The Truth Within a Soul: a Renaissance Humanist Analysis of the Lie

942 WordsFeb 2, 20144 Pages
Perhaps the most important aspect of Renaissance Humanism is the focus on the individual and the pursuit of truth. In Sir Walter Ralegh’s poem, The Lie, the speaker believes that the world is full of frauds and hollow beliefs, and that it is the duty of his soul to tell everyone the truth about themselves. Through the devices of simile, symbolism and personification, Ralegh is able to relate the speaker’s contempt towards the various institutions and beliefs of the world to the Renaissance Humanist ideas of celebrating the individual and seeking reason. There is perhaps no better judge of human character than the soul; and in the beginning of the poem, Ralegh is able to connect the symbolism of a soul to the humanist ideas of reason and truth. In the first stanza, the speaker commands his soul to do as he asks: Goe soule the bodies guest Upon a thankelesse arrant, Feare not to touch the best The truth shall be thy warrant. Goe since I needs must die And give the world the lie. (lines 1-6) Ralegh’s use of symbolism here helps to highlight the connection between a human soul and the truth. A soul can be thought of as an individual’s essence or core of a person’s being, where their true identity is revealed. Furthermore, a soul is immortal, or as the speaker calls it “the bodies guest”. Therefore, the soul can be thought of as a symbol of eternal truth within this poem. Knowing the truth makes one capable of reasoning soundly, which is a key principle of Renaissance Humanism. So, by the speaker charging his soul to go forth and spread the truth to the world, or rather telling them that they all are liars, Ralegh is able to connect to the humanist idea that there should be a focus on the individual, or “soul”, to achieve the truth and to be able to reason, rather than looking to the corrupt and insincere institutions that exist within the world.

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