Monday, 28 September 2015

Desiderius Erasmus

Desiderius Erasmus was a Dutch Renaissance Humanist, Catholic priest, social critic and teacher. 
He was born in Rotterdam, apparently on October 28, 1466, the illegitimate son of a physician's daughter by a man who afterwards turned monk. His educational writings contributed to the replacement of the older scholastic curriculum by the new humanist emphasis on the classics. 

His work displays his huge learning and intellectual brilliance, but also his humanity and wit. Many of his early works attacked corruption and superstition in the church and his famous satire 'The Praise of Folie' (1509), dedicated to his English friend Thomas More, advocated a return to a more simple Christianity.

Erasmus died in Basel in Switzerland on 12 July 1536.


But for Lear his most important work is: "The Praise of Folly" written in 1509 

Folly is an important theme in Shakespeare' s 'King Lear'. It can be argued that the tragic flaw of both Gloucester and Lear is their folly. 

But is folly is the same as foolishness? 

In this essay Erasmus is able to personify Folly as a jester in order to take the 'piss' out of human madness. This sentiment is echoed in 'King Lear'; the fool is supposed to be an embodiment of this idea. Folly calls to our attention that fools are around us and within us, and that we cannot escape it.

The oration is a praise of Folly. Folly is often associated with lack of control and wisdom, but, in her oration Folly brings it to a new light, believing that it is she who brings happiness to a man’s life. 

 Folly is present in all of us because of the way Nature created men. Wisdom means being controlled by one’s reason and folly means being controlled by one’s passion: and while reason was confined “to a narrow corner of the brain” all the rest of our bodies was left to be controlled by our passions. Thus Folly is more present in our bodies than wisdom and we mustn’t resist it.  

Finally having Folly says that being foolish and making mistakes is part of being a man. 

So is folly the same as foolishness? 

I don't think it's - I feel that Erasmus tries to show that Folly is what makes us human. Because it allows us to be human, have passion and understand ourselves. Being foolish is merely stupidity but having Folly means that you're not a one dimensional cardboard cutout.  In particular the fact that Erasmus tries to change the negative connotations of Folly shows that it's not stupid and shouldn't really be closely linked to Folly. 

Anyone can be foolish but not everyone has Folly. 

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