments in Italy.

An annual volume that began as a series of monographs on the history of humanism at Leuven, Belgium. It now covers humanism more broadly but focuses on humanism in northern Europe, especially the Netherlands. Publishes in several languages.

An annual volume that focuses on early Italian humanism and late medieval scholarship. All articles are in Italian.

The leading journal in the field, with articles and reviews in all disciplines involving the Renaissance. Because it covers all fields, only a small number deal with humanism. Published by the Renaissance Society of America.

5. Song and Ming Paradigms: daoxue or “Teaching of the Way”

Zhu Xi’s (1130-1200) version of and description of the revival of Confucian thought formed the paradigm for the main philosophical developments that give rise to the Western notion of Neo-Confucianism and the variety of East Asian designations of the various Song movements such as daoxue. Other thinkers would adopt, modify, challenge, transform and sometimes abandon Zhu’s philosophy and his narrative of the development of the tradition nonetheless, it is Zhu’s version of the Confucian Way that became the paradigm for all future Neo-Confucian discourse for either positive affirmation or negative evaluation. It is Master Zhu who also provides the philosophical interpretation of the rise of Neo-Confucianism that defines the historical accounts of the tradition from the Southern Song on. In short, Zhu’s theory of the daotong or the transmission or succession (genealogy) of the Way not only provides the content for the tradition but also the historical context for its further analysis by partisans and critics in the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties.

Zhu Xi inherited the rich complexity of the revival of Confucian thought from a variety of Northern Song masters. In organizing this heritage into an enduring synthesis, Zhu was highly selective in his choices about who he placed in the daotong or the succession of the way or the true teachings drawn from the legendary sages historical paladins such as the Kings Wen, Wu and the Duke of Zhou, and then Master Kong and Master Meng as the consummate philosophers of the classical age. It is always important to remember that the Song cultural achievement is much broader then Zhu’s favored short list of Northern Song masters. Anyone interested in the history of Song Confucian thought will need to pay careful attention to thinkers as diverse as the Northern Song scholars and activists such as Fan Zhongyan (989-1052), Ouyang Xiu (1007-1072), Wang Anshi (1021-1086), Sima Guang (1019-1086), Su Shi (10-37-1101) and Southern Song colleagues and critics of Zhu such as Lu Xiangshan (1139-1193) and Chen Liang (1143-1194)—just to give a short list of major Song philosophers, scholars, politicians, historians, social critics and poets.

Zhu Xi’s own list included Zhou Tunyi (1017-1073), Zhang Zai (1020-1077), Cheng Hao (1032-1085) and Cheng Yi (1033-1107) [and though not canonized by Zhu, any such list would be incomplete without recognition of Shao Yong (1011-1077)]. Each one of these thinkers, according to Zhu, contributed important material for the recovery of “this culture of ours” and to the formation of daoxue as the appropriate Confucian teaching of the Song cultural renaissance. Zhu’s unique contribution to the process was to give philosophical order to the disparate contributions of the Northern Song masters.

A. Zhu Xi’s Synthesis

What Zhu Xi did was to give a distinctive ordering to the kinds of terms listed above he gave them a pattern that became the philosophical foundation of daoxue. For those who disagreed, such as Lu Xiangshan and the later Ming thinker Wang Yangming (1472-1529), Zhu provided the template of Song thought that must be modified, transformed or even rejected, but never ignored.

The most famous innovation Zhu provided, based on the original insights of the two Cheng brothers and Zhang Zai was to frame daoxue philosophy via the complicated cosmological interaction of principle/li and vital force/qi. To understand Zhu’s argument, we must consider how the question of the relationship of principle and vital force presented itself to Zhu Xi as a philosophical problem in need of a solution. Zhu understood his analysis of principle and vital force to be the answer to the question of interpreting the relationship of the human mind-heart, human natural tendencies and the emotions. Trying to resolve how all of this fit together, Zhu borrowed a critical teaching of Zhang Zai to the effect that the mind-heart unifies the human tendencies and the emotions. Zhu then went on to claim that analytically understood this meant that the principle qua human tendencies or dispositions gave a particular order or pattern to the emerging person and that the dyad of principle and vital force coordinated and unified the actions of the mind-heart. In other words, Zhu discerned a tripartite patterning or principle of the emergence of the person, and by extension, all the other objects or events of the world in terms of form or principle, dynamics or vital force and their unification via the mind-heart: the mature schematic is form, dynamics and unification. Moreover, once this unification of the principle and vital force was achieved and perfected, the outcome, at least for the human person, was a state of harmony or balance.

Zhu’s ingenious synthesis, to which he gave the name daoxue or teaching of the way, accomplished two different ends. First, its breadth of vision provided Confucians with a response to the great philosophical achievements of the Chinese Buddhist schools such as the Tiantai or Huayan. Second, and more important, it outlined a Confucian cosmological axiology based upon the classical Confucian texts of the pre-Han era as well as an explanation for and analysis of the coming to be of the actual objects or events of the world. Zhu achieved this feat by showing how all the various concepts of the inherited Confucian philosophical vocabulary could be construed in three different modalities based on the pattern of form, dynamics and unification.

For instance, the analysis of the human person was very important for Zhu Xi. Each person was an allotment of vital force generated by union of the parents. Along with this allotment of qi or vital force, each person inherited a set of natural tendencies or what has often been called human nature. The subtlest portion of the vital force becomes the mind-heart for each person. The mind-heart has both cognitive and affective abilities when properly cultivated, the mind-heart, for instance, can recognize the various principles inherent in its own nature and the nature of other objects and events. And when subject to proper education and self-cultivation, the mind-heart can even learn to correctly discern the various is/ought contrasts found in the world in order to sustain human flourishing via ethical action. In short, the mind-heart, as the experiential unity of concern consciousness becomes the human agent for creative and humane reason. The most pressing human is/ought contrast is that between the nature of principle as the ethical tendencies of human nature and the dynamic flux of human emotions that are governed, without proper self-cultivation, by selfishness and one-sidedness. There is nothing evil in an Augustinian sense of the human emotions save for the fact that they are much too prone to excess without the guidance of principle.

When asked to give an analytic account of this portrait of the human person, Zhu Xi then noted that this was to be explained by recourse to the concepts of the particular principle for each object or event, vital force of each such object or event and the normative or “heavenly mandate” of each object or event, which Zhu Xi called the Supreme Ultimate or Polarity. The whole system was predicated on the daoxue conviction of the ultimate moral tendency of the Dao to regulate the creative structure of the ceaseless production of the objects and events of the world. The world was thus to be seen as endlessly creative and relentlessly realistic in the sense that this cosmic creativity of the Dao eventuated in the concrete objects and events of the world.

The experiential world of the human mind-heart and the analytic schema of the unification of principle and vital force could also be described by the use of classical Confucian selective or mediating concepts such as cheng or self-actualization of jen or ultimate humanization as the paramount human ethical norm. Cheng and jen provide the modes of self-actualization and the methods of self-cultivation of the various emotional dispositions that give moral direction to the person when the person is grasped by a proper recognition of the various is/ought contrasts that inevitably arise in the conduct of human life. Hence the concern-consciousness of the person is the basis of individual creativity and manifests the particular principle of the mandate of heaven in a specific time and place for each person. Cosmic creativity or the ceaseless production of the objects and events of the cosmos replicates itself in the life of the person, and when properly actualized or integrated, can cause the person to find the harmony and balance of a worthy or even a sage. Thus even Zhu Xi’s explanation of the role of formal analysis, the arising of the existential manifestation of human nature and human emotion via the various mediating or selective concepts appropriate to the various levels of abstract or concrete determination itself takes on a carefully crafted triadic structure that manifests the proper discernment of the various dyadic conceptual pairs so evident in classical Confucian discourse. Both the tensions of the contrasting pairs such as nature and emotion are preserved and yet re-inscribed in the various allotments of the qi of each of the objects or events of the cosmos with a vision of their harmonious and balanced creative interaction. Zhu’s world is truly one of liyi fenshu or principle is one [unitary], whereas the manifestations are many.

Zhu Xi was equally famous for this theory of the praxis of the self-cultivation of the ultimately moral axiology of his multi-level system of philosophical analysis. His preferred method was that of gewu or the investigation of things. Zhu Xi believed that all the objects and events of the world had their own distinctive principle and that it was important for the student to study and comprehend as many of these principles as possible. It was a method of intellectual cultivation of the mind-heart that included both introspection and respect for external empirical research. In many respects, gewu was an attempt toward finding an objective and inter-subjective method to overcome pian or the perennial human disinclination to be one-sided, partial or blinkered in any form of thought, action and passion. In Zhu’s daoxue a great deal of emphasis was placed on reading and discerning the true meaning the Confucian classics, but there was also room in the praxis for a form of meditation known as quiet-sitting as well as empirical research into the concrete facts of the external world. The debates about the proper way to pursue self-cultivation and the examination of things proved to be one of the most highly debated sets of interrelated philosophical concerns throughout the Neo-Confucian world.

B. Song and Ming Rebuttals of daoxue

In terms of philosophical debate about the worthiness of daoxue, there was a great deal of disagreement about a variety of issues in the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. The Qing scholars were the most radical in their critique and merit a separate section however, there were immediate Song dynasty rejoinders to Zhu Xi who argued against part of the synthesis on philosophical grounds. The first major rebuttal came from Zhu’s friend and critic Chen Liang (1143-1194), one of the great utilitarian philosophers of the Confucian tradition. What worried Chen about Zhu’s daoxue was that it was too idealistic and hence not suited to the actual geopolitical demands of the Southern Song reality. While it is clear that Zhu was passionately involved in the politics of his day, Chen contended that the world was a more empirically complex place than Zhu’s system implied. “I simply don’t agree with [your] joining together principles and [complex] affairs [as neatly and artificially] as if they were barrel hoops” (Tillman 1994: 52).

The nub of the debate revolved around the proper understanding of the notion of “public” or gong, gongli, public benefit. Here Chen broke with Zhu and suggested that good laws were needed just as good Neo-Confucian philosophers trained in a metaphysical praxis such as daoxue. “The human mind-heart (xin) is mostly self-regarding, but laws and regulations (fa) can be used to make it public-minded (gong)….Law and regulations comprise the collective or commonweal principle (gongli)” (Tillman 1994:16).

Such arguments for pragmatic political theory and even an appeal to the beneficial outcomes of carefully constructed legal regimes were never well received in the Neo-Confucian period, even if they did point to some genuinely diverse views within the Song Confucian revivals.

The most influential critique of Zhu Xi’s daoxue also came from another good friend, Lu Xiangshan (1139-1193). The crux of the philosophical disagreement resides in Lu’s different interpretation of the role of the mind-heart in terms of the common Neo-Confucian task of finding the right method for evaluating the moral epistemology of interpreting the world correctly. In a dialogue with a student, Lu pinpointed his argument with Zhu:

Bomin asked: How is one to investigate things (gewu)?

The Teacher (Lu Xiangshan) said: Investigate the principle of things.

Bomin said: The ten thousand things under Heaven are extremely multitudinous how, then, can we investigate all of them exhaustively?

The teacher replied: The ten thousand things are already complete in us. It is only necessary to apprehend their principle (Huang 1977: 31).

There are two important things to notice about Lu’s critical response to the question of the examination of things. First, in many ways Lu does not disagree with the basic cosmological outline provided by Zhu Xi. Second, the philosophic sensibility, however, becomes even more focused on the internal self-cultivation of the person. Many scholars have remarked upon the fact that we find a turn inward in so much Song and Ming philosophy, and none more so than in Lu’s intense desire to find principle within the person. Of course, this is not to be understood as a purely subjective idealism. Rather, Lu would argue that only by finding principle in the mind-heart could the person then effectively comprehend the rest of the world. The point is not a solipsistic retreat into subjective and relativistic reveries of isolated individuality but rather a heightened ability to interpret and engage the world as it really is. The critical question is to find the proper place to start the investigation of things. If we start with the things of the world, we fall prey to the problems of self-delusion and partiality that infect the uncultivated person. But if we can find the correct place and method to investigate things and comprehend their principles, then we will understand the actual, concrete unity of principle.

C. Wang Yangming

Centuries later in the mid-Ming dynasty, Wang Yangming (1472-1529) sharpened what he took to be Lu’s critique of Zhu Xi. Wang’s philosophy was inextricably intertwined with of his eventful life. Wang also had the richest life of any of the major Neo-Confucian philosophers: he was a philosopher of major import, a poet, a statesman and an accomplished general. Wang began as a young student by attempting to follow Zhu’s advice about how to gewu or investigate things. With a group of naïve young friends they went into a garden to sit in front of some bamboos in order to discern the true principle of bamboo. The band of young scholars obviously thought that this would be an easy task. One by one they fell away, unable to make any progress in their quest to understand bamboo principle. Wang was the last to give up and only did so after having exhausted himself in the futile effort. Wang recounts that he simply believed that he lacked the moral and intellectual insight to carry out the task at hand at this time he did not question Zhu’s master narrative about how to engage the world as a Confucian philosopher.

Later during a painful political exile in the far south of China, Wang Yangming had a flash of insight into the problem of finding the true location of principle. As Tu Weiming writes, “For the first time Yangming came to the realization that “My own nature is, of course, sufficient for me to attain sagehood. And I have been mistaken in searching for the li [principle] in external things and affairs [shiwu]” (Tu 1976: 120). Wang clearly understood this enlightenment experience as a confirmation that Lu Xiangshan was correct when Lu had declared that principle was to be found complete within the mind-heart of the person. In much greater detail than Lu, Wang then set out to develop the philosophical implications of the primordial insight into the proper way to carry out Confucian moral epistemology and self-cultivation. And after having straightened out the epistemology, Wang then went on to explain how the Confucian worthy should act in the world. This strong emphasis on the cultivation of the mind-heart led to the categorization of Wang’s teaching as a xinxue or teaching of the mind-heart as opposed to Zhu’s lixue or teaching of principle, and, in fact, this is the way later scholars often labeled the teachings of Zhu and Wang.

The way Wang taught about the task of realizing what he called the innate goodness of human nature was his famous doctrine of the unity of knowledge and action. As Wang said, “Knowledge is the direction for action and action is the effort for knowledge” and “Knowledge is the beginning of action and action is the completion of knowledge” (Ching 1976: 68). The problem that Wang was addressing was the deep concern that Zhu’s method for examining things in order to cultivate the essential goodness of the mind-heart was too fragmented and that such epistemological fragmentation would eventuate in moral failure and cognitive incompetence. Real praxis and theory could not be separated, and even if Wang acknowledged that Zhu was a sincere seeker after the Dao, Wang believed that Zhu’s methods were hopelessly flawed and actually dangerous to the cultivation of the Confucian worthy.

D. The Role of Emotion

There was yet another philosophical realignment within Ming thought that is harder to identify with the specific teachings of any one master, namely the debate over the role of qing or emotion within the Neo-Confucian world of discourse [representative scholars would be Li Zhi (1527-1602) and Ho Xingyin (1517-1579)]. The nature of the emotions or human feelings was always a topic of reflection within the broad sweep of the historical development of Confucianism because of the persistent Confucian fascination with moral anthropology and ethics. Zhu Xi had a very important place for the emotions in his teachings of the way, though many later thinkers felt that Zhu was too negative about the function of the emotions. While it was perfectly clear that Zhu never taught that the emotions per se were evil or entirely negative, he did teach that the emotions needed to be properly and carefully cultivated in terms of the conformity of the emotional life to the life of principle. Zhu thematized this as the contrast between the daoxin or the Mind of Dao and the renxin or the Mind of Humanity (the mind of the psychophysical person). Moreover, it was also perfectly clear that Zhu taught that the truly ethical person needed to realize the Mind of Dao in order to actualize the human tendencies as mandated by heaven for each person. If not hostile to the emotions, Zhu was wary of them as the prime location for human self-centered and partial behavior.

