The Consolation of Philosophy

by Boethius

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 320

In Boethius’s The Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius talks with Lady Philosophy about his impending execution. He opens in prison, and quickly comes into contact with Lady Philosophy:

Her eyes were bright as fire, and of a more than human keenness; her complexion was lively, her vigour showed no trace of enfeeblement . . .

Boethius is distraught and feels that all the goodness of his life has been futile. Philosophy says:

But the time calls rather for healing than for lamentation.

He disagrees, feeling that all that he has put into his work, his dedication and love for his people should have spared him this fate:

Thinkest thou I had laid up for myself store of enmities enough? Well, with the rest of my countrymen, at any rate, my safety should have been assured, since my love of justice had left me no hope of security at court.

Boethius tells Lady Philosophy that his enemies have conspired against him to land him in this situation:

Yet even my very accusers saw how honourable was the charge they brought against me, and, in order to overlay it with some shadow of guilt, they falsely asserted that in the pursuit of my ambition I had stained my conscience with sacrilegious acts.

Lady Philosophy discusses with Boethius whether he believes that God is ruling over humanity in a fair and just way, or if it is just chaos:

This world of ours—thinkest thou it is governed haphazard and fortuitously, or believest thou that there is in it any rational guidance?

They consider free will, and Boethius contemplates whether there is any reason to his fate, or if it is a natural consequence of the freedom for human to make decisions.

Boethius laments all he has lost:

Yet it is this which chafes me the more cruelly in the recalling. For truly in adverse fortune the worst sting of misery is to have been happy.

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