Edward Gibbon (essay date 1776-88)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Chapter XXXIX," in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. II, edited by J. B. Bury, The Heritage Press, 1946, pp. 1226-249.

[Gibbon 's monumental The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, written between 1776 and 1788, is recognized as the finest work of history in the English language and a seminal text in eighteenth-century thought. In the following excerpt from that work, Gibbon appraises Boethius as "the last of the Romans whom Cato or Tully could have acknowledged for their countryman."]

The senator Boethius is the last of the Romans whom Cato or Tully could have acknowledged for their countryman. As a wealthy orphan, he inherited the...

(The entire section is 1785 words.)

Edward Kennard Rand (lecture date 1928)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Boethius, the First of the Scholastics," in Founders of the Middle Ages, 1928. Reprint by Dover Publications, 1957, pp. 135-80.

[Rand was an eminent American classical scholar who, in addition to writing works on such authors as Vergil, Horace, and Ovid, provided one of the most influential twentieth-century accounts of Boethius, which appears below. Originally delivered as a lecture and reprinted later with minor alterations, Rand's overview of Boethius 's life and career is placed within the political context of sixth-century A.D. Italy.]

A century of barbarism had swept like a wave over Roman civilization, or dashed against its coasts, when there suddenly...

(The entire section is 11617 words.)

Howard Rollin Patch (essay date 1935)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Imitations and Influence," in The Tradition of Boethius: A Study of His Importance in Medieval Culture, Oxford University Press, Inc., 1935, pp. 87-113.

[In the following excerpt, Patch examines the impact exerted by Boethius on Medieval and Renaissance writers, including Dante, King James I of Scotland, and Sir Thomas More.]

The most striking testimony of all to the power of the Consolatio appears in the attempt through many centuries to interpret its meaning in various adaptations and imitations. Something like this we have already observed [earlier], in varying ways, in King Alfred's rendering and the Provençal Boece and especially in...

(The entire section is 8476 words.)

Eleanor Shipley Duckett (essay date 1938)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Philosophy in the Sixth Century," in The Gateway to The Middle Ages, The Macmillan Company, 1938, pp. 142-212.

[In the excerpt below, Duckett provides a general overview of Boethius's life and influence, asserting that "it was he who fanned the flame of conflict that was to occupy philosophical minds through all the Middle Ages -the struggle between Nominalism and Realism in their various forms. "]

[Boethius's] Consolation of Philosophy has been the meat of souls in distress, of minds in doubt, of editors, commentators and students in mediaeval browsings, all down the years from the sixth century to modern times. It was every whit as popular in...

(The entire section is 19741 words.)

C. S. Lewis (essay date 1964)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Selected Materials: The Seminal Period," in The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature, Cambridge at the University Press, 1964, pp. 45-91.

[Lewis was an acknowledged authority in the fields of Medieval and Renaissance literature, as well as an esteemed writer of fantasy and science fiction. In the following excerpt from a posthumously published work, he elucidates the extent to which the Consolation of philosophy helped to shape the standard Medieval perception of human affairs.]

[Boethius's] De Consolatione Philosophiae was for centuries one of the most influential books ever written in Latin. It was...

(The entire section is 3966 words.)

H. Liebeschütz (essay date 1967)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Boethius and the Legacy of Antiquity," in The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy, edited by A. H. Armstrong, Cambridge at the University Press, 1967, pp. 538-64.

[In the following excerpt, the critic provides a survey of Boethius's importance in the history of philosophy, maintaining that the work of the Roman senator defines the point where antiquity ends and the Middle Ages begin.]

When we try to draw a borderline between antiquity and Middle Ages, in order to define the point where the history of medieval philosophy begins, the work of Boethius comes immediately to our mind. The last Roman and the first schoolman, the two titles...

(The entire section is 6200 words.)

Henry Chadwick (essay date 1981)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Boethius: His Life, Thought and Influence, edited by Margaret Gibson, Basil Blackwell, 1981, pp. 1-12.

[In the following essay, Chadwick surveys Boethius's career and achievement, maintaining that "he taught the Latin West to judge the validity of an inference, to be aware of the foundations of mathematics, and to envisage reason and revelation as related but very distinct ways of apprehending the mystery of God."]

By writing the Consolation of Philosophy Boethius provided all educated people of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance with one of their principal classics, a work of both intellectual profundity and literary delight...

(The entire section is 4852 words.)