By the late Ming dynasty many of the followers of Wang Yangming harshly questioned what they took to be the negative Song teachings about the emotional life. In fact, many of these thinkers made the bold claim that the emotions were just as important and valuable philosophical resources for authentic Confucian teachings as reflections on the themes of principle or vital force. In fact, they contended that it was a proper and positive interpretation of human emotions and even passions that distinguishes Confucianism from Daoism and Buddhism. Whether or not these thinkers were correct in their interpretations of Daoist and Buddhist thought need not detain us here. What is more important is that these thinkers developed a more positive interpretation of qing than had been the case in earlier Song and Ming thought. It might be argued that such a concern for the emotions was just another marker of the Neo-Confucian turn toward the subject, a flight to contemplation of an inner subjective world as opposed to the much more activist style of the Han and Tang scholarly traditions. However, this speculation about emotion, even romantic love, had the unintended effect of allowing educated Chinese women to enter into the debate. Debarred, as they noted, from active lives outside the literati family compounds, the women observed that although living circumscribed lives compared to their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons, they did know something about the emotions—and that they had something positive to add to the debate.

Dorothy Ko’s important study of the role of educated women tells the wonderful and poignant story of three young women, Chan Tong (ca. 1650-1665), Tan Ze (ca. 1655-1675) and Qian Yi (fl. 1694). All three were eventually the wives of Wu Ren, with Chan and Tan dying very early in life and leaving what would be called the Three Wives Commentary on the famous Ming drama The Peony Pavilion to be completed and published in 1694 by the third wife, Madame Qian. The three women demonstrated just as great scholarly exegetical and hermeneutic skills as their husband, and he always acknowledged their authorship and their collective and individual genius against those who thought women unable to achieve this level of cultural, artistic and philosophical sophistication. In short, the three women defended and explicated the theory about human emotions, also held by the radical Taizhou school followers of Wang Yangming, that even the entangled emotions of romantic love could become “a noble sentiment that gives meaning of human life” (Ko 1994:84). Although not widely accepted in late Ming and Qing society, these Confucian women defended the notion of companionate marriage based, in part, on a Confucian analysis of the emotional needs of women and men.

E. Evidential Research

After the conquest of all of China by the Manchu in 1644, there was a tremendous cultural backlash against the radical thinkers of the late Ming dynasty. Rather than seeking validation of the emotions and human passions, many Qing scholars took a completely different approach to rediscover the true teachings of the classical Confucian sages. The point of departure for all of these thinkers was to reject the philosophical foundations of both Song scholars such as Zhu Xi and Ming teachers such as Wang Yangming. The charge the radical Qing scholars made against both Zhu and Wang Yangming was that both lixue and xinxue were completely infused with so much extraneous Daoist and Buddhist accretions that the true Confucian vision was subverted into something strange to the teachings of the classical Confucian masters. Therefore, the task of the Qing scholars was to strip Neo-Confucianism of its Daoist and Buddhist subversive inclusions.

The method that the Qing scholars chose has been called hanxue or Han Teaching or kaozhengxue, Evidential Research Learning. The chief tactic was to argue that the best way to return to true Confucian teachings in the face of Song Neo-Confucian distortions was to return to the work of the earliest stratum of texts, namely the work of the famous Han exegetes. The theory was that these Han scholars were closer to the classical texts and were also without the taint of undue Daoist or Buddhist influence. The other way to describe the movement is to note that these scholars promoted a various rigorous historical-critical and philological approach to the philosophical texts based on what they called an evidential research program. The grand axiom or rubric of the kaozhengxue scholars was to find the truth in the facts. They abjured what they believed to be the overly metaphysical flights of fancy of the Song and Ming thinkers and went back to the careful study of philology and textual and social history in order to return to a true Confucian scholarly culture. The better philosophers of this group, with Ku Yanwu (1613-1682) and Dai Zhen (1724-1777) as the bookends of the tradition, recognized that such an appeal to research methodology as opposed to Song metaphysics was also a philosophical appeal in its own right. Yet all these Evidential Research scholars were united in trying to find the earliest core of true Confucian texts by a meticulous examination of the whole history of Confucian thought. Along with major contributions to Confucian classical studies, these Evidential Research philosophers also made major additions to the promotion of local historical studies and even advanced practical studies in agriculture and water management. They really did try to find the truth in the facts. Yet the world of the Qing Evidential Research scholars was as ruthlessly destroyed as the metaphysical speculations of Song-style philosophers with the arrival of the all-powerful Western imperial powers in the middle of the 19th century.

Education in Plato's Republic

Although Plato's Republic is best known for its definitive defense of justice, it also includes an equally powerful defense of philosophical education. Plato's beliefs on education, however, are difficult to discern because of the intricacies of the dialogue. Not only does Socrates (Plato's mouthpiece in the dialogue) posit two differing visions of education (the first is the education of the warrior guardians and the second is the philosopher-kings' education), but he also provides a more subtle account of education through the pedagogical method he uses with Glaucon and Adeimantus. While the dramatic context of the dialogue makes facets of the Republic difficult to grasp, in the case of education, it also provides the key to locating and understanding Socrates' true vision of education. Socrates' pedagogical approach with the interlocutors corresponds closely with his vision of the education of the philosopher-kings--an overlap which suggests that the allegory of the cave is representative of true Socratic education.

The first account of education, however, is not included in the dialogue without purpose. In accordance with the progressive, playful, philosophical education suggested by the cave analogy and the philosopher-kings' education, Socrates uses numerous varying and often conflicting ideas and images (among which is the first account of education) to gradually guide his pupils toward a personal realization of knowledge and philosophy.

This paper will first examine the dialogue's two explicit accounts of education, addressing both their similarities and differences. After gaining an understanding of the two accounts, the paper will analyze them in relation to Socrates' own pedagogical method, and thereby unveil the ideals of Socratic education.

Socrates' First Account of Education:

Aim of Guardians' Education:

The most explicit account of education arises after Glaucon questions the moderate and plain lifestyle required in Socrates' just city "of speech" (369a). Caught up in the fun of imagining the ideal city, Glaucon cannot fathom that it would be as austere as Socrates suggests and desires that it be more luxurious. As soon as Socrates allows fineries, however, the city quickly becomes rife with potential trouble. More land is needed to hold the burgeoning population and its possessions and a specialized military is needed to carry out conquests and guard the city from its neighbors. With the ever-present danger of tyranny accompanying military rule, efforts must be made to curb the guardians' natural tendency to lord over the citizens. Socrates suggests that the guardians be controlled through an education designed to make them like "noble puppies" that are fierce with enemies and gentle with familiars (375a). Education in music for the soul and gymnastics for the body, Socrates says, is the way to shape the guardians' character correctly and thereby prevent them from terrorizing the citizens. Thus, the guardians' education is primarily moral in nature, emphasizing the blind acceptance of beliefs and behaviors rather than the ability to think critically and independently.

Socrates says that those fit for a guardian's education must by nature be "philosophic, spirited, swift, and strong" (376 c). The guardians must be lovers of learning like "noble puppies" who determine what is familiar and foreign by "knowledge and ignorance" (376 b). Unlike the philosopher-kings appearing later in the book, these philosophically natured guardians approve only of that with which they are already familiar and they attack whatever is new. Although Socrates says potential guardians must have a certain disposition, the impressionability of the ideal nature suggests that they must only be bodily suited to the physical aspects of the job since they will be instilled with the other necessary qualities through education.

Musical Education:

Education in music (which includes speeches) begins with the telling of tales in the earliest years of childhood because that is when people are most pliable. Tales must be strictly censored because young children are malleable and absorb all to which they are exposed. Socrates claims, "A young thing can't judge what is hidden sense and what is not but what he takes into his opinions at that age has a tendency to become hard to eradicate and unchangeable" (378d). Unable to distinguish between good and bad and, therefore, garner examples of how not to behave from bad tales, children will only use bad examples to justify their own bad behavior (391e). Through the telling of carefully crafted tales, mothers and nurses will shape their children's souls (377c). Moreover, children are expected to accept whatever they are told with little free-thought. Radically, Socrates says that anything in youth "assimilates itself to the model whose stamp anyone wishes to give to it" (377b). The implication that children can be shaped completely by education fits with the earlier suggestion that guardians are not meant to have a particular moral nature before their education.

The content of tales is meant to instill virtue and a certain theology in the hearers. Instead of giving examples of appropriate tales, Socrates attacks the great poets, Hesiod and Homer, for creating inappropriate tales. He says that these poets' tales include bad lies, which further unrealistic images of the gods and heroes (377e). Gods must never be shown as unjust for fear that children will think it acceptable and honorable to do injustice. Tales cannot depict fighting among the gods and, further, children must actively be told that citizens have never been angry with one another (378c). By hearing such tales, youths will learn the importance of unity and will be disinclined to fight amongst themselves when they are grown. Children must be told that the gods are not the cause of all things, only those which are good and just (380c). Furthermore, gods cannot be said to punish (unless it is for the punished person's benefit), change shape/form, or lie. By making the gods incapable of dishonesty and connected only with what is good, Socrates distances them from the world of men in which lying and deception are ever-present. Separating gods from men prevents poetic accounts of the gods from being used as a model for human behavior. Instead, children must look solely to human guardians and the law for guidance.

Good tales must also foster courage, moderation, and justice. Hades should be praised so that the warriors will not fear death children should grow up fearing slavery more than death (386c). The hero Achilles must be absent from all tales, because children cannot see lamenting or gross displays of immoderate emotion glorified for fear they will adopt the practices as their own (388). Additionally, tales cannot include displays of laughter (389a). Like excessive displays of grief, excessive displays of happiness threaten the stoic attitude that is desirable in guardians. Suitable tales must glorify and encourage moderation they must display obedience to superiors and temperance in drinking, eating, sex (389e), and love of money and possessions (390e). Tales must also show bravery in the face of danger (390d. Most existing stories, Socrates claims, send inappropriate messages and must be outlawed. They show unjust men as happy, just men as unhappy, injustice as profitable, and justice as being someone else's good and one's own loss. Interestingly, these bad messages are the same as Glaucon's and Adeimantus' arguments against the usefulness of justice. Instead of being told existing tales such as those by Homer and Hesiod, children must be told speeches about real justice, whatever it may be (392c). Interestingly, although Socrates includes three of the four main virtues (courage, moderation, and justice) among the important lessons of appropriate tales, wisdom is absent. The omission of wisdom, along with the implication that the guardians should accept blindly whatever they are told and to be wholly molded by the tales, suggest again that guardians are not intended to be wise and philosophical.

Narrative Style of Tales:

After addressing the appropriate content of tales, Socrates discusses whether simple or imitative narrative should be used by poets and guardians. He determines that mimetic poetry is dangerous because it encourages people to imitate bad as well as good behavior and supports the violation of the one man-one job principle (395c). But if poets and guardians are to imitate (which they doubtlessly will since Socrates' whole discussion of the importance of good tales relies on the idea that children will imitate good examples), they must copy those virtues which they have been taught since childhood (courage, moderation, holiness, freedom) (395c). Socrates says, "Imitations, if they are practiced continually from youth onwards, become established as habits and nature, in body and sounds and in thought" (395d). Therefore, the correct style of narrative for both guardians and poets is mostly non-imitative, but allows for some imitation of good men (396d). Socrates then says that the preference for non-imitative poets excludes the most loved and entertaining poets from the city (397e-398a), in favor of more austere and less-pleasing poets. Whereas Glaucon was unwilling to give up the "relishes" which he loves (372c), Adeimantus, Socrates' partner for this part of the discussion, willingly gives up his favorite poets and agrees that poets must be less pleasing.

Lastly in his discussion of educative music, Socrates addresses the appropriate melody of tales with Glaucon. Similar to the content and style of speeches, Socrates allows only moderate and austere melodies. Melodies imitating the sounds and accents of men courageous in the face of danger and those suitable to peaceful men are allowed, but modes suiting laments or revelries are forbidden (399b). Only simple instruments such as the lyre, cither, and pipe are permitted (399d). Most importantly, Socrates insists that rhythm must follow speech, not the other way around. Every component of speech must follow the disposition of a good soul "Good speech, good harmony, good grace, and good rhythm accompany good disposition" (400e).

Socrates says that careful crafting of tales is important because they are the most effective method of educating guardians' souls. Rhythm and harmony touch the soul directly, so if children are surrounded by tales of goodness and never exposed to bad tales, like "noble puppies" they will learn to love what they know (goodness and justice) and hate what they do not know (injustice) (401d-e). Learning to love fine things and hate ugly things as a child will help them appreciate reasonable speech and find pleasure in living moderately when grown (402a). By asserting that the highest virtues are acquired through education and are a matter of refined taste, Socrates combats Glaucon's love for base pleasures. Socrates shows him that with the proper education, a life of noble virtue, including "moderation, courage, liberality, and magnificence" (402c) but excluding sex and excessive pleasure, will be fulfilling. In other words, through learning real virtue, Glaucon will find a satisfaction similar (although not identical) to that of the eros that he so craves.

Gymnastic Education:

Having completed the discussion of music, Socrates moves onto gymnastic education. Socrates does not advocate a complicated gymnastic regimen instead, he says that a good soul produces a good body, and that a healthy intellect ensures a healthy body (403d-e). Therefore, by eating and drinking moderately and undertaking a simple physical exercise plan from youth, the body will be as fit as is needed. Gymnastics is mainly responsible for preventing illness and the need for medicine in the city. Medicine, Socrates says, is only welcome as a means for curing easily-fixed illnesses and should never be used to keep those unable to work alive (406). Following his discussion of medicine, Socrates discusses the appropriate character of judges. Like the well-educated guardian, a good judge will be "a late learner of what injustice is" (409b). Although never exposed to injustice personally, he will recognize injustice by its foreignness. This ability to distinguish between good and bad without ever having been directly exposed to the bad is the intended result of the guardians' education.

Although music is the most important component in the guardians' education, equilibrium between music and gymnastics is important for the production of moral guardians. Because a solely gymnastic education causes savagery and a purely musical education causes softness, the two must be balanced. Socrates says,

The man who makes the finest mixture of gymnastic with music and brings them to his soul in the most proper measure is the one of whom we would most correctly say that he is the most perfectly musical and well harmonized (412a).

Education in music and gymnastics will be compulsory for youths, and their progress and adaptability will be watched and tested throughout their development. Those who resolutely hold onto the convictions instilled in them by education will be chosen as guardians and those who rebel against the city's ideology will be rejected (413d-414a).

Socrates' Second Account of Education:

Aim of Education:

After being compelled to expound on the details of the city (including communism and gender equality), Socrates admits that the city should be ruled by philosopher-kings (503b) and, furthermore, that the previous account of the guardians' education was incomplete (504b). Socrates now acknowledges that the nature necessary in philosopher-kings is rare. Quick, fiery natures suited to music are usually too unstable for courage in the face of war, and trustworthy, brave natures that excel in war are often slow intellectually (503c-d). Thus, potential philosopher-kings must receive a new form of education that will identify, test, and refine their philosophical natures. Socrates says, "It must also be given gymnastic in many studies to see whether it will be able to bear the greatest studies, or whether it will turn out to be a coward" (503e). From this, it seems that education does not make men a certain way, as in the first account. Instead, education serves to identify those who are capable of philosophizing and helps to strengthen the characters of those who are capable. Furthermore, the philosopher-kings education will teach true love of learning and philosophy, as opposed to the false love of learning of the "noble puppies" (376b).

