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World History: English Renaissance Curriculum Unit



NOTE: The following material was created by Dr. Ellen Carney, literature teacher at Bronxville High School, New York.


Links that direct you to an external site are followed by braces { } including the name of the website.




I. Characters and Events of the Renaissance

II. Renaissance Project

III. Listening Guide for A & E's Biography: Henry VIII

IV. Renaissance through art I: lesson plan for Raphael's School of Athens

V. Renaissance through art II: Holbein's Ambassadors



I. Characters and Events of the Renaissance

  • Martin Luther
  • King Richard III
  • King Henry VII
  • King Henry VIII
  • Catherine of Aragon
  • Anne Boleyn
  • Jane Seymour
  • Anne of Cleves
  • Catherine Howard
  • Catherine Parr
  • William Shakespeare
  • Thomas More
  • Thomas Cromwell
  • Oliver Cromwell (17th century)
  • Mary Tudor
  • Elizabeth I
  • Edward VI
  • Erasmus
  • William Cecil
  • Boccaccio
  • Edmund Spenser
  • Machiavelli
  • Lorenzo de Medici
  • Francis Drake
  • Wars of the Roses
  • Wyatt and Surrey
  • Mary Stuart
  • Michelangelo
  • John Milton (17th century)
  • Spanish Armada
  • Cardinal Wolsey
  • Humanism
  • Philip II of Spain
  • Petrarch
  • Giotto
  • Donatello
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Columbus
  • Raphael
  • John Donne
  • Roger Ascham
  • Edmund Spenser
  • Hans Holbein
  • 95 Theses
  • More’s Utopia
  • Protestant Reformation



II. Renaissance Project

You will prepare a 5 minute oral presentation on the character or event of your choice. You will need to consult at least three sources to get sufficient background. (You will hand in your notes for the presentation) and you will need to read at least one book on your topic.

Here is some of the information you will need to give your audience:

a. Dates of the event or of the character’s life

b. The relationship between your character and either King Henry VIII, Thomas More, or the Renaissance in general

c. The contributions or special concern of your character or event (e.g. did he write a noted book? If a king or queen, what are the dates of the reign and what historical events did he/she influence?)

d. Personal anecdotes—some interesting details of the life or some statistic, some unusual and memorable occurrence(s)

e. Why you chose the character/event and what you think after your research



III. Listening Guide for A & E's Biography, Henry VIII: Henry VIII's "Tragic Tale of Missed Opportunity"


As you watch this entire video, list Henry VIII’s strengths and weaknesses:






















King Henry VII had four children: Margaret, Mary, Arthur, and Henry.


1. How was Arthur different from Henry?



2. If you were Henry VIII, how would you have reacted to your father’s opinion of you? Is it possible that Henry VII’s opinion had merit?



3. How did Henry VIII gain access to the throne and what was his opinion of his newfound power?



4. Why did Henry VIII marry Catherine of Aragon and how did that marriage impact Charles V of Spain and Francis I of France?



5. Identify: Thomas Wolsey and how he meddled with Anne Boleyn’s engagement to Percy.



6. How did Anne react to Henry’s marriage proposal?



7. The complications and ramifications of Henry’s dilemma on the Pope and Wolsey were...



8. Identify Thomas Cranmer and how he orchestrated successful results for the King.



9. The King’s Great Matter is __________________________________________



10. Identify: Thomas More. What was his reputation?



11. More agreed to be part of the King’s Royal Council if...



Vocabulary Terms

dispensation: exemption, special allowance
paragon: model, epitome
sine qua non: something essential, indispensable condition
supplant: replace, supercede



IV. Renaissance through art I: lesson plan for Raphael's School of Athens

The following material was created by the Center for Thomas More Studies


"School of Athens" * See Full Color Version {New Banner Institute}


School of Athens


In the center Plato (#1), holding the Timaeus and pointing to the heavens, speaks with Aristotle (#2), holding the Ethics and gesturing towards the earth. They are framed by the triumphal arch above as well as by barrel vaults and sky; they are also surrounded by the largest number of people (#3-10, 52-56). In addition, #11 is ascending the stairs, leaving the geometers and astronomers below, while #12 points out Plato and Aristotle to him. Figure #13 is intently writing while a friend (#14) looks on in interest. At the far right, others are coming in, the younger two (#17 and 18) looking curiously at those below. The old man (#16) is eagerly moving in a different direction, apparently towards Plato and Aristotle. Above the thoughtful old man (#15) who gestures downward like Aristotle, is the statue of Athena, goddess of wisdom, crafts, and war. She is dressed in military garb and on her shield is the terrifying face of the Gorgon. Below her is a relief of Virtue elevated upon clouds, holding one hand at her breast, the seat of valor, while extending the other toward the earth with the scepter of her empire.

In the lower right-hand corner are the groups surrounding Euclid (#23) and the crowned figure of Ptolemy (#21). Euclid has the features of Raphael’s great mentor Donato Bramante who, as architect of St. Peter’s (suggested by the vaulted ceilings of this noble edifice), was a master of geometric principles as seen in the design of his buildings. The four students around Euclid depict four stages of learning: #26 is intent but at the level of literal learning, and #27, with his pointing finger and encouraging pat seems to be an apprentice teacher; #25 is turning to his companion with the excitement of dawning comprehension, but #24 is already anticipating the outcome. These figures are all focused upon a slate with a diagram, drawing attention to the faculty of sight, which is also used by the astronomers who hold globes in their hands: Ptolemy holds an earthly globe and Zoroaster holds a globe of the starry universe. Raphael has placed himself (#19) among these champions of sight, and next to him is his teacher Perugino (#20). Isolated on the steps in the middle, Diogenes the Cynic (#28) is absorbed in his reading, with a beggar’s cup in front. Below and to his left is the somewhat glum and antisocial Heraclitus (#29), who has the face of Michelangelo.

Socrates (#49), bald and snub-nosed, has the rapt attention of an unknown youth (#48), Xenophon (#47), Eschines (#47), and the famous Alcibiades (#49) who is attired in armor embellished in gold. Behind him is another figure (#44) who is gesturing to servants (#41-43) hurrying in at the far left. Below is Epicurus (#37), crowned with the ivy leaves of Bacchus and surrounded by the very young and the very old--supposedly the only ones who seriously attended to his teachings.

Pythagoras (#33) is also a center of rapt attention, with Empedocles (#34), Epicharmus (#35), Archytas (#32) and others looking on with great interest. #30 is either Parmenides or the musician Nicomachus. #31 alone is not drawn in; this handsome young man is simply looking out towards us. The sculpture at upper left is Apollo, god of poetry, music, and health. He has a lyre in one hand and the other rests upon a trunk around which coils the serpent (the Greek symbol of health). This god of beauty and harmony stands above two reliefs depicting the unrnoderated passions of wrath and concupiscence.


School of Athens Lesson Plan

School of Athens worksheet:


1. What is going on in this scene?

2. How would you describe the mood?

3. What is the highest aspiration indicated in this mural?

4. What is its focal point?

5. Where does your eye rest?

6. What does not seem to fit in its overall scheme?

7. What questions does it raise in your mind?

8. What is the effect of the architectural frames of this mural?



V. Renaissance through art II: Holbein's Ambassadors

This painting depicts two French ambassadors from the Vatican on their way to meet with King Henry VIII about his desire to divorce Catherine. It also depicts many characteristic symbols of Renaissance times. The painting, with its surprising hidden images, quickly captures students' imaginations.