The Active Life

“[T]he knights Spenser uses as his examples ‘to fashion a gentleman or noble person’ are politically and socially involved, not merely contemplative. Their role is in the world of action, not the world of prayer,  although prayer always forms an important part of their lives. In the newly rediscovered classical literature the Renaissance humanists found precisely the examples for behavior that best suited their needs. The educated man… was trained to play important roles in governing the nation, an ideal expressed in such classical authors as Cicero and Quintilian. This classical concept did not fit well with the medieval ideal of the contemplative life, but, in this new era, it added the respectability of tradition to the necessity of practice…. Cicero and Quintilian furnished for the Renaissance… the importance of moral instruction as an integral part of preparation for the active life.”—Russell J. Meyer, The Faerie Queen: Educating the Reader

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