Knowledge of "The Good":

The philosopher-kings' education aims beyond the attainment of the four virtues and includes the greatest and most beneficial study: that of "the good" (505a). Knowledge of the good is the ultimate virtue without it the attainment of other virtues is impossible (505a). Furthermore, it is insufficient to merely have opinions about the good. Instead, knowledge of "the good" must be absolute Socrates says, "When it comes to good things, no one is satisfied with what is opined to be so but each seeks the things that are" (505d). The importance of knowing what is stands out in sharp contrast to the earlier unfounded opinions of the guardians. Before, education consisted of telling false tales to children so that they would absorb the material and have correct opinions. Seen as incapable of determining right and wrong for themselves, children were to be guarded from the truth when it was not wholly good. The new importance of truth and what is also contrasts with the first account's use of lies in educating the guardians. Simply by aiming for true knowledge, this education is more philosophical and Socratic than the first. But despite his adamancy that knowing is superior to opining, Socrates himself claims not to know the good, which allows him to explore it jointly with Glaucon. Socrates' sharing in the educational experience is an effective pedagogical method that benefits both the student and the teacher.

Socrates' way of explaining the good is characteristic of his pedagogical method. First, turns Glaucon onto the good by introducing it in a mysterious, attractive way. Glaucon wants this illusive, erotic knowledge that Socrates dangles before him, but just as his interest is sparked, Socrates tells him it is too complicated, which arouses Glaucon even more (506e). As a compromise, Socrates agrees to tell Glaucon of something similar to the good but less complicated (507a). Using the power of images, Socrates evokes an analogy of the obscure good and the familiar sun. Socrates says that the sun, like the good, illuminates the true "ideas" behind things. As the sun allows our eyes to use their existing capacity to see, the good allows our existing intellect to know. Socrates says,

When it fixes itself on that which is illumined by truth and that which is, it intellects, knows, and appears to possess intelligence. But when it fixes itself on that which is mixed with darkness, on coming into being and passing away, it opines and is dimmed, changing opinions up and down and seems at such times not to possess intelligence (508d).

The good is a higher reality and is responsible for our capacity to reason, as well as our very "existence and being" (509b).

By preparing Glaucon with the sun analogy and telling him of the extreme power of the good, Socrates hooks him completely. Glaucon says, "Apollo, what a demonic excess…don't leave even the slightest thing aside" (509c). No longer is Glaucon averse to the austere lifestyle of the guardians, because now the guardians are possessors of the most illustrious power. Unlike in the first account when Socrates explicitly says that moderation excludes the possibility of lusty pleasure (402e), now Socrates paints the good as though it were as appealing as sex, making Glaucon willing to do anything to obtain the good.

The Cave Analogy:

Now that Glaucon eagerly wants to know everything about the good, Socrates tries to explain the divided line (510-511). Socrates skillfully explains until Glaucon grasps the concept and is able to make an account of it for himself. Socrates then spontaneously progresses to the cave analogy in order to explain the process of coming to know the good by means of education. He says, "Next, then, make an image of our nature in its education and want of education" (514a). Socrates describes a cave in which humans are chained from birth facing a wall. Behind them, puppet-masters carry figurines which cast shadows on the wall in front of the prisoners. Because they know nothing else, the prisoners assume the shadows to be the extent of reality--but what they see and hear is actually only a small segment of the intelligible world. Glaucon easily grasps the idea behind the analogy and is immediately intrigued by the image, saying "It's a strange image and strange prisoners you're telling of" (515a). For the reader, the image of the cave quickly evokes the memory of Socrates' earlier false tales and noble lies, and it is evident that the new education is meant to free the prisoners from their false opinions and convictions, as opposed to chaining them within the cave as did the earlier education.

Socrates next reveals why philosophical education is often resisted and how educational enlightenment is progressive. He shows Glaucon what would happen if a prisoner was unchained and allowed to leave the cave and see reality. At first, he would be pained and disoriented by the foreign sights. When told that his experience in the cave was not entirely real, he would rebel--and not without reason (515d). If he tried to look at his new surroundings and the sun directly after leaving the dark cave, he would be blinded and would want to return to the comfort of his familiar past surroundings (515e). Socrates asserts that if someone were to drag him "away from there by force along the rough, steep, upward way, and didn't let him go before he had dragged him out into the light of the sun" (516a), the prisoner would fight and be resentful, and even then, would not be able to see everything at once. Instead, his eyes would adjust slowly. First he would see shadows, then reflections in water, then things themselves, then the night's sky, and finally, the sun--which is an image of the good and what is (516b). But once he focuses on what is, he will be happier than ever before and will never want to return to the cave (516e-c). Furthermore, if he did try to return to the cave and help the other prisoners, they would hate him, calling him corrupt and delusional because their reality is still limited to the shadows in the cave (517a). Through this powerful image of the cave, Socrates shows Glaucon the good and suggests how it is to be obtained. The good is beyond perceived reality and is hard to see, but once the good is understood, it is clear that it "is the cause of all that is right and fair in everything," and must be possessed and understood by prudent rulers (517c).

A progressive education that teaches men to use their existing capacity for knowledge is what Socrates intends for the philosopher-kings. He says,

Education is not what the professions of certain men assert it to be. They presumably assert that they put into the soul knowledge that isn't in it, as through they were putting sight into blind eyes…but the present argument, on the other hand…indicates that this power is in the soul of each and that the instrument with which each learns--just as an eye is not able to turn toward the light from the dark without the whole body--must be turned around from that which is coming into being together with the whole soul until it is able to endure looking at that which is and the brightest part of that which is (518c).

The ability to know is always within man--never faltering, but useful only depending on whether it is focused on the truth (518e). From what Socrates says here, it seems as if the natures with which children are born matter less than their education anyone can be a philosopher with the right training. 1 Also, unlike the first education, the purpose of the philosopher-kings' education is to eventually teach children how to distinguish right from wrong by showing them the whole truth.

Philosopher-Kings' Education:

After convincing Glaucon that escaping the cave and becoming a philosopher is advantageous, Socrates returns to more practical political matters. He says that good guardians must not be prisoners nor can they be philosophers who selfishly stay outside of the cave. Instead, they must escape the cave, be educated in the good through philosophy (521c), and then return to the cave to rule and enlighten others (519d). Since the philosopher-kings are still to be warriors, their education must still be useful for warlike men. The previous account of education, however, is incomplete because gymnastics and music only teach habits by example (521e-522b). Thus, Socrates revises the prior education by introducing the study of numbers/calculations, geometry, and cubes. Not only is mathematics useful for practical matters, but its abstractness causes students to exercise their intellect and ask questions about what really is. Socrates says of calculation, "It leads the soul powerfully upward and compels it to discuss numbers themselves" (525d). The study of complex, elusive concepts pushes one to study what is permanent and perfect. Dialectics are also to be studied. Reasoning through questioning/answering and exchanging arguments teaches how to give accounts of one's self and what one knows, which helps identify the good in oneself and the good in the world.

When a man tries by discussion--by means of argument without the use of any of the sense--to attain to each thing itself that which is and doesn't give up before he grasps by intellection itself that which is good itself, he comes to the very end of the intelligible realm just as that other man was then at the end of the visible (532b).

Socrates insists that recipients of an education in mathematics and dialectics must have a suitable nature. They must be steady, courageous, good looking, noble, tough, and quick learners (355). But above all, they must love hard work. Again, Socrates insists that education in philosophy is something to be loved and will result in the satisfaction of eros. Similar to the previous education, education (in music, gymnastics, mathematics, and preparatory dialectics) begins in childhood. But unlike the compulsory nature of the earlier education, the philosopher-kings' education must be presented first as voluntary play. Socrates says, "Don't use force in training the children in the studies, but rather play. In that way you can better discern what each is naturally directed towards" (537a).

At age twenty, gymnastic education will cease and the best students will be chosen to learn an overview of their studies and how they interrelate with each other and the good. Those who excel in their studies, war, and other duties will be chosen at age thirty to be tested in dialectics to determine "who is able to release himself from the eyes and the rest of sense and go to what which is in itself and accompanies truth" (437d). Remarkably, in the guardian's education, no one, not even a judge, was permitted exposure to the truth at this young an age. Socrates, however, still recognizes the danger of the full truth. He holds that students must not be allowed free reign with dialectics at too young an age, because, instead of using their newfound knowledge for the good of the city, they might be tempted to forsake the city's laws and conventions in favor of more base pursuits (538a-c). Thus, the young must not be allowed to toy with debate because they will undoubtedly misuse the art of dialectics, leading to the dissolution of their beliefs and the defamation of philosophy. Older, educated men, however, "will discuss and consider the truth rather than the one who plays and contradicts for the sake of the game" (539d). When they are thirty-five, those well-trained in dialectics will be required to go back into the cave to hold offices, and testing will continue. Finally, at the age of fifty, those who have excelled in everything will perceive the good and will alternate philosophizing and ruling the city. Socrates says,

And, lifting up the brilliant beams of their souls, they must be compelled to look toward that which provides light for everything. Once they see the good itself, they must be compelled, each in his turn, to use it as a pattern for ordering city, private men, and themselves for the rest of their lives. For the most part, each one spends his time in philosophy, but when his turn comes, he drudges in politics and rules for the city's sake, not as though he were doing a thing that is fine, but one that is necessary. And thus always educating other like men and leaving them behind in their place as guardians of the city, they go off to the Isles of the Blessed and dwell (540a-b).

Thus, through a rigorous philosophical education, the city unshackles individuals and leads them out of the cave of ignorance and into the light of knowledge so that they are eventually able to go back into the cave and teach others. Glaucon protests the unfairness of forcing the liberated philosophers to go back into the cave (519d), but Socrates insists that, although it is unappealing, philosophers will serve the state because they are indebted for their own enlightenment, love knowledge, and accept that the good of the city is more important than their own happiness. Further, Socrates says it is better that the philosopher-kings rule unenthusiastically or else they will become greedy for power which leads to tyranny (520d).

Socratic Education:

Although Socrates presents two explicit methods of education in the Republic , his preferred pedagogical method is difficult to identify because of the dramatic context of the dialogue. Like the divided line, the dialogue has different meanings and purposes on different levels, making it dangerous to believe everything Socrates says. Instead, the two accounts of education must be patched together and evaluated in relation to each other and the dramatic context of the dialogue in order to discover Socrates' preferred method of education.

When Socrates introduces the cave analogy, one cannot help recognizing the similarities between it and his own actions in the dialogue. Finally, it seems as though Socrates is being genuine. The philosopher's descent into the cave hearkens back the first line of the book, "I went down to the Piraeus yesterday with Glaucon" (327a). It is now clear that Socrates himself is down in the cave, somewhat against his will, 2 attempting to help the interlocutors turn from the dark of ignorance to the light of knowledge and realize what is. Through his refutation of the opinions of Glaucon, Adeimantus, Cephalus, Polemarchus, and Thrasymachus, Socrates battles the city's conventions. Also, because the dialogue is meant to be a defense of philosophy and an apology of Socrates, the education of real philosophers seems more in tune with the theme of the book than the education of "noble-puppy" guardians. After Socrates unveils the cave analogy, in retrospect the whole dialogue leading up to the cave appears to be an example of Socrates' pedagogical method. Socrates' ludicrous examples, different images, and persistent questioning are clearly intended to help guide his pupils upward through the levels of reality to the highest, truest knowledge of what is.

Socrates' rambling teaching style makes sense in light of his idea that students should come to the truth on their own rather than by force (536e). The first account of education can be read in light of this ideal. The topic of education first arises in the book when Glaucon opposes the plain lifestyle required in Socrates' city. Socrates, recognizing that Glaucon is still attached to lavishness, goes along with his request to make the city more luxurious. Socrates says, "Now, the true city is in my opinion the one we just described-a healthy city, as it were. But let us look at a feverish city, too" (372e). By not rebuking Glaucon, Socrates allows him to steer the discussion with the hope that he will come to the truth on his own rather than by force. Despite slightly relinquishing control, Socrates still subtly guides Glaucon and Adeimantus toward the truth by making the luxurious city and its guardians' education ludicrous. Socrates provides numerous cues that signal that the city and the education are neither ideal, nor meant to be actively instituted. Likening the guardians to philosophical "noble puppies," philosophically educating the guardians by sheltering them, attacking the use of poetry, and telling the guardians that their education and childhood was a dream (414d) are all so implausible that they strike a cord suggesting that the opposite is true.

Despite Socrates' use of "reverse psychology" to make Glaucon realize the truth on his own terms, Glaucon does not find the philosopher's life ideal, so Socrates switches tactics. Instead of using irony, Socrates uses images to teach the interlocutors. When Socrates describes the good, Glaucon has trouble understanding its complexity, so Socrates takes a step back and uses the sun image to convey his point. He moves from the sun image to that of the divided line, and then develops the analogy of the cave to represent the nature of education. Whereas Glaucon accepted the first account of education because he himself sparked the discussion of the luxurious city, he is now perplexed by the image of the cave. Glaucon reacts as if he has stepped out of the cave for the first time and does not know what to make of his bright surroundings. But similar to the escaped prisoner's increasing ability to see what is, as Socrates introduces his sequence of images Glaucon begins to understand what the good is, how it is to be found, and that it is the most desirable virtue. As the shadows of his convictions fade, Glaucon begins to see the good and understand that philosophy is a profitable, satisfying activity, as well as the way to enlightenment.

Although Socrates found it necessary to drag Glaucon out of the cave and into the light using images, Socrates still prefers that his students do not simply accept the truth, but come to it on their own. Thus, he makes the guardians' revised education implausibly lengthy (it does not culminate until the age of fifty at which point most people are close to life's end) and ends the discussion with the idea that only children under the age of ten will be allowed in the city with the philosopher-kings (541a). This time, Glaucon takes the cue and says, "Just like a sculptor, Socrates, you have produced ruling men who are wholly fair" (540c). Finally, Glaucon seems to be able to distinguish between what is true and false for himself.

Socrates' style of questioning/answering and refuting arguments also gains meaning after his discussion of the philosopher's return to the cave and dialectics. By subtly directing the discussion through questions, Socrates allows the ignorant prisoners to unchain themselves and realize the truth. He does not try to tell Glaucon and Adeimantus what to think, as though he were putting "sight into blind eyes," but instead helps them turn around and focus on what is important and true. He leads them toward the light by means of questions and dialectics until they are able to make an account of their knowledge for themselves (511c-d). By presenting them with numerous different points of view, he teaches them to look beyond convention and their long-held convictions, and be open to new, foreign ideas. Never telling them what to think, Socrates helps them realize their own, natural potential.

In the second account of education, Socrates says that the best education should be more like play than work (536d). In line with this, Socrates' creation and discussion of the city is a playful activity (536b). Socrates makes the discussion of justice interesting by playing "make believe" with Glaucon and Adeimantus. He lets them be founders, thereby allowing them a vested interest in the discussion. Furthermore, he exploits the power of playful images and poetry to convey his ideas. Proving that he is not against poetry as much as he seemed in the first account of education, Socrates uses the poetic images of the sun, the cave, and Er to educate his pupils. The play which he advocates, however, is not without responsibility. Play must have serious intentions poetry must only imitate what is good, pointing beyond the petty troubles of men to the eternal pursuit of justice and philosophy, and children must not be allowed to play with dialectics before they are able to do so responsibly for fear they will be corrupted and become lawless (538). Socrates was serious when he said that poetry has the power to touch the soul, which is why he ends his argument with Socratic poetry--the myth of Er.

Even though Socrates advocates escaping the cave and learning what is through philosophy, he never dismisses the importance of convention. Although education is not meant to simply bolster convention as in the first account of education, education is also not meant to undermine convention. Philosophers cannot stay in the light forever and the cave cannot be eliminated, or else lawlessness would prevail and the city would be destroyed. Instead, recipients of a philosophical education are indebted to the city and must use their knowledge to make the cave/city as enlightened as possible without destroying it. Perhaps educated philosophers must even use their education to replace the shadows in the cave with noble tales, such as the myth of Er, which will lead the ruled toward truth while still in the confines of the cave/city. After all, shadows (or noble lies) capture part of the truth, whether it is physical or moral, and can be used to educate people about what lies beyond the cave, either outside the city's laws or in life after death.


