The book's purported narrator, the goddess Folly, proclaims herself to be the daughter of Youth and Wealth, nursed by Drunkenness and Ignorance. She is accompanied by such followers as Self-love, Pleasure, Flattery, and Sound Sleep.
A clever mix of drollery and fantasy, fast-paced and lighthearted in tone, the work has proved to be a lively and valuable commentary on modern times. It remains, according to the great Dutch historian John Huizinga, "a masterpiece of humour and wise irony … something that no one else could have given to the world."
At the onset of his hugely successful satire of medieval European society, Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus invokes the goddess Folly, daughter of Youth and Wealth, who was raised by Drunkenness and Ignorance. She’s followed by idolatrous companions, including Self-love, Flattery, Pleasure, and Laziness.
Through Folly’s wry and humorous speech, Erasmus denounces the superstitions and nonsensical eccentricities of his contemporary theologians and churchmen, monastic life, and the condition of the Catholic Church. An immensely influential humanist text, In Praise of Folly helped lay the groundwork for the Protestant Reformation and marked a transitional time between medieval beliefs and modern ideals.
In this Paraphrase, the wonderful complexity of Jesus's life finds coherence in the conception of Him as a teacher. The baptism, the dove, and the divine voice attesting sonship are called the 'inaugurating ceremonies' that authenticate Jesus as the divine teacher of heavenly philosophy. His students are the disciples, who are to be teachers themselves, initiating an unending line of Christian teachers. The Jesus of this Paraphrase understands pedagogy: He adapts His teaching to the developing abilities of His pupils, quizzes them, and gently rebukes them. His actions as well as His words have one primary objective: to teach the disciples.
As a Preface to the Paraphrase, Erasmus wrote a 'Letter to the Pious Reader,' which became one of his most provocative and important essays. Like the more published Paraclesis, this 'Letter' vigorously advocates the translation of scripture into the vernacular languages, and proposes a 'confirmation' ceremony to encourage young people to assume responsibility for the vows taken for them at baptism by their sponsors.
This volume illuminates the early thinking of Erasmus and is a welcome addition to the Collected Works series.
This Princeton Classics edition of The Praise of Folly features a new foreword by Anthony Grafton that provides an essential introduction to this iridescent and enduring masterpiece.