Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit

by John Lyly

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit by John Lyly explores themes such as morality and other virtues. The narrative centers on Euphues, a handsome, wealthy young man from Athens. Euphues is blessed with high intelligence and is very witty. However, like a superhero-turned-villain, Euphues uses his wit to lead a life of wickedness. Euphues is also reminiscent of Casanova, the vagabond who is obsessed with pleasure and leads the life of a Bohemian.

The other theme of the story is the influence of one's environment in how an individual perceives morality. When Euphues goes to Naples, he is surrounded by people who try to lead him into a life of gluttony and non-productivity. Euphues is cautious about their intentions, however, and escapes their sphere of influence. The other theme of the narrative is the act of redemption and transforming one's self through firsthand experiences.

After the disastrous love affair between Euphues, his best friend Philautus, and Lucilla, Euphues learns about love, life, and morality. When he returns to Athens, he is completely different character than the one at the beginning of the novel. He thanks a wise sage who, earlier, warned him of the consequences of his immoral ways. The story closes with him stating in a letter that Philautus—his best friend and a man he once betrayed—is coming to visit him in Athens, thus completing the theme of transformation.

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