In light of both accounts of education and the dramatic progression of the dialogue, it becomes apparent that the whole Republic is an example of Socratic pedagogy. Using the discussion of justice, Socrates formulates an active model of the educational process and guides his students through the levels of intelligibility and knowledge. He follows the path of the divided line, of which the "first [is] knowledge, the second thought, the third trust, and the fourth imagination" (534a). Beginning by imagining the just city, Socrates initiates the educational progression from large images to small ones. Early in the dialogue, Socrates suggests that the idea of justice should be sought first in a large city, for it is there that it will be most visible, and then in individuals (369a). After teaching imagination, Socrates moves onto trust by introducing an education that requires rulers to blindly trust the educative tales they are told. Next, he teaches about thought through his discussion of the philosopher-kings' education and dialectics. Finally, Socrates arrives at knowledge of what is. He acknowledges that his proposed regime and its philosopher-kings are implausible and, instead, the real goal is to establish an ordered, just regime within oneself (592). Moreover, Socratic education is not just meant to educate civic rulers--it is meant to educate men to be excellent rulers of themselves. By the conclusion of Book IX, Socrates has moved effectively from the image of justice in a city to the image of justice in private, philosophical men. Thus, despite the seeming confusion of the dialogue, it displays in its entirety the divided line, the movement from seeing images to intellecting particulars, and the ideal process of education.

Not only does Socrates lead the interlocutors through the educational process, but Plato, by using a dialogue form for his treatise, allows us, the readers, to be educated along with Glaucon and Adeimantus. We fall in love with learning and philosophy both in the abstract sense that Socrates tried to instill in his pupils and also, in the more pragmatic sense, we are students of political philosophy by reading the Republic . Socrates' incessant use of irony causes us to have our own interrogative and dialectic relationship with the dialogue, which increases our capacity to understand what is. Plato also exploits the power of mimetic poetry by using Socrates and the participants as his mouthpieces. Interestingly, Plato imitates undesirable individuals as well as good (an imitation that Socrates condemns) however, in keeping with Socratic poetry, the dialogue has an interminably good message and teaches men how to be virtuous philosophers both in life and beyond.

Socrates never resolves the tension between the importance of nature and education for the development of philosopher-kings, which makes it difficult to understand which is most important. He says that philosopher-kings must have a certain nature, but then says the capacity to see the good and be educated is in all. Given the dramatic context of the dialogue (that Socrates is educating the interlocutors), I would assume that he believes more in the importance of education rather than that of nature. After all, he is trying to sell learning and philosophy as admirable and advantageous practices. Perhaps he emphasizes the importance of a certain nature to add an aura of prestige to education. If certain natures are necessary for education, then all those who are educated are deemed superior in both nature and education.

Remember that Socrates had to be persuaded to stay in the Piraeus and talk with Adeimantus and Polemarchus (327-328).


Paleontology is the study of the history of life on Earth as based on fossils. Fossils are the remains of plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, and single-celled living things that have been replaced by rock material or impressions of organisms preserved in rock.

Biology, Ecology, Geology, Geography, Social Studies, World History

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Paleontology is the study of the history of life on Earth as based on fossils. Fossils are the remains of plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, and single-celled living things that have been replaced by rock material or impressions of organisms preserved in rock. Paleontologists use fossil remains to understand different aspects of extinct and living organisms. Individual fossils may contain information about an organism&rsquos life and environment. Much like the rings of a tree, for example, each ring on the surface of an oyster shell denotes one year of its life. Studying oyster fossils can help paleontologists discover how long the oyster lived, and in what conditions. If the climate was favorable for the oyster, the oyster probably grew more quickly and the rings would be thicker. If the oyster struggled for survival, the rings would be thinner. Thinner rings would indicate an environment not favorable to organisms like the oyster&mdashtoo warm or too cold for the oyster, for example, or lacking nutrients necessary for them to grow.

Some fossils show how an organism lived. Amber, for instance, is hardened, fossilized tree resin. At times, the sticky resin has dripped down a tree trunk, trapping air bubbles, as well as small insects and some organisms as large as frogs and lizards. Paleontologists study amber, called &ldquofossil resin,&rdquo to observe these complete specimens. Amber can preserve tissue as delicate as dragonfly wings. Some ants were trapped in amber while eating leaves, allowing scientists to know exactly what they ate, and how they ate it. Even the air bubbles trapped in amber are valuable to paleontologists. By analyzing the chemistry of the air, scientists can tell if there was a volcanic eruption or other atmospheric changes nearby.

The behavior of organisms can also be deduced from fossil evidence. Paleontologists suggest that hadrosaurs, duck-billed dinosaurs, lived in large herds, for instance. They made this hypothesis after observing evidence of social behavior,including a single site with approximately 10,000 skeletons.

Fossils can also provide evidence of the evolutionary history of organisms. Paleontologists infer that whales evolved from land-dwelling animals, for instance. Fossils of extinct animals closely related to whales have front limbs like paddles, similar to front legs. They even have tiny back limbs. Although the front limbs of these fossil animals are in some ways similar to legs, in other ways they also show strong similarities to the fins of modern whales.

Subdisciplines of Paleontology

The field of paleontology has many subdisciplines. A subdiscipline is a specialized field of study within a broader subject or discipline. In the case of paleontology, subdisciplines can focus on a specific fossil type or a specific aspect of the globe, such as its climate.

One important subdiscipline is vertebrate paleontology, the study of fossils of animals with backbones. Vertebrate paleontologists have discovered and reconstructed the skeletons of dinosaurs, turtles, cats, and many other animals to show how they lived and their evolutionary history.

Using fossil evidence, vertebrate paleontologists deduced that pterosaurs, a group of flying reptiles, could fly by flapping their wings, as opposed to just gliding. Reconstructed skeletons of pterosaurs have hollow and light bones like modern birds.

One type of pterosaur, Quetzalcoatlus, is considered one of the largest flying creatures in history. It had a wingspan of 11 meters (36 feet). Paleontologists have competing theories about if and how Quetzalcoatlus flew. Some paleontologists argue it was too heavy to fly at all. Others maintain it could distribute its weight well enough to soar slowly. Still other scientists say Quetzalcoatlus was muscular enough to fly quickly over short distances. These theories demonstrate how vertebrate paleontologists can interpret fossil evidence differently.

Invertebrate paleontologists examine the fossils of animals without backbones&mdashmollusks, corals, arthropods like crabs and shrimp, echinoderms like sand dollars and sea stars, sponges, and worms. Unlike vertebrates, invertebrates do not have bones&mdashthey do leave behind evidence of their existence in the form of fossilized shells and exoskeletons, impressions of their soft body parts, and tracks from their movement along the ground or ocean floor.

Invertebrate fossils are especially important to the study and reconstruction of prehistoric aquatic environments. For example, large communities of 200-million-year-old invertebrate marine fossils found in the deserts of Nevada, in the United States, tell us that certain areas of the state were covered by water during that period of time.

Paleobotanists study the fossils of ancient plants. These fossils can be impressions of plants left on rock surfaces, or they can be parts of the plants themselves, such as leaves and seeds, that have been preserved by rock material. These fossils help us understand the evolution and diversity of plants, in addition to being a key part of the reconstruction of ancient environments and climates, subdisciplines known as paleoecology (the study of ancient environments) and paleoclimatology (the study of ancient climates).

At a small site in the Patagonia region of Argentina, paleobotanists discovered the fossils of more than 100 plant species that date back about 52 million years. Prior to this discovery, many scientists said South America&rsquos biological diversity is a result of glaciers breaking up the continent into isolated ecosystem "islands" two million years ago. The Patagonia leaf fossils may disprove this theory. Paleobotanists now have evidence that the continent&rsquos diversity of plant species was present 50 million years before the end of the last Ice Age.

Some plant fossils are found in hard lumps called coal balls. Coal, a fossil fuel, is formed from the remains of decomposed plants. Coal balls are also formed from the plant remains of forests and swamps, but these materials did not turn into coal. They slowly petrified, or were replaced by rock. Coal balls, found in or near coal deposits, preserve evidence of the different plants that formed the coal, making them important for studying ancient environments, and for understanding a major energy source.

Micropaleontology is the study of fossils of microscopic organisms, such as protists, algae, tiny crustaceans, and pollen. Micropaleontologists use powerful electron microscopes to study microfossils that are generally smaller than four millimeters (0.16 inches). Microfossil species tend to be short-lived and abundant where they are found, which makes them helpful for identifying rock layers that are the same age, a process known as biostratigraphy. The chemical makeup of some microfossils can be used to learn about the environment when the organism was alive, making them important for paleoclimatology.

Micropaleontologists study shells from deep-sea microorganisms in order to understand how Earth&rsquos climate has changed. Shells accumulate on the ocean floor after the organisms die. Because the organisms draw the elements for their shells from the ocean water around them, the composition of the shells reflects the current composition of the ocean.By chemically analyzing the shells, paleontologists can determine the amount of oxygen, carbon, and other life-sustaining nutrients in the ocean when the shells developed. They can then compare shells from one period of time to another, or from one geographic area to another. Differences in the chemical composition of the ocean can be good indicators of differences in climate.

Micropaleontologists often study the oldest fossils on Earth. The oldest fossils are of cyanobacteria, sometimes called blue-green algae or pond scum. Cyanobacteria grew in shallow oceans when Earth was still cooling, billions of years ago. Fossils formed by cyanobacteria are called stromatolites. The oldest fossils on Earth are stromatolites discovered in western Australia that are 3.5 billion years old.

History of Paleontology

Throughout human history, fossils have been used, studied, and understood in different ways. Early civilizations used fossils for decorative or religious purposes, but did not always understand where they came from.

Although some ancient Greek and Roman scientists recognized that fossils were the remains of life forms, many early scholars believed fossils were evidence of mythological creatures such as dragons. From the Middle Ages until the early 1700s, fossils were widely regarded as works of the devil or of a higher power. Many people believed the remains had special curative or destructive powers. Many scholars also believed that fossils were remains left by Noah's flood and other disasters documented in the Hebrew holy book.

Some ancient scientists did understand what fossils were, and were able to formulate complex hypotheses based on fossil evidence. Greek biologist Xenophanes discovered seashells on land, and deduced that the land was once a seafloor. Remarkably, Chinese scientist Shen Kuo was able to use fossilized bamboo to form a theory of climate change.

The formal science of paleontology&mdashfossil collection and description&mdashbegan in the 1700s, a period of time known as the Age of Enlightenment. Scientists began to describe and map rock formations and classify fossils. Geologists discovered that rock layers were the product of long periods of sediment buildup, rather than the result of single events or catastrophes. In the early 1800s, Georges Cuvier and William Smith, considered the pioneers of paleontology, found that rock layers in different areas could be compared and matched on the basis of their fossils.

Later that century, the works of Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin strongly influenced how society understood the history of Earth and its organisms. Lyell&rsquos Principles of Geology stated that the fossils in one rock layer were similar, but fossils in other rock layers were different. This sequence could be used to show relationships between similar rock layers separated by great distances. Fossils discovered in South America may have more in common with fossils from Africa than fossils from different rock layers nearby.

Darwin&rsquos On The Origin of Species observed somewhat similar sequencing in the living world. Darwin suggested that new species evolve over time. New fossil discoveries supported Darwin&rsquos theory that creatures living in the distant past were different from, yet sometimes interconnected with, those living today. This theory allowed paleontologists to study living organisms for clues to understanding fossil evidence. The Archaeopteryx, for example, had wings like a bird, but had other features (such as teeth) typical of a type of dinosaur called a theropod. Now regarded as a very early bird, Archaeopteryx retains more similarities to theropods than does any modern bird. Studying the physical features of Archaeopteryx is an example of how paleontologists and other scientists establish a sequence, or ordering, of when one species evolved relative to another.

The dating of rock layers and fossils was revolutionized after the discovery of radioactivity in the late 1800s. Using a process known as radiometric dating, scientists can determine the age of a rock layer by examining how certain atoms in the rock have changed since the rock formed. As atoms change, they emit different levels of radioactivity. Changes in radioactivity are standard and can be accurately measured in units of time.

By measuring radioactive material in an ancient sample and comparing it to a current sample, scientists can calculate how much time has passed. Radiometric dating allows ages to be assigned to rock layers, which can then be used to determine the ages of fossils.

Paleontologists used radiometric dating to study the fossilized eggshells of Genyornis, an extinct bird from Australia. They discovered that Genyornis became extinct between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago. Fossil evidence from plants and other organisms in the region shows that there was abundant food for the large, flightless bird at the time of its extinction. Climate changes were too slow to explain the relatively quick extinction.

By studying human fossils and ancient Australian cave paintings that were dated to the same time period, paleontologists hypothesized that human beings&mdashthe earliest people to inhabit Australia&mdashmay have contributed to the extinction of Genyornis.

Paleontology Today

Modern paleontologists have a variety of tools that help them discover, examine, and describe fossils. Electron microscopes allow paleontologists to study the tiniest details of the smallest fossils. X-ray machines and CT scanners reveal fossils' internal structures. Advanced computer programs can analyze fossil data, reconstruct skeletons, and visualize the bodies and movements of extinct organisms.

Paleontologists and biologists used a CT scan to study the preserved body of a baby mammoth discovered in Siberia in 2007. A CT scanner allows scientists to construct 3-D representations of the bones and tissue of the organism. Using this technology, scientists were able to see that the baby mammoth had healthy teeth, bones, and muscle tissue. However, the animal&rsquos lungs and trunk were full of mud and debris. This suggested to scientists that the animal was healthy, but most likely suffocated in a muddy river or lake.

Scientists can even extract genetic material from bones and tissues.

Paleontologists made a remarkable genetic discovery when the bones of a Tyrannosaurus rex were broken during an excavation in the 1990s. Soft tissue was discovered inside the bones. Soft tissue is the actual connective tissue of an organism, such as muscle, fat, and blood. Soft tissue is rarely preserved during fossilization. Paleontologists usually must rely on fossilized remains&mdashrocks. Paleontologists now hope to use this rare discovery of 68-million-year-old tissue to study the biology and possibly even the DNA of the T. rex.

Even with all these advancements, paleontologists still make important discoveries by using simple tools and basic techniques in the field.

The National Geographic Society supports field work in paleontology throughout the world. Emerging Explorer Zeresenay "Zeray" Alemseged conducts studies in northern Ethiopia. There, Alemseged and his colleagues unearth and study fossils that contribute to the understanding of human evolution.

Emerging Explorer Bolortsetseg Minjin is a paleontologist who has found fossils of dinosaurs, ancient mammals, and even corals in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. She also works to teach Mongolian students about the dinosaurs in their backyard, and is hoping to establish a paleontology museum in the country.

Many dig sites offer visitors the chance to watch paleontologists work in the field, including the following U.S. sites: Gray Fossil Site in Gray, Tennessee the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California and the Ashfall Fossil Beds in Royal, Nebraska.

Photograph by Robert Sisson

Evolutionary Biology
Many paleontologists are also evolutionary biologists. Evolutionary biology is the study of the origin, development, and changes (evolution) in species over time. Other scientists that contribute to evolutionary biology are geologists and geneticists.

Soaking Up History
The oldest fossils ever discovered are stromatolites, the remains of ancient cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae. The oldest animal fossils ever discovered are sponges. Prehistoric sponges have been discovered on the Arabian Peninsula and Australia.

Fossils and Myths
Ancient cultures did not always understand what fossils were, and adapted their discovery to fit with myths and stories.

China is rich in dinosaur fossils. Dinosaurs are ancient reptiles whose bones share characteristics with both reptiles and birds. Ancient Chinese people often interpreted dinosaur skeletons as the remains of flying dragons!