Henry Chadwick (essay date 1981)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Evil, Freedom, and Providence," in Boethius: The Consolations of Music, Logic, Theology, and philosophy, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1981, pp. 223-53.

[In the following essay, Chadwick provides a detailed analysis of the Consolation of Philosophy, exploring such features of the work as its combination of Platonic and Stoic philosophies and its treatment of the problem of evil and free will.]

Since the Renaissance, and especially since the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century altered our understanding of the nature and structure of our environment, Boethius has come to seem a rather lonely and forgotten foreigner in a world grown strange....

(The entire section is 11749 words.)

Anna Crabbe (essay date 1981)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Literary Design in the De Consolatione Philosophiae, " in Boethius: His Life, Thought and Influence, edited by Margaret Gibson, Basil Blackwell, 1981, pp. 237-74.

[In the following essay, Crabbe explores the literary influences on Boethius 's theme and style, paying particular attention to the works of Ovid and Augustine.]

I

Champion of Philosophy, orator to kings, theologian, poet, supreme logician: the achievements of Boethius compose a multicoloured garment. Yet just as the brief literary portrait supplied by Cassiodorus [in his Anecdoton Holderi] seems dulled by its omission of the Consolatio, so the sum...

(The entire section is 10708 words.)

Helen Kirkby (essay date 1981)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Scholar and His Public," in Boethius: His Life, Thought and Influence, edited by Margaret Gibson, Basil Blackwell, 1981, pp. 44-69.

[In the following essay, Kirkby details the social and intellectual milieu of Boethius, describing him as "a man writing and acting consciously in the Roman tradition of his aristocratic ancestors, finding the origins of his intellectual pursuits in their traditions, moved to take up public office by their example, and losing his life in defence of what he saw as the most sacred Roman institution."]

I

Sometime in the mid-530s, Cassiodorus Senator embarked on a project to found a Christian school...

(The entire section is 7624 words.)

Edmund Reiss (essay date 1982)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Form and Method in the Consolation;' in Boethius, Twayne Publishers, 1982, pp. 131-53.

[In the essay below, Reiss analyzes the structure, dialogue form, and interweaving of prose and verse in the Consolation of Philosophy.]

Structural Patterns

Whereas linear progression is the most obvious structural pattern of the Consolation, this progression involves much more than a simple movement from a beginning to an ending, or a simple change of the narrator from despair to hope and from ignorance to understanding. As the work develops and consolation yields to instruction and to an awareness of truth, so simplicity yields...

(The entire section is 8350 words.)

Thomas F. Curley III (essay date 1984)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "How to Read the Consolation of Philosophy," in Interpretation: A Journal of Bible & Theology, Vol. 14, Nos. 2-3, May-September, 1986, pp. 211-63.

[In the following essay, written shortly before the critic's death in 1984, Curley analyzes the philosophical content, structure, and genre of the Consolation of Philosophy.]

I. INTRODUCTORY

Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, for centuries one of the most widely read and revered books in the West, is now little more than a historical curiosity. Most, but not all, educated people have heard of it; some have read it; very few seem to like it. But the reasons for the...

(The entire section is 24320 words.)

Seth Lerer (essay date 1984)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Boethian Silence," in Medievalia et Human-istica, No. 12, 1984, pp. 97-125.

[In the following essay, Lerer explores Boethius's notions of communication, dialogue, and rhetoric in the theological tractates and the Consolation of Philosophy.]

Twenty years ago, in a landmark article, Joseph Mazzeo [in Journal of the History of Ideas 23 (1962)] identified St. Augustine's "rhetoric of silence" as the notable characteristic of his broader "attempt to assimilate classical rhetoric to Christian needs." Readers of Augustine long before Mazzeo recognized the Saint's attempted synthesis of Ciceronian rhetoric and Biblical narrative, and his contrast, expressed in...

(The entire section is 8132 words.)

Seth Lerer (essay date 1985)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Language and Loss in Book Three," in Boethius and Dialogue: Literary Method in "The Consolation of Philosophy," Princeton University Press, 1985, pp. 124-65.

[In the following excerpt, Lerer analyzes the thematic and stylistic patterns of the third book of the Consolation of Philosophy, calling it "a book of transformations, as its poetry turns mythological narrative and Senecan tragedy into an almost religious cosmology, and its prose turns the language of Aristotelian dialectic into a suitable medium for philosophic inquiry."]

The third book of the Consolation is perhaps the most philosophically rewarding and the most methodologically...

(The entire section is 10098 words.)