Symbolism In Erasmus's Praise Of The Folly

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In 1509 Desiderius Erasmus had just returned from Rome, where he refused to join the Roman Curia and instead wrote an essay detailing the exploitations of the Roman Catholic Church. Praise of the Folly is a satirical panegyric work by Erasmus in which he speaks through Folly using the metaphor of Silenus as a focal point to address the church and its allies. Erasmus uses this metaphor of Silenus and the image of the Silenus box as a vehicle to shape the entire novel in order to respond and discourse the underlying madness in Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine and practices.
Throughout the work Erasmus references Silenus a Greek figure renowned for his wisdom. As a companion to the wine God Dionysus, or Bacchus to the Romans, Silenus are recognized
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Folly constantly demonstrates knowledge of this idea when she speaks about the stoics. She states that “the double-dyed stoic Seneca strongly rejects this idea, denying that the wise man is entitled to any emotion whatsoever” (Erasmus 29). Stoics reject the idea that emotions can lead to wisdom, according to Folly, and feel that reason should be what administers their lives. Furthermore, Folly continues this line of thought stating, “but in so doing he doesn’t leave a shred of humanity, converting him instead into some sort of new god or demiurgos, such as never existed or will exist anywhere on earth. … what he produces is a marble statue of a man, insensitive and without a trace of feeling” (Erasmus 29). Erasmus is critical of stoics and in a way, scholars as well. Speaking through Folly Erasmus radiates a clear view on his disapproval of the stoics during this period and the fact that they will not accept emotion as an integral part on gaining greater wisdom. By comparing them to marble statues and displaying their lack of humanity Folly is exhibiting Erasmus’s views on how unhuman he sees the stoics. This is only the beginning of Erasmus’ critical views on scholars and ultimately the…show more content…
Folly states, “But just as Socrates taught in Plato’s dialogue that we should make two Venuses by cutting the one apart. … It behooves dialecticians to distinguish one madness form another” (Erasmus 38). This disillusioned madness is what Erasmus has been targeting through Folly through the entire text. The Roman Catholic Church leaders are the “most illustrious disciples of Folly” (Erasmus 87). Erasmus makes a point to point out the “first founders of the religion were great admirers of simplicity” (Erasmus 83). What does this have to do with Silenus? Simple. The point Erasmus is trying to make is that the Roman Catholic Church is much like a Silenus where it can look ugly and grotesque on the outside but inside you may find a rare inner truth that can lead to something
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