Fossilized remains of dwarf elephants have been found on several Mediterranean islands. Dwarf elephants grew to only 2 meters (6 feet) tall. Their skulls are about the same size as a human skull, with a large hole in the middle where the living animal's trunk is. In the ancient Mediterranean cultures of Greece and Rome, the remains of dwarf elephants were often interpreted as the remains of cyclopes, a type of feared, one-eyed giant.

Mary Anning
The 19th-century British fossil collector Mary Anning proved you don't have to be a paleontologist to contribute to science. Anning was one of the first people to collect, display, and correctly identify the fossils of ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and pterosaurs. Her contributions to the understanding of Jurassic life were so impressive that in 2010, Anning was named among the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science.

Were there examples from Renaissance period of a relationship of erotic nature between a teacher and a student or during transmission of knowledge? - History


I n the literature of northern Europe, the sixteenth century marks the flowering of the Renaissance. In some countries, such as England, the literary Renaissance continued well into the following century. This chapter will deal with some of the important currents and authors in French and English literature of the sixteenth century.


In the reign of Francis I (1515-47), it was already said in France that letters were being reborn. Many poets and scholars welcomed the great cultural change they saw taking place. They spoke of a return of the Golden Age and of the coming of the light and the banishing of Gothic darkness letters had returned from exile and had been restored to possession of their rights. This restoration referred to the cultivation of the literature of classical antiquity, which was the chief influence on French literature in the sixteenth century. In this pursuit of the antique, the French were following the lead of Italy, and the Italian influence took its place alongside that of the ancients.

The French Renaissance felt strongly the effect of Plato and Petrarch. The Platonic influence is most readily apparent in the exalted conception of love, stemming from Ficino's circle, that can be found in much of the French prose and poetry of the period. It was the theme that we have encountered in Castiglione and Michelangelo a love for ideal beauty, above the deceptions of the senses and leading to the love of God. Petrarch's impact on French literature is shown in the adoption of the sonnet form, introduced into French by Clment Marot, and in the type of love poetry that was written, in which the Italian poet's celebration of Laura served as a model for numerous other poetic lovers.

The Italian and Platonic influences first made themselves felt in the city of Lyon, whose most famous poet was Maurice Scve (died c.1563). Humanist and jurist, he became well known for his supposed and erroneous discovery in Avignon in 1533 of the tomb of Laura. His poems, inspired by both Petrarchism and Platonism, had also an element of numeric symbolism reminiscent of both antiquity and the Middle Ages. Yet he is more than an imitator his poetry speaks out of a depth of experience and feeling, and his technical skill is considerable.

One of the most interesting writers of the reign of Francis I was Marguerite d'Angoulme, or Marguerite of Navarre (1492 1549), Francis's older sister and by her second marriage queen of Navarre. The future king Henry IV (Henry of Navarre) was her grandson. She and her brother were deeply devoted to each other. At times in Francis's reign, his sister was called on to take an active part in state affairs and diplomatic negotiations. As queen of Navarre, she was required at times to govern that country during her husband's absences.

We have already seen something of her importance in the current of religious reform that preceded the Reformation in France. She was also a patron of literature. Marot was a protg of hers and Rabelais, at the beginning of the third book of his great work, Gargantua and Pantagruel, addresses an appreciative poem to her spirit. She was herself a writer of importance, chiefly because of her Heptamron.

This collection of stories, which she worked on from 1542 to the end of her life, was modeled on the Decameron of Boccaccio. Her plan was apparently to write one hundred stories. Between seventy and eighty are known to exist today, either because she did not finish the book or because some of the stories have been lost. (The present title of the book was not given to it by the author.) One constant theme of the stories is the contrast between true and false religion. The false kind is represented particularly by the Franciscans, or Cordeliers, who appear frequently and who are normally treacherous, wicked, hypocritical, and lascivious. In one story, they are referred to as "these fine fathers who preach chastity to us and then want to take it away from our wives!" The secular clergy are not spared, however the first story of the entire collection, apparently based like many of the others on an actual incident, concerns a bishop who pursues a married woman.

True religion, on the other hand, involves devotion to the reading of the Bible, where one finds "the true and perfect joy of the spirit, from which proceeds the repose and health of the body." Scriptural religion is a religion of faith, of the spirit, and of love, and is opposed to "superstition" and sham piety. In short, Marguerite's religious ideal is Erasmian.

The most pervasive theme is love, love in all its varieties carnal and Platonic, connubial and extramarital, licit and illicit. Marguerite's own opinion may appear in a statement made after the nineteenth story by a member of the storytelling company who represents Marguerite herself. It is her opinion that "no man will ever love God perfectly unless he has loved perfectly some creature in this world." Perfect lovers are "those who seek, in what they love, some perfection, whether beauty, goodness, or grace, always tending towards virtue." She goes on in this passage to celebrate, in the Platonic manner familiar in Renaissance literature, the soul's search, starting with the objects of the senses, for a perfection beyond the senses, a perfection that can be found only in the divine.

Marguerite's admirer, Franois Rabelais (c.1494 1553), was the greatest French prose writer of the first half of the sixteenth century. From 1532 to 1552, he brought out the four books of his great work, the fabulous history of Gargantua and Pantagruel. A fifth book, published after his death, may or may not have been written by him.

In his restless and varied career, Rabelais was a priest and a friar, a physician, and the father of at least three illegitimate children by at least two mothers. He became interested at an early date in humanistic studies, and was a devoted follower of the ideas of Erasmus.

The four books of Gargantua and Pantagruel are a comic narrative in which the chief characters are Gargantua and Pantagruel, respectively father and son, who are kings and giants. Few stories have ever been told with such gusto and good humor. The size of the giants gives opportunities for humor based on wild exaggeration as when Pantagruel, leading an army in defense of his homeland (which is named Utopia), shields his troops from a heavy rain by sticking out his tongue and covering them with it. This same sort of exuberance shows itself in Rabelais's long lists of books, plants, animals, and games.

In spite of its humor, which never flags, it is a serious book. The author presents his ideas on education, which mark him as a firm adherent of the Renaissance outlook on the subject. He believes in experience, relies on the classical authors, and with rollicking satire, mocks and rejects scholastic methods and the content of scholastic education. Gargantua, for example, starts his education under the supervision of a learned scholastic doctor, who teaches him the alphabet so thoroughly that he can say it backwards by heart. This takes five years and three months. After more of this, the boy's father switches to another teacher, who leads his pupil in a curriculum that would have satisfied the Italian humanistic teachers and writers on education. It is even more broad, however, including the study of nature to a greater extent, for instance, and observing the practitioners of numerous trades and professions.

Rabelais also expounds his ideas on religion, where the influence of Erasmus is most noticeable. He is opposed to formalism and excessive ceremony, and heaps scorn on ignorant, lazy, and useless monks. He is likewise opposed to superstitious beliefs and practices, and regards pilgrimages as useless. Popes and the canon law are the objects of sharp comments. True religion, on the other hand, is based on the Gospel, trusts in God, and dedicates itself to His service.

Toward the end of Book One, Gargantua builds an abbey, which is named Thlme, from the Greek for free will. The only rule of the house is "Do what you will." It is open to both men and women, who live entirely as they wish and are free to leave at any time. This freedom is possible "because people who are free, well-bred, and easy in honest company have a natural spur and instinct which drives them to virtuous deeds and deflects them from vice and this they called honour."

In short, Rabelais is not an atheist or a Protestant. He is an Erasmian humanist and a Christian. He is also a scholar with a great zest for learning, which matches his zest for life and experience.

John Calvin also has an important place in the development of French prose. The first French edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion, published in 1541, is the earliest work in the language in the field of theology, for which Latin had been considered the appropriate medium Calvin had originally published the Institutes in Latin. His French translation, therefore, was written not for professional theologians but for laymen and his aim was, as he put it, to teach in the simplest possible form. He was remarkably successful, achieving a simplicity and clarity that are especially noteworthy in a subject that lends itself to obscurity. Calvin took particular satisfaction in the brevity and precision of his style. At the same time, he achieved a distinctive pithy flavor, which does not always come through in English translation, and he enhanced this quality by the use of popular and idiomatic expressions. His writing has force and movement, sometimes humor, and sometimes eloquence and grandeur. He is one of the greatest French stylists of the century.

An important French poet, whose path crossed that of Calvin, was Clment Marot (1496 1544). He was a member of the circle of Marguerite of Navarre and absorbed the liberal sentiments of that environment. He even approached Protestantism, though he cannot be said to have become a Protestant. At least, if he did, it was not for long. He spent much of his life in court circles in the service of the French crown and of Marguerite. He was fortunate in finding in Marguerite a friend and protector, since he had a knack for getting into trouble with the church and the law and needed her help in extricating himself. For example, he was more than once imprisoned for eating meat during Lent. In 1535 he lived for a while at the court of Ferrara, which its duchess, Rene of France, had made a refuge for holders of advanced religious views Calvin himself was there at the time of Marot's sojourn. One of the poems that Marot later addressed to Rene was probably the first sonnet written in French.

Marot wrote in a number of forms. Translation from Virgil shows the influence of humanism. He was a master of satire, as shown in his answer to an attack by a mediocre poet named Sagon. His wit is revealed in his poetic letters to King Francis I begging for pardon or money. His French translations of some of the Psalms were very skillful and were adopted for use in church by many Protestant congregations. In fact, Calvin himself encouraged the work.

Calvin's encouragement came at a time when Marot was in Geneva, where he took refuge in 1542, having once more been forced to flee France because of his outspokenness on matters of church and state. In 1544 he fled from Geneva. He never returned to France, dying at Turin.

Marot was a poet of transition his early work was in the medieval manner, and something of the Middle Ages always remained in his work. Later he came under the influence of the Renaissance, and by 1525 he was celebrating the rebirth of letters, formerly withered by "the cold wind of Ignorance." Francis I, he said, had made arts and letters shine more brightly than in the days of the Caesars. He became an adherent of humanism, reading the works of the Latin poets, departing more and more from the traditional poetic forms, and adapting his style to the new influences. These included not only the classics but also the modern Italian writers, particularly Petrarch.

He was for some time the French court poet, and much of his work consequently is of an official character. He was very adept at writing light and witty verses about small happenings at court, but his best work is of a more personal character. This is shown in his epistles, his best and most famous poems. In these he covered a wide range of subjects. Some of them, such as his letters to the king, which have already been mentioned, are masterpieces. Marot stands as the first of modern French poets.

The new age in French poetry was even more clearly announced in 1549, by the Defense and Illustration of the French Language, written by Joachim du Bellay (1522 60). This manifesto was originally the preface to the first published collection of Du Bellay's poems. The ideas contained in it were not his alone, but those of a group of young students and poets from one of the Paris colleges, led by Pierre de Ronsard. The purpose of the book, like that of Dante's De vulgari eloquentia, is to prove that the vernacular is suited, as Du Bellay puts it, for "all good letters and learning." The French, he asserts patriotically, are in no way inferior to the Greeks and Romans. He thanks the late king, Francis I, who has restored "all the good arts and sciences in their ancient dignity" in France. Because the French language has been neglected, he admits, it still suffers from poverty and needs to be enriched. For this purpose, French writers should imitate the best Greek and Roman authors. He also recommends that French poets should learn from Italians, Spaniards, and others. He urges Frenchmen to write in their mother tongue, to march against the Greeks and Romans and despoil them.

The group of young poets whose ideas found expression in Du Bellay's manifesto were known at first as the Brigade and later by the more famous name of the Pliade. They introduced a new poetry into France. Du Bellay was himself a member of the group and an important poet in his own right. He belonged to one of the most distinguished families in France. In his tragically short life he was distracted from his writing by poor health, family problems, and duties that were often tedious and always unrelated to poetry yet he managed to write the works that have made him one of the great French poets. In about 1547, he met Ronsard, and this momentous meeting brought together the two future leaders of the Pliade.

Du Bellay acknowledged without jealousy that the first place among contemporary French poets belonged to Ronsard, but he himself ranked second. He published the first substantial French sonnet collection, named Olive for the lady to whom the sonnets are addressed. Petrarchan influences are prominent in these poems. Other works show the effect of his reading of Horace. Some of his themes, in addition to love, are the fragility of worldly things, the inconstancy of fortune, and the fleeting character of man and of earthly existence. In his later poetry there is a Platonic note and a turning to religious subjects, together with a renunciation of his earlier Petrarchan manner.

He spent several years in Rome, and what he saw there inspired him to write poems celebrating the grandeur of the city and lamenting its decay. Beholding the ruins of what was once greatest in the world, the poet philosophizes on the themes of greatness and decline, and concludes that everything accomplished by man rises and falls, defeated by time. But from the ruins rises a new and regenerated life. Other poems from his Roman sojourn attack the abuses and immorality he saw there, the corruption of the papal court as well as the crowds of courtesans, which afflicted the city. In some of these poems he shows himself to be one of the great satirists.

In his last years, after his return to France, he wrote patriotic poetry, no doubt sincere but also prompted by his desire to become the official poet of the king. He died at the height of his powers, and his influence on later poets was profound. He even had an effect on English poetry and received a handsome tribute from Edmund Spenser.

The greatest French lyric poet of the Renaissance was Pierre de Ronsard (1524 85). He hoped originally for a career in military and diplomatic service, but an illness of 1540, which left him partially deaf, put an end to his youthful hopes. He turned, therefore, to a career in the church and to the writing of poetry. Though he never became a priest, he did receive the tonsure and was eligible to hold benefices. His education included study of Greek and Latin in Paris under Jean Dorat, an accomplished classical scholar who was also the teacher of Du Bellay and other members of the Pliade. Through the favor of the royal court, Ronsard held church livings, which served to support him. His standing was especially high with King Charles IX, who once honored the poet by paying him a visit. After the death of Charles, Ronsard lost much of his prestige at court to a younger poet, Desportes. During the Wars of Religion, he wrote against the Huguenots, and in doing so became the founder in France of political poetic satire.

Ronsard's work is the supreme example of the Renaissance spirit in French poetry. Rejecting with scorn all previous poetry in his native tongue, he turned to the ancients for his inspiration. His first poems were in Latin, but he soon turned to French and took up the challenge of learning the lessons of the classical poets and then rivaling them in French. They taught him not only form something of their spirit entered his poetry. He always had a deep feeling for nature the forests and streams for him were full of nymphs and dryads and satyrs. He frankly accepted and loved earthly beauties and pleasures there is a large group of women whom he loved and immortalized by his poetry. He regarded the office of poet as a holy priesthood, and strove for imperishable fame. To the end there is something pagan in his poetry, although in his own way he was a sincere Christian. Certainly his sensual nature helps to explain his antagonism for the austerities of Geneva.

Like Du Bellay, he was affected by Petrarch for a while, and with this influence came Platonic elements: the love of heavenly beauty as contrasted with the sensual, for example. This Platonism does not consort very well with Ronsard's earthy nature: With him, as with Du Bellay, the Petrarchan phase was only temporary.

Ronsard achieved grandeur and sublimity, but also simplicity and directness. He has been called the creator of modern French poetic language. Not until the nineteenth century did France produce lyric poetry to compare with his.

We may close our brief discussion of French literature of the Renaissance with Michel de Montaigne (1533 92). He came from a family that had prospered in trade and had, thereby, been able to gain a place among the nobility. The castle of Montaigne, where he was born, is in the region of Bordeaux, where members of the family had been prominent in government and in the church. His mother was descended from the Marranos, the converted Jews of Spain. Among her relatives there were some who died at the hands of the Inquisition, and it has been suggested that this heritage may have had something to do with Montaigne's tolerance and hatred of torture.

