Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Considered by many to be the founder of modern letters, Desiderius Erasmus spent a lifetime producing some of the most important scholarly works of the early Renaissance. Ironically, The Praise of Folly, written as an amusement, became the most enduring of his contributions to Western literature. Erasmus himself never thought highly of this work, yet it is the one for which he is best remembered. He wrote it in approximately seven days in 1509, while he was recovering from an illness at the home of his English friend, Thomas More. It was not until two years after its writing that he had the book secretly printed in France. More than forty editions of The Praise of Folly appeared in the author’s lifetime. The work caused Erasmus considerable trouble; his portraits of the clergy did little to endear him to the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, and for years the volume was banned as anti-Catholic. Nevertheless, the treatise has passed into the canon of Western literature, ranking as one of the premier examples of satiric writing in European letters.
The Praise of Folly makes use of one of the oldest forms of rhetorical discourse: the encomium. In a mock encomium, Erasmus makes use of the satirical devices of one of the world’s most influential satirists, Lucian, to poke gentle fun at the tradition of praising great people and great ideas. Putting words of wisdom in the mouth of Folly, Erasmus highlights the paradoxical...
(The entire section is 1359 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Praise of Folly Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!