His education was humanistic, and he may also have studied law, because from 1557 to 1570 he was a member of the Parlement of Bordeaux. During these years he also spent much time at the royal court. At the parlement he met Etienne de La Botie, who became his closest friend, and whose early death in 1563 at the age of thirty-two left him desolate. Montaigne's marriage in 1565 does not seem to have involved deep affection marriage he called "a bargain to which only the entrance is free." Of the six children of this marriage all girls only one survived.

In 1570 he resigned his post in the parlement and retired to the castle of Montaigne to spend the rest of his days in "freedom, tranquillity, and leisure." To this decision we owe the Essays. He did not, however, find complete quiet. The religious wars invaded his retreat, and even endangered his life. Furthermore, his activity in the world of affairs was by no means over. Because he was trusted by both sides in the civil strife, he appears to have been employed as a go-between, though his activities remain mysterious. In 1573 he was made gentleman-in-ordinary of the king's chamber, and must have spent some time at court. In 1580 81, he made a trip of seventeen months to several countries his Travel Journal from this trip survives.

His travels were cut short by the news, which he received in September 1581, that he had been elected mayor of Bordeaux. He was reelected at the end of his two-year term and served another two years. His job was not an easy one. He had to keep Bordeaux loyal to the king, although in the city there were extreme Catholics, opponents of the royal policy, while around Bordeaux were sites held by the Huguenots. Nevertheless, he seems to have succeeded in this task, and to have kept the esteem of the Protestant leader, Henry of Navarre, who was his guest for two days in December 1584.

Even after this he was involved in matters of state, in which his moderation exposed him to serious risks from extremists on both sides. He was robbed at one time, imprisoned at another, his home was pillaged, and he ran some risk of losing his life on a couple of occasions. When Henry III was murdered in 1589, Henry of Navarre, the new monarch, wanted Montaigne to join him. His ill health prevented this, and in 1592 Montaigne died in the castle where he was born.

His life's work is his Essays, which he worked on from the time of his retirement in 1570 to the end of his life. To read the three books of the Essays from the beginning is to become aware that there was a development in his thought. For one thing, it took a while for Montaigne to become aware of what his subject was. The earliest essays tend to be impersonal and to consist largely of quotations from classical writers. As time went on, he found himself as a writer by finding himself as his subject. By the time he published the first edition in 1580 he could say, in his Address to the Reader, "Thus, reader, I am myself the matter of my book." The uniqueness and attraction of the Essays arise largely from the fact that in them, perhaps for the first time, a man has attempted to set forth a complete self-portrait.

The great size and endless fascination of the book show what an inexhaustible subject a man is, and how the exploration of one individual's character, thoughts, and feelings can disclose whole continents and oceans, as interesting and instructive in their own way as the new lands and seas that were being opened up by the navigators of Montaigne's century. To be sure, the subject of Montaigne's explorings was a quite remarkable man, with a gift for striking and pithy expression of his thoughts.

He undertook to examine himself not out of vanity but because he was interested in man in general, and found that the best way to investigate man was to study the one man whom he knew best. "Each man," he declared (III, 2), "bears the entire form of man's estate." He is, as he points out in the same passage, a moral philosopher.

In an age of dogmatists, fanatics, and bigots, Montaigne was a skeptic. He confessed that he was sure of very little. His Essays (he invented the term) were, as the word implies, attempts attempts to find out what was going on in his own mind and to formulate his views one of his mottoes was, "What do I know?" His skepticism helped to make him tolerant: "After all, it is putting a very high price on one's conjectures to have a man roasted because of them." (III, 11) He distrusts the powers of the human mind it is too easily misled by custom, for instance. Even our religion is a matter of where we happen to have been born. Our imagination too affects our judgment miracles and the like arise from it. Reason is especially unreliable in matters of religion. In general then, men know little their ignorance far outweighs their knowledge.

But his generally low opinion of man and his powers, so contrary to the humanistic insistence on the dignity of man, was not merely negative in its implications. Not only did it help to make him tolerant, as we have seen, in matters of religion, but it also caused him to decry two of the most cruel and irrational practices of his age: the use of torture in criminal prosecutions and the trial and punishment of witches. Of torture, he says, "What would a man not say, what would a man not do, to escape such grievous pains?" (II, 5) As for the fantastic stories told about the behavior of witches, he says, "Truly, I would not believe my own self about this." (III, 11)

With all his skepticism and independence of thought, he considered himself to be, and no doubt was, a sincere Catholic, though his faith was hardly that of a St. Teresa of Avila, filled with mystic raptures and visions. Montaigne accepted the Roman church because it was based on long tradition and stood for stability and order, and he condemned the Huguenots, whom he blamed for the disorder and destruction that France was suffering in his time. He believed in the customary and settled ways of doing things, and he deplored innovation and its unsettling effects.

Yet he found much to criticize in his own society: the laws, medicine, education, for example. The Essays have much to say about education. Learning of itself has little value it is wisdom and virtue that matter. "Even if we could be learned with other men's learning, at least wise we cannot be except by our own wisdom." (I, 25) But with all his doubt and disenchantment, he concludes his lifework in a mood of mellow acceptance. The important thing is to live well, and just to have lived is a great deal. "We are great fools. 'He has spent his life in idleness,' we say 'I have done nothing today.' What, have you not lived? That is not only the fundamental but the most illustrious of your occupations." (III, 13) And so, though he refuses to glorify man, though he looks at things straight and sees them clearly, he is still a humanist and one of the most attractively human of them all.


In English literary history the Renaissance extends from the sixteenth century into the late seventeenth John Milton (1608 74) is considered a Renaissance writer. Thus much of the English literary Renaissance must remain outside the scope of this book. We will discuss some of the chief aspects of English Renaissance literature to about the time of the death of William Shakespeare in 1616.

In the literature of sixteenth-century England there existed, together with new currents, many traditional elements. Thus in a period we are apt to think of as witnessing profound changes, writers continued to assume, and expect their readers to assume, certain views about the nature of things that had been accepted for centuries past.

This picture of the world, or the universe, was geocentric and anthropocentric. It derived ultimately from the works of Aristotle and Ptolemy, whose ideas had been given a Christian interpretation. Dante's Divine Comedy illustrates the completed form of this interpretation as it appeared in medieval thought. The earth was fixed in the center of the physical universe, with the planets, including sun and moon, revolving around it in circular orbits. The planets were perfect bodies the circle was a perfect form. Each of the planets was encased in a solid crystalline sphere. Beyond the spheres of the planets was the sphere of the fixed stars. Beyond this sphere was the sphere of the Primum Mobile, which imparted motion to all the other spheres, and outside all these spheres was God, the Unmoved Mover, who was everywhere.

The earth was composed of the four elements: earth, water, air, fire. These had their order of value: earth the lowest, then water, air, and finally fire, the highest in rank. To these elements corresponded the four humors which composed man's body: melancholy or black bile, cold and dry like earth phlegm, cold and moist like water blood, hot and moist like air and choler or bile, hot and dry like fire. A person's complexion or temperament was based on the relationship of the humors to one another. Thus one could be melancholy, phlegmatic, sanguine, or choleric (bilious) depending on which of the humors predominated. As Tillyard points out, the words of Antony about Brutus at the end of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar show that the human ideal was a man in whom the humors (Shakespeare uses "elements" here) were in perfect balance:

"His life was gentle, and the elements / So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up / And say to all the world, 'This was a man!'" (act 5, scene 5) If the balance of the humors was too seriously disturbed, disorder and disease resulted this explains the frequent practice of trying to cure sickness by bleeding the patient.

Earthly things and human bodies, composed of these imperfect elements and humors, could suffer from excess or deficiency, imbalance and disorder not so the heavenly spheres. They were composed of ether, a perfect and imperishable element, the fifth element or quintessence. Everything beneath the moon that is, the sublunary realm was made up of the perishable and imperfect the moon and all that was beyond it constituted the realm of the perfect and unchanging.

Yet there was a connection between the perfect and imperishable heavens and the corruptible and transitory beings who inhabited the earth, and this connection provided the basis of astrology. The heavens had a direct influence on human life, and an individual's nature reflected the planetary sign under which he was born. Those born under the influence of Saturn were saturnine, inclined to melancholy and they were "contemplative, meditating, brooding, solitary, creative." In the Renaissance artists were supposed to be of this character.he characteristic qualities of every realm of being, from the intelligence of the angels to the matter of inanimate objects, and by virtue of this, he became the bond that joined the universe together. All these views helped mold the thinking of English writers in the sixteenth century.

In England as in France, the literature of the Renaissance showed the influence both of classical antiquity and of the modern Italian writers. These influences helped to revive English writing, which in the fifteenth century had suffered a decline, along with scholarship and intellectual life in general. These influences can be seen in the work of two poets who helped introduce the new age Wyatt and Surrey. Both of these men came from the classes that ruled England, and their lives were largely spent in government service. They illustrate the great importance of the court in the culture of the period. It was the chief center and stimulus of literature. One of the avocations of courtiers was the writing of verse, which, as amateurs, they often disdained to publish, so that their views circulated in manuscript only. Both Wyatt and Surrey led rather turbulent lives. Both spent time in prison, and both died young. Surrey in fact was executed by Henry VIII, of whom he had at one time been a favorite. Wyatt survived imprisonment, but his son was executed in the reign of Queen Mary for leading an unsuccessful rebellion.

The poems of Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503 42) are firmly rooted in English tradition and at the same time exhibit the influence of Italy, which Wyatt visited in 1527 at a time when Petrarch's work was enjoying a revival of interest. The effects can be seen in his translations from Petrarch and in his use of the sonnet form, which he seems to have introduced into English. He used the tight Petrarchan rhyme scheme for his sonnets, which are often fairly uninspired. However, in some of his poetry he shows a genuine lyric gift. He writes much about love in the Petrarchan tradition, with the cruel unfeeling lady unmoved by her lover's devotion and suffering.

The following stanzas, the first and last of one of his poems (there are six stanzas in between) illustrate the grace and simplicity of which he was often capable:


My lute awake! perform the last
Labour that thou and I shall waste,
And end that I have now begun
For when this song is sung and past,
My lute be still, for I have done


Now cease, my lute: this is the last
Labour that thou and I shall waste,
And ended is that we begun.
Now is this song both sung and past:
My lute be still, for I have done.

The references to his lute and to "this song" may serve to remind us that the lyric poetry of this period was meant to be sung, and that such poems were provided with musical settings sometimes poets were also composers and wrote the music for their own poetry.

Henry Howard, earl of Surrey (1517 47), was the son of the duke of Norfolk, the greatest of the English nobles. He was related to both of the wives whom Henry VIII beheaded, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. He was a close friend of the duke of Richmond, the king's illegitimate son, and a bitter enemy of the Seymours, the relatives of Henry's third wife. The experiences of Anne and Catherine did not teach him prudence, which in someone so highly placed was an indispensable requirement for survival in Henry's reign. His arrogance and reckless pride cost him his life in the last days of Henry's reign.

Surrey shows both the classical and Italian influences in his translation of two books of Virgil's Aeneid. For his translation he used the meter that became known as blank verse unrhymed iambic pentameter, each line containing ten syllables with the stress on the even numbered syllables. He derived this form from the Italian. The opening of his translation of Book II will illustrate his use of this form: "They whisted all, with fixed face attent, / When prince Aeneas from the royal seat / Thus gan to speak. " This meter became the one used in the drama by Shakespeare and others, and by Milton in his great epics Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained.

In his sonnets Surrey used a looser rhyme scheme than the Petrarchan, with three quatrains using alternating rhymes and a rhyming couplet at the end. This was the form that was to be used by Shakespeare. Like Wyatt, Surrey is most important for his short lyric poems with their expression of personal feeling.

Turning from poetry to prose, we find a great body of work connected with the religious developments of the time. While much of the literature was still written in Latin, which had for centuries been the language of theology there was now a great deal of work in English, both in the form of original writings and in translations. Religious controversy was sometimes carried on in English, and the writings of William Tyndale and Thomas More against one another's positions illustrate this. But the most important and enduring contributions to English prose during the years preceding the accession of Elizabeth and perhaps of the entire century are to be found in the area of Biblical translation and devotional literature.

William Tyndale (c.1490 1536), one of the earliest English Protestants, left England for the Continent to undertake a translation of the Bible, subsidized by sympathetic Englishmen. He translated the entire New Testament and some books of the Old before being taken and burned at the stake in the Low Countries in 1536. His translation was completed by Miles Coverdale (1488 1568). Coverdale was not so good a scholar as Tyndale whereas Tyndale had based his translation on the original languages, Hebrew and Greek, Coverdale used the Latin Vulgate and Luther's German version. However, both translators had great gifts of language, and their work became the basis for later Protestant versions of Scripture, including the King James Bible (1611). Thus the simplicity, dignity, grandeur, and beauty of the most important of all books in English owes much to these two early Protestant translators.

Next to their work, the most significant prose achievement of the period was the Book of Common Prayer, of which the chief author was Thomas Cranmer. This book may in a sense also be classed with the translations because it was largely adapted from Latin service books already in use nevertheless, it is a masterpiece of English prose. The stateliness of its rhythms and its dignity and nobility of phrase were especially important in the life of a newly founded church, which for many years had to struggle for acceptance and find a place in the minds and hearts of the English people.

The culmination of sixteenth-century literature in England came in the reign of Elizabeth I the Elizabethan Age is one of the glories of English literature. Out of the great number of important writers of the period we shall turn our attention chiefly to four of the most outstanding, who are distinguished not only for their high level of achievement but also for the wide range of literary forms in which they exercised their talents. These writers are Sidney, Spenser, Marlowe, and Shakespeare.

Sir Philip Sidney (1554 86) came from a distinguished family devoted to public service, and he spent his tragically short life in court and government circles. He traveled widely on the Continent, and died in the Netherlands fighting for Dutch independence. He was a nephew of the earl of Leicester, and his sister Mary became countess of Pembroke. He was interested in classical and humanistic learning and also in politics and public affairs. His writings cover a variety of fields: literary criticism, pastoral romance, and a sonnet sequence, among other things. Most of his works were not published during his lifetime.

His sonnet sequence is entitled Astrophel and Stella. It is a large work, with 108 sonnets, and eleven songs interspersed among them. Like Petrarch's poems to Laura, they examine the various aspects of love. At their best, they are outstanding in clarity, passion, and grace.

Sidney's pastoral romance, the Arcadia, was written for his sister, the countess of Pembroke. The pastoral tradition, evoking the supposedly simple and blissful country life of nymphs and shepherds, goes back to Greece and Rome. It had been revived in Renaissance Italy by such authors as Boccaccio and Jacopo Sannazaro (1456 1530), whose Arcadia consisted of both prose and verse. Sannazaro's work was a great influence on Sidney.

Sidney's Arcadia has a very complicated pattern, containing a large number of interwoven stories. According to C. S. Lewis, the Arcadia is not a pastoral romance so much as an epic. It deals only in a secondary way with the loves of nymphs and shepherds and primarily with heroic adventures, battles, and affairs of state. In it Sidney is intent on teaching moral and political lessons, as well as discussing important issues of philosophy and theology. Though he writes in the chivalrous tradition, he points out the horror of war. Above all, he is concerned to set forth certain ideals of honor, loyalty, and friendship for the edification of his readers.

His Defence of Poesie or An Apologie for Poetrie is considered one of the most important English critical essays. By poetry Sidney means imaginative literature, or fiction, in general "poetry" could be in prose form, not necessarily in verse. Answering contemporary criticisms of poetry, Sidney put a high value on the poet, whom he regarded as an inspired prophet, a creator, and a moral teacher. Poetry, he claimed, was superior to all other arts because while bound by a given subject matter, the poet "bringeth his own stuff, and doth not learn a conceit out of a matter, but maketh matter for a conceit. "

Perhaps most important, the poet combines moral teaching with delight. The philosopher does not have the same power to bring delight to his teaching, and the historian is bound by "the truth of a foolish world," and the truth is not always a stimulus to virtue. Thus poetry is the oldest, noblest, and most fruitful of all the branches of learning. So Sidney meets the criticisms of the detractors of poetry.

He drew much of his material from ancient writers, especially Aristotle, whom he did not always interpret correctly. In discussing tragedy, for example, he invoked the authority of Aristotle for the doctrine that all the action should occur in the same place and within a span of one day. These so-called unities, which do not really represent Aristotle's thought, were to have a good deal of influence on European drama.

Edmund Spenser (1552-99) was, as his epitaph in Westminster Abbey declares, the "prince of poets in his time," the greatest writer of nondramatic poetry of his age. He was a learned poet, educated at the Merchant Taylors' School in London under its famous headmaster, Richard Mulcaster. Later Spenser attended Cambridge University and received his master's degree in 1576. He spent much of his life in government service in Ireland, where he became a good friend of Walter Raleigh.

Spenser's works show the range of influences to which he responded. His master, Mulcaster, was a strong advocate of the use of the vernacular, like Du Bellay and the Pliade in France. The chivalric epic tradition, as exemplified in the work of Ariosto in Italy, affected him, as did humanism. There are also allegorical elements, derived from the medieval tradition, in his work. He wrote both sonnets and pastoral poetry, thus displaying his awareness of the poetical currents of the time.

As a young man Spenser became acquainted with Sir Philip Sidney, for whom he developed an enormous admiration. Both men were Puritans, both were deeply interested in politics, and both had high moral principles, which they sought to inculcate in their readers through their works.

In 1579 Spenser published his Shepheardes Calendar, twelve eclogues, each for one month of the year. In it the poet combines two pastoral traditions: the classical, which came down from Theocritus and Virgil, and the English, of which Chaucer was the leading representative. The characters in the poem refer to real people known to Spenser. There are religious implications Spenser seems to attack popery and defend the Protestant position.

In 1594 Spenser was married and in 1595 published a volume containing his Amoretti and Epithalamion. The Amoretti, a sonnet sequence, and the Epithalamion, a wedding hymn, celebrate his marriage and his bride. The sonnets are in the Petrarchan tradition the lover addresses his lady in terms of extravagant praise and adoration and uses figures reminiscent of Petrarch's comparing her eyes to the sun, moon, stars and so forth. She is cruel, yet pure and heavenly, not made out of one of the four earthly elements, but of a fifth element, "the sky."

The Epithalamion (Greek word for a nuptial song) is filled, as the name would lead us to expect, with classical allusions. It is written in a very elaborate stanza form with a rigid rhyme scheme and a recurrent refrain in the last line of each stanza. In spite of all this, it is not artificial or stilted, but stately and majestic, with joy and dignity, a fitting celebration of marriage.

Among his many other works we can note only one, The Faerie Queene, which, even though he did not live to finish it, is his masterpiece. It was planned to be in twelve books, each representing one of the moral virtues. Six books were finished, and there also remain two cantos, known as the Mutabilitie Cantos, which might have formed part of the seventh. The plan of the poem shows its moral purpose. The heroes of the first two books the Red Cross Knight and Sir Guyon indicate that the poem is in form an epic of chivalry, telling of knightly adventures. The virtues holiness, chastity, friendship, justice, courtesy, and constancy present an interesting mixture of Christian, classic, and chivalrous ideals reminiscent of the ideals of Renaissance education found in the schools of Vittorino da Feltre and other Italian humanist educators.

The Faerie Queene is an allegory, with its numerous and intricately woven stories proceeding on many levels of meaning. As an allegory it is in the medieval tradition. One of the themes is the search of Prince Arthur for Gloriana, the Faerie Queene, whom he had seen only in a vision. This represents Magnanimity (Arthur) seeking glory, or honor (Gloriana). But this glory in turn represents the true, that is the divine, glory. Thus there is here both a Christian and a Platonic significance. In addition, Gloriana stands for Queen Elizabeth herself.

Though the poem was never finished, and though its structure is extraordinarily complicated and intricate, it is one of the great poems in the English language, for its numerous vivid images and the beauty and richness of its poetic diction. Just as it drew on many traditions of the past, it had great influence on the poetry of the ages that followed.

From Spenser, the greatest nondramatic poet of the Elizabethan Age, we can turn to the dramatic achievements of the period, which culminated in the plays of Marlowe and Shakespeare. By the end of the Middle Ages, England possessed a rich dramatic tradition. The surviving dramatic works from the medieval period are chiefly religious. A popular form was the miracle play, on a theme from the Bible or the lives of the saints, presented by guilds and acted in the streets of the towns. Morality plays, like the miracle plays, had the function of teaching church doctrine on a popular level. They presented allegorical figures representing virtues and vices, as well as other abstractions such as the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. The morality tradition, representing abstract qualities by human characters, grows out of the medieval fondness for allegory and persisted well into the Tudor period. Such plays were being written and performed in the reign of Elizabeth.

The first purely secular English play still extant is a comedy, Fulgens and Lucrece by Henry Medwall, chaplain to Cardinal John Morton. The play was written to be performed in the household of Cardinal Morton since Cardinal Morton died in 1500, the play must belong to the last years of the fifteenth century. It was based on a work by an Italian humanist that had been translated into English, possibly from a French version. Medwall did more than translate he added a comic subplot, which serves as a parody to the serious main plot and is the forerunner of subplots in later plays.

Although the drama became increasingly secular in the sixteenth century, there continued to be plays on Biblical subjects, and even the secular drama often retained didactic elements. Such themes as the upbringing of the young and the corruptions in society were popular. The religious controversies of the Reformation called forth polemical plays.

Humanistic influences combined with the native tradition in English drama. This meant, among other things, that classical drama played a part. However, Greek drama the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and the comedies of Aristophanes played a minor role. It was the Roman drama that came to be translated and imitated in England. The comedies of Terence and Plautus and the tragedies of Seneca had a great vogue.

Italian drama was slower in leaving its mark, but by Elizabeth's reign Italian plays were being adapted to the English stage. The first English prose comedy, Supposes, by George Gascoigne, was based on a play by the Italian writer Ariosto. English playwrights imported ideas from Italy not only through the medium of Italian plays but also by drawing on Italian courtesy books, such as Castiglione's Courtier, and on collections of stories, including Boccaccio's Decameron.

Plays were at first performed in a variety of settings. The households of great men in church and state were the scenes of some productions, as we have seen in the case of Archbishop Morton. Students in the Inns of Court and the universities presented plays. Very important were the companies consisting of choir boys, the two most outstanding being those connected with the Chapel Royal and with St. Paul's. These Children of the Chapel Royal and Children of Paul's gave many performances at court. Some of the grammar schools also put on plays.

By the last quarter of the sixteenth century, however, professional companies of adult actors came to dominate the stage. Great nobles sometimes patronized companies of actors, who were known by the names of their patrons. Such a patron was the earl of Leicester, who took a real interest in his company and looked out for its welfare. The most famous of the Elizabethan companies was the Lord Chamberlain's Company, of which Shakespeare was a member. With the accession of James I, this company was taken over by James himself and became the King's Company.

In the 1570s the adult companies were giving more performances at court than the children's companies, and in the same decade the first two permanent theaters in England were built and were used by them. These first two theaters, known as The Theatre and The Curtain, were public theaters to which anyone could gain admittance on payment of the required sum.

There were also private theaters, the first of which was established in 1576 and was called Blackfriars, since it made use of a building that had been part of a Dominican convent (the Dominicans were known in England as the Black Friars). It was used by the Children of the Chapel. Unlike the public theaters, it had a roof and provided seats for all members of the audience in the public theaters, the cheapest admission provided standing room. It also charged higher prices than the public theaters.

Important in the history of English drama was the play Gorboduc, or, as the title page of an early edition describes it, "The Tragedy of Ferrex and Porrex. shewed on stage before the Queen's Majesty. the 18th day of January 1561 [1562 by our reckoning] by the gentlemen of the Inner Temple." It was written by two young men, Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville, both at the time members of the Inner Temple. In some ways it foreshadows King Lear: It tells a story based on British legend, and it preaches the evils of divided rule and uncertain succession. Gorboduc, king of Britain, divides his rule between his sons Ferrex and Porrex great evils follow that bring suffering, death, and devastation to the realm. The play was apparently intended to teach the royal spectator the importance of settling the succession question promptly. While it did not have the desired effect, it does not seem to have offended Elizabeth, because both the authors had prosperous and successful careers, though not primarily as writers.

Gorboduc is important as the first English tragedy previous tragedies in the English language had been translations of Seneca. It is also important as the first play to be written in blank verse, which was to become the standard speech of English tragedy. This form was introduced, as we have seen, by Surrey. It has many advantages for dramatic use: It is close to everyday speech in its rhythm and yet adaptable to any dramatic or poetic purpose and it is flexible, allowing for considerable variety by small departures from the strict pattern. Rhymed lines are sometimes found, especially at the end of an act. Much of the greatest English poetry, dramatic and nondramatic, was to be written in this medium.

To illustrate the nature of blank verse, the following lines from Gorboduc will serve, as they will also serve to show the sort of political lessons taught by the play: "Though kings forget to govern as they ought, / Yet subjects must obey as they are bound" (5.1.50 51).

It was Christopher Marlowe (1564 93) who first showed the enormous possibilities of blank verse and established it as the standard English dramatic language. There is something mysterious, even a little sinister, about Marlowe. As a student at Cambridge University, he was most irregular in his attendance, yet received his bachelor's and master's degrees there. It has been conjectured that his absences were caused by some sort of undercover work that he was doing for the government, and that his degrees, awarded at government orders, served as a partial recompense for this service. He was regarded with great suspicion by the orthodox, accused of "atheism" that comprehensive sixteenth-century term for all deviations from accepted views as well as Epicureanism and Machiavellianism, two equally opprobrious terms. He was murdered in a tavern, where he had been in the company of some dubious characters, as a result of a brawl that may have arisen out of a controversy over who was to pay the bill. He was killed with his own dagger.

This squalid and miserable death, before he had even reached the age of thirty, ended the career of an amazing dramatic genius. Nobody before him and hardly anyone since could invest blank verse with such thundering power and such soaring beauty. Passages from Tamburlaine the Great, Part I, will illustrate both the power and the beauty. In Act IV, Scene 2, Tamburlaine says to the dethroned sultan, Bajazet

Thus Tamburlaine, the irresistible world conqueror, makes kings his footstools. These lines show Marlowe's capacity for mouth-filling rhetoric and illustrate the cosmic nature of his imagery. Nothing less than the whole universe would suffice to express the scope of his aspirations.

But Tamburlaine, speaking of the fair Zenocrate, can speak another language, the language of love and beauty:

If all the pens that ever poets held
Had fed the feeling of their masters' thoughts,
And every sweetness that inspir'd their hearts,
Their minds, and muses on admired themes
If all the heavenly quintessence they still [distill]
From their immortal flowers of poesy,
Wherein as in a mirror we perceive
The highest reaches of a human wit
If these had made one poem's period,
And all combin'd in beauty's worthiness,
Yet should there hover in their restless heads
One thought, one grace, one wonder at the least,
Which into words no virtue can digest.

[act 5, scene 1]

The thought that no virtue can digest into words is typical of Marlowe's heroes, striving to grasp the unattainable and express the inexpressible. Characteristic of these boundless yearnings are these words, also put into the mouth of Tamburlaine:

Nature that fram'd us of four elements,
Warring within our breasts for regiment,
Doth teach us all to have aspiring minds.
Our souls, whose faculties can comprehend
The wondrous architecture of the world
And measure every wand'ring planet's course,
Still climbing after knowledge infinite,
And always moving as the restless spheres,
Wills us to wear ourselves and never rest
Until we reach the ripest fruit of all,
That perfect bliss and sole felicity,
The sweet fruition of an earthly crown.

Tamburlaine strives after power without end, and nothing can check his triumphant drive. He is utterly ruthless and without mercy to his enemies. The play was so popular that Marlowe felt called upon to write a sequel, Tamburlaine the Great, Part II. In this second part the conqueror loses his Zenocrate by death, and at the end yields to the only foe that could ever subdue him death itself.

Tamburlaine's boundless desires and stirrings set the pattern for Marlowe's other heroes. The Tragicall History of A Doctor Faustus is a retelling of the Faust story. Originating in Germany, it had become known in England through The Historie of the damnable Life and deserved Death of Dr. John Faustus, a translation of a German work published in 1592. The story has had a perennial fascination and has been told many times. Several operas have been written on the theme. The most famous literary version of it is that by Goethe. In more recent times it has been treated by Thomas Mann in his Doctor Faustus, and by the American writer John Hersey in a novel, Too Far To Walk.

The story of Faust is that of a man who agrees to bestow his soul on the Devil at the time of his death in return for certain gifts during his lifetime. Marlowe's Doctor Faustus is a scholar who, having plumbed the depths of all human learning, finds himself dissatisfied. He longs for power over all things and seeks to attain it by magic. As a result of his spells, he is put in touch with the infernal powers, to whom he agrees to give his soul. In return he is given twenty-four years of boundless power.

Much of the action consists of Faustus making use of the powers diabolically bestowed on him. These exhibitions of power are disappointingly trivial, consisting largely of playing tricks on such figures as the emperor and the pope. There is also the famous scene in which his devilish helper Mephistopheles calls up Helen of Troy, whom Faustus greets in the speech beginning with the words: "Was this the face that launched a thousand ships, / And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?" Later in the same speech he addresses her in this manner:

During the play, Faustus has many opportunities to repent and be saved, but he never grasps them and so at the end, in a horrifying scene, the devils carry away his soul to everlasting torment.

Like Tamburlaine, Faustus represents the striving after the boundless in a somewhat different form not in military conquest, but in the knowledge of the secrets of the universe and the power that comes from such knowledge. He is an example of the Renaissance magus, a type to be discussed at more length in a subsequent chapter. In The Jew of Malta, Marlowe presents another form of the aspiration after the limitless. Barabas, the Jew, is interested in wealth, and his fortune is immense. At the start of the play, he is found counting his riches, and he speaks of "Infinite riches in a little room." He is a monster of iniquity, who stops at nothing to vent his hatred of Christians. His acts of cruelty and his betrayal of Christians and Moslems are fittingly rewarded in the end when he dies in a boiling cauldron. His wickedness, like in Shakespeare's Shylock, must have appealed to the anti-Semitism of Marlowe's Elizabethan audience. Jews had been expelled from England by Edward I at the end of the thirteenth century and had not yet been readmitted, so the common prejudice was fed on hearsay and on such plays as those of Marlowe and Shakespeare. The Jew of Malta is based on no known literary source.

Barabas is represented as a disciple of "Machevill," who makes his first appearance on the Elizabethan stage in the prologue to the play. He announces some of the maxims associated with his name, for example, this one: "I count religion but a childish toy, / And hold there is no sin but ignorance." Henceforth, Machiavelli was to be referred to often on the Elizabethan stage as a representative of the blackest wickedness. Shakespeare's Richard III, a character as wicked as Barabas, promises to "set the murderous Machiavel to school." (Henry VI, Part III, 3.2.)

Until this time, the chief characters in Marlowe's plays had been dynamic protagonists, whose character and actions largely determined the course of events. They remained the same kinds of personalities throughout, showing little sign of development. In his greatest play, Edward the Second, this all changed. (It is possible that Edward the Second was not the last of Marlowe's plays, and that it was written earlier than Doctor Faustus. However, it differs sufficiently from the other plays to be discussed last.) Edward the Second is a real tragedy most of his other works can more accurately be called melodramas. The chief character is the king who reigned in England from 1307 to 1327 and who was then deposed and murdered. Unlike the rest of Marlowe's heroes, he is weak and at the mercy of other forces. He is represented as dominated by his homosexual affection for Gaveston, his baseborn favorite. The queen, Isabella, has turned to young Mortimer, with whom she is having a love affair, while Mortimer plots to depose the king and take his place. The king is deposed and, at Mortimer's command, murdered. But the dead king's son and successor, Edward III, learns what has happened and avenges his father's murder by having Mortimer put to death instantly and Isabella sent to the Tower to await trial.

At the start of the play, the sympathies of the audience or the reader are not with the king, but as the action progresses and disaster overtakes him and his character develops, he becomes unlike Barabas a more sympathetic figure, so that by the time of the ghastly scene in which he is murdered the audience has changed sides. Perhaps Marlowe himself was changing and growing, having compassion for life's victims, whereas earlier he seemed to side always with the conquerors. There is no way to know how far or in what directions his extraordinary talents would have developed.

William Shakespeare (1564 1616) was born in the same year as Marlowe. If he had died at the same age, he would be considered the lesser of the two writers, since his development was slower and his achievement by 1593 was less impressive. He lived to finish his work, however, and became the greatest playwright and the supreme writer in the English language, or perhaps in any language. His dramatic work passes through well-defined phases: first a period of patriotic history plays, "happy" comedies, and romantic tragedy (Romeo and Juliet) then the great and terrible tragedies and the "bitter" comedies and finally a group of plays in which there predominates a note of peace and reconciliation, of faith in the ultimate goodness of the world and of man. This faith is not naive, but mature and without illusions.

Shakespeare was born in the Warwickshire market town of Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564. The extent of his schooling is uncertain. It may not have been great, though there is a later story that at one time he taught school himself. In any event, he had a capacious mind and was sensitive to the leading intellectual issues of his day. By 1592 he was established in London and making a reputation as a playwright. By 1612 he had virtually finished writing his plays and had retired to Stratford, where he died in 1616.

Shakespeare, in the words of Professor Gerald Bentley, was the most complete man of the theater of his time. He was not only a writer of plays but also an actor and theater owner. As already mentioned, he was a member of the Lord Chamberlain's Company, founded in 1593, which became the King's Company on the accession of James I in 1603. Along with other members of the company, he was part owner of the Globe theater and later of Blackfriars.

In addition to the plays, Shakespeare wrote two long narrative poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, both of which deal with subjects from antiquity and are largely erotic in content a number of shorter poems and the sonnets.

The sonnets were first published in 1609, possibly without his consent, and comprise a sequence of 154 poems. One common Renaissance theme that has found expression in Shakespeare's sonnets is the proud assurance of the poet's power to confer immortality on the subject of his verse.

Two persons figure prominently in the sonnets. One is a youth whom Shakespeare addresses in words of fervent love and adoration, as well as reproach and disillusionment. In some poems the poet himself is contrite, admitting that he has wronged the beloved. Sometimes he gives way to doubt, as when he refers to his "tongue-tied Muse" (No. LXXXV) or thinks of his advancing years and death. "No longer mourn for me when I am dead / Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell / Give warning to the world that I am fled / From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell. " (No. LXXI)

The other person who plays a leading part in the sonnets is a woman who is referred to by critics as the Dark Lady. In one sonnet Shakespeare says her eyes are "raven black," (No. CXXVII) though in another he tells her, "In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds." (No. CXXXI) This note of bitterness is constant in the sonnets that deal with her. "When my love swears that she is made of truth, / I do believe her, though I know she lies." (No. CXXXVIII) The relationship is one that binds the poet in spite of himself and makes him ashamed of his bondage. To put the finishing touch on his bitterness, he finds that the two persons he loves have begun to love one another the good one, the Fair Youth, is being tempted by the bad one, the Dark Lady.

The sonnets are widely regarded as containing autobiographical references. The identity of the Dark Lady is not known, but two men are often suggested as the Fair Youth: Henry Wriothesley, earl of Southampton, and William Herbert, earl of Pembroke, nephew of Sir Philip Sidney. Some critics have called Shakespeare's sonnets "the greatest love-poetry in the world."

Shakespeare wrote ten plays dealing with events in English history. With the exception of the late Henry VIII, which may not have been wholly written by him, all these plays appeared before 1600. Eight of them (all except King John) fall into two groups of four, often referred to as the two tetralogies. The earlier consists of Henry VI in three parts and Richard III, and deals with the conflict between Lancaster and York. The latter in terms of composition includes Richard II, the two parts of Henry IV, and Henry V. Taken as a whole, therefore, these eight plays cover the period of English history from the reign of Richard II, who was deposed in 1399, to the death of Richard III and the accession of Henry Tudor, Henry VII, on Bosworth Field in 1485.

English chronicle plays had existed since about 1580, and had become increasingly popular. Their patriotic tone is carried on in Shakespeare's plays, which also exhibit a clearly defined philosophy of history. This philosophy, which was held by educated and thoughtful people of the time, accepted the concept of the "Great Chain of Being" and of the importance of the cosmic order with the corollary of the wickedness of any disturbance to that order, including rebellion against the state and against the king.

Furthermore, history was seen as having a moral aspect. Wickedness is punished goodness is rewarded. This fits in with a growing search for cause and effect in history. The reigns of kings are linked together by the results of sins working themselves out over the generations. Thus as we see in Shakespeare's two tetralogies, though Richard II was not a good king, his deposition and still more his murder, must be considered crimes the usurper, Henry IV (Bolingbroke), is never allowed to forget his guilt. His reign is troubled by rebellious subjects, and in his sleepless nights he can complain:

The death of Henry IV and the accession of Henry V mark a change. Henry V is the ideal king. His wayward youth, as Prince Hal in the Henry IV plays, is now revealed as only a period of preparation for the burdens of kingship. He repudiates his disreputable companions, including Falstaff, and stands forth as the leader of his people, set apart from them by the splendor of his majesty yet linked to them by mutual affection and understanding and by the fact that the English, unlike the French, are free men. Thus in the play Henry V, the English and their king are able to win the glorious victory of Agincourt.

But the death of Henry V was followed by the civil struggle of Lancaster and York and the wicked reign of Richard III. The three Henry VI plays, although among Shakespeare's earliest works and hence immature, illustrate the doctrine of the evils of civil war and the damage that private rivalries can do to the public good. Only when Englishmen turn against one another can they expose themselves to the danger of foreign conquest.

The last play of the group, Richard III, pictures one of Shakespeare's most famous villains. Richard is a cripple whose physical deformity mirrors the depravity of his soul. But his wickedness finally catches up with him, and he is defeated and killed at Bosworth by the forces of Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond and later Henry VII. Thus the play ends with a glorification of the Tudors, who are to restore peace and "smiling plenty, and fair prosperous days" to England.

In these eight plays Shakespeare has shown a unified conception of English history from the end of the fourteenth century to the coming of the Tudors, which is bound together by a chain of moral cause and effect that links the generations in a providential plan. Some notable expressions of English patriotism are found in the plays. Among them is the great speech of John of Gaunt in Richard II (Act II, Scene 1), which includes these lines:

In the two parts of Henry IV and in Henry V, Shakespeare went beyond the confines of kings and nobles to produce a picture of English society in his day that has been called epic in scope. All sorts of social classes, from the country and from the town, are presented so vividly that Shakespeare must have seen them all and observed them closely. Such unforgettable characters as Fluellen, Pistol, Justice Shallow, and Mistress Quickly bear witness to the breadth of his genius and the depths of his human sympathies.

Of the English history plays, Richard II and Richard III are called tragedies. In addition to these, Shakespeare wrote ten other tragedies, from the early and bloody Titus Andronicus, about 1593 or 1594, to Timon of Athens, about 1607 or 1608, which may have been written only partly by him or, if entirely his, may never have been finished. From about 1600 to about 1608, he wrote his greatest tragedies: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra. During this same period, the so-called comedies that he wrote have a tone of bitterness and disillusionment that shows their affinity to the tragedies. The only exception is The Merry Wives of Windsor, written early in this period.

Common to all great tragedy is what may be called the tragic view of life, which sees man borne down by forces of evil that all his good intentions and nobility of spirit cannot resist. His nobility lies not in triumph but in the dignity with which he bears his defeat. This does not mean that the wicked go unpunished, and in Shakespeare they do not. Evil may win a triumph over good, within the confines of the drama, but the human instruments of evil destroy themselves as well.

The range and richness of Shakespeare's tragedies are inexhaustible, and there can be room here for only a few comments. Romeo and Juliet, his tragedy of young love, comes from a period when the lyric element was very strong in Shakespeare's plays, and the result is some of his most eloquent love poetry. For example, Romeo's speech when he first sees Juliet: "O! she doth teach the torches to burn bright. / It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night / Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear / Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear! (Romeo and Juliet, 1.5)

Julius Caesar, which draws largely from Shakespeare's reading of Plutarch, contains more of his reflections on politics. Caesar is a great man, who bestrides "the narrow world like a Colossus." The conspirators, led by the noble but ineffectual Brutus, kill Caesar to avert tyranny, but are themselves defeated by another strong man, Mark Antony. The death of Caesar is foreshadowed by portents in the heavens and remarkable occurrences on the earth as Caesar's wife says: "When beggars die there are no comets seen / The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes." (Julius Caesar, 2.2) This also shows the correspondence between all the elements in the cosmic order: The heavens, the body politic, and the body and soul of man are bound together, and disorder in one sphere must bring corresponding disorder elsewhere. These correspondences underlie all of Shakespeare's tragedies.

With Hamlet (1600-01) the period of the greatest tragedies is ushered in. Hamlet is destroyed and carries others to destruction by his indecision, which prevents him from avenging his father's death. It is not yet agreed just why Hamlet does not do his duty. Is it the impotence of the man of reflection faced by the necessity of decisive action? Is it a paralysis of the will resulting from the realization of his mother's true character?

Hamlet is destroyed by the inability of his character to cope with the demands of the situation in which he finds himself. In Othello, on the other hand, the hero is ruined by the simplicity of his nature when exposed to the villainy of Iago, one of Shakespeare's most remarkable creations. Through Iago's machinations, Othello is roused to a frenzy of suspicion of his lovely wife, Desdemona, which leads him to murder her and when he learns of his mistake, to kill himself. The great question is: What induces Iago to commit his unspeakable acts? He gives a number of reasons, but we feel that these are no more than pretexts. Iago appears to be pure unmotivated evil he destroys Othello and Desdemona not to gain something for himself, not even because he bears them any particular ill will, but simply because of an affinity for wickedness. He symbolizes the faculties of reason perverted to destructive ends. If he were moved by passion, he would be less horrifying. It is his coldness and detachment that make him so appalling. Even at the end, Iago, though arrested and facing torture and probable death, seems unmoved and unbroken.

The same sort of unmotivated evil appears in Goneril and Regan, daughters of Lear. King Lear has often been called the greatest of Shakespeare's tragedies. Its scope is cosmic it deals not only with the relationships among humans, but with the nature of society and the state, and ultimately with the whole question of the government of the universe. Lear is a king as we have seen, this places him at the head of one of the hierarchies that compose the Elizabethan conception of the cosmos, the hierarchy of the state or human society. When he is impelled, largely by foolish vanity, to divide up his kingdom among his daughters, he is interfering with the natural order of things. This disturbance is accompanied by or indeed, gives rise to every other kind of disorder. Lear's eventual insanity is one form of disorder the terrible storm to which he is exposed in Act III is another.

There is even a subplot in Lear, which repeats the main plot. As Lear has turned against his faithful daughter Cordelia only to be betrayed by the two ungrateful ones, so Gloucester has relied on his treacherous bastard son Edmund and cast off the faithful Edgar, as a result of which he is blinded and becomes, like Lear, a homeless wanderer. Eventually retribution overtakes Goneril, Regan, and Edmund, but not without destroying Lear, Gloucester, and even the exquisite Cordelia. Evil has destroyed itself, but it has taken a terrible toll among those who have not deserved so harsh a fate.

While Shakespeare wrote no tragedies after about 1608, and while all his history plays (except Henry VIII) were written before 1600, he wrote comedies throughout his career. It is true, however, that in his case the word comedy is used to designate plays that vary strikingly in tone and outlook. The most lighthearted and amusing were written in his earlier days, from The Comedy of Errors (1592 93) to The Merry Wives of Windsor (1600 01). There is generally at least one love story, and the power of love is celebrated. One theme that appears more than once is that of people who scorn love at first but later fall in love and repent of their folly before finally gaining what they desire.

And yet, even in these joyous and seemingly carefree comedies, there appears an undertone of disillusionment and skepticism about the constancy of love, especially of the love of men for women. Shakespeare seems to have had an exceptionally sensitive appreciation of the feminine point of view. In one of his most enchanting comedies, A Midsummer Night's Dream, the love of the young men seems remarkably fickle and changeable. Of course, this fickleness is partly due to the magical charms of fairies it is not clear whether the action has all really happened or has been a dream. But the great enchanter is Shakespeare himself, and he seems to be deliberately leaving us in doubt as to the boundaries between dreams and wakefulness, between appearance and reality.

From about 1601 to 1605, at the beginning of the period when he wrote the great tragedies, Shakespeare wrote three comedies, which have been appropriately called "bitter": Troilus and Cressida, All's Well That Ends Well, and Measure for Measure. They are not comic, amusing, or lighthearted, and are classed as comedies simply because the chief characters are alive at the end of the play, and except in Troilus and Cressida lovers are united or reunited and wicked designs are foiled. But there is a spirit of disillusionment and even disgust about them that has led some students, like E. K. Chambers, to conclude that about 1601, "The poet lost his faith in the world."14 The theme of lust is prominent in them all, as it is in Hamlet, Lear, Othello, and Antony and Cleopatra, and is associated with human degradation.

Troilus and Cressida may illustrate the common characteristics of the three plays. The familiar story, set against the background of the Trojan War, gave Shakespeare the opportunity to show the seamy side of the ideal of knightly honor, which he had celebrated in Henry V, and the ideal of romantic love, which he had presented in Romeo and Juliet. The Greek heroes waste their time in petty bickering, and the greatest of them, Achilles, proves himself a coward. Cressida, who pledges eternal love to Troilus, is unfaithful to him the first chance she gets. Thersites's comment is appropriate: "Lechery, lechery still, wars and lechery: nothing else holds fashion." (Act V, scene 2) Thersites himself and Pandarus add to the general atmosphere of nastiness and decay that pervades the whole play.

One character, Ulysses, sees things clearly and without illusions. It is he who makes the famous speech on "degree" and order, which clearly describes the cosmic outlook of Shakespeare's age:

The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre
Observe degree, priority, and place,
Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
Office, and custom, in all line of order:


O! when degree is shak'd
Which is the ladder to all high designs,
The enterprise is sick.


Take but degree away, untune that string,
And, hark! what discord follows

With the exception of Henry VIII, Shakespeare's last plays are romantic comedies or tragicomedies: Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest, and Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Although there appear in these plays the forces that make for tragedy, they are invariably foiled. The lost are found, the dead Hermione returns to life, wickedness is defeated, and virtue triumphs. Some of Shakespeare's noblest and most attractive feminine characters appear in these plays: Thaisa and Marina in Pericles, Prince of Tyre, Imogen in Cymbeline, Hermione and Perdita in The Winter's Tale, and Miranda in The Tempest. There is an air of serenity and acceptance of the world. It is as though Shakespeare had reached in these years an assurance. Evil is an inevitable part of human life, but it is not triumphant the forces that shape man's destiny are moving in ways not always obvious to beneficent ends.

In The Tempest, Shakespeare may have been saying farewell to the stage. In Prospero the benevolent sorcerer, he may have embodied himself, and in Prospero's great speech in the first scene of Act IV he may (though we shall never be sure) be speaking for himself:

And so, as Prospero abjures his magic, sets the spirits free, breaks his staff and drowns his book, the greatest poet of his nation turned his back on the stage, to spend his last years in the peace and comfort of his native town.

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