The Silenus box is a "case carved like an ugly Silenus" that can be "opened to reveal beautiful, precious objects" (Erasmus 43, footnote). This box appears in Erasmus' Praise of Folly as a metaphor for the central claim in the novel, which is that that which appears to be Folly (ugly) externally, is wise (precious) within. Erasmus reveals this dichotomy on three levels: in the image of the box itself, in his genuine praise of Folly, and in the structure of the novel as a whole.
Erasmus, using the female voice of Folly, introduces his reader to the image of the Silenus box early in the text, thereby allowing his reader to carry the image with her for the rest of her time reading (and see its metaphoric nature when appropriate). Folly makes the introduction, saying, "All human affairs... have two aspects quite different from each other." She then goes on to explain that this means, according to Plato, that things that "appear 'at first blush'... to be death, will, if you examine [them] more closely, turn out to be life... in brief, you will find everything suddenly reversed if you open the Silenus" (43). In more direct terms, something which on its surface seems one way (the 'bad' way), has opposite ('good') guts. In The Praise of Folly, the pair of opposites that Erasmus focuses on is that of folly and wisdom.
By including a passage dedicated to the description of the Silenus, Erasmus gives his readers a concrete picture to grasp onto that stands for the novel's link between this pair of opposites, which is that wisdom comes under the wrapping of folly. The passage allows the reader to understand this central concept more easily. The concept, in its many manifestations, c...
... middle of paper ...
...this same literary tradition, Rabelais utilizes this peculiar narrative technique in Gargantua and Pantagruel, where he too hides the wisdom in his work behind the veil of foolish, and even vulgar, language.
Erasmus' inclusion of the passage explaining the Selenus box allows it to be a metaphor for the central concept in the novel. Through its presence, Erasmus gives us, his readers, a tool with which to separate the layers of his text. Without it, we might be stranded (after reading) with the inaccurate belief that Erasmus was a babbling hypocrite, with contradictory ideas sprinkled throughout his work. But, I suppose, we could have just attributed that fault to Folly, who is always more than willing to accept such a title.
Erasmus, D. 1511. In Praise of Folly. (Translated by L. Dean and republished by Hendricks House Farrar Straus. 1946.)
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Desiderius Erasmus' The Praise of Folly Originally meant for private circulation, the Praise of Folly, by Desiderius Erasmus, scourges the abuses and follies of the various classes of society, especially the church. It is a cold-blooded, deliberate attempt to discredit the church, and its satire and stinging comment on ecclesiastical conditions are not intended as a healing medicine but a deadly poison. The Praise of Folly, by Desiderius Erasmus, takes on a very diverse form of life during sixteenth century Europe.... [tags: Desiderius Erasmus Praise of Folly]
1502 words (4.3 pages)
- Critiquing Society through In Praise of Folly It may seem strange to praise Folly, but there is one certain advantage to foolishness: the freedom to speak the truth. In Praise of Folly, Erasmus put this freedom to good use in reminding his readers, a society greatly corrupted by worldly concerns, that one cannot serve both God and Mammon. He smoothed over his satire by assuring us that "there is merit in being attacked by Folly" (7), and finished with the reminder that "it's Folly and a woman who's been speaking" (134), a disclaimer that allowed him to be as harsh as he needed to be in his criticism.... [tags: In Praise of Folly Essays Papers Erasmus]
1322 words (3.8 pages)
- ... Certainly its theological merit is utterly overshadowed by much of the rest of his body of work. • Hard to know how much import Erasmus himself attached to the work given his writings hence and it place as a relatively insignificant part of a substantial corpus of work over his life. • The power and potency of Praise of Folly and the effectiveness of Folly as a serious messenger were perhaps inadvertent on the part of the author. • It’s more important historically then literarily. • Already in chapter 40, under the guise of continuing frivolify and without any change of tone or style, Erasmus has thrown in a list of pious superstitions, quite long enough to make a thologians hair stand o... [tags: humanism, church, power]
1145 words (3.3 pages)
- Desiderius Erasmus wrote his seminal masterpiece of christian humanism “Praise of Folly” in 1511, yet the effects and influence of this small piece of cathartic, witty banter would permeate social consciousness in the european renaissance mind and play a significant role in the revolutionary state of church politics in the days before and after Martin Luther’s reformation. In his mere 40,000 words, Erasmus succeeded in highlighting most of contemporary critical theory about the Catholic church and the state of spiritualism as a whole through the ingenious conceit of the lady, Folly.... [tags: Critique, Popular Devotion]
1747 words (5 pages)
- Humor and Criticism in Erasmuss Praise of Folly Humor and Criticism in Praise of Folly Erasmus’s Praise of Folly is a humor-filled satire of pretty much everything. It is filled with wit and sarcasm which make light of serious problems and blow insignificant issues out of proportion all the while bringing a smile to the reader’s face. It is not stinging humor at the expense of others (unless, of course, the shoe fits), rather it is directed towards everyone. Erasmus even includes himself in the joke, practically parodying himself in the first section (xvi).... [tags: essays papers]
1304 words (3.7 pages)
Purity and Civility in The Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus and Of Cannibals by Michel de Montaigne
- Purity and Civility in The Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus and Of Cannibals by Michel de Montaigne Both in “The Praise of Folly” by Desiderius Erasmus and “Of Cannibals” by Michel de Montaigne-relating to the common point to which attention is tried to be drawn-inquiry of true civility with regards to the Nature and its necessity according to certain circumstances are substantiated. First of all,Erasmus stating “Truly,to destroy the illusion is to upset the whole play.The masks and costumes are precisely what hold the eyes of the spectators.” Aspires to put forward the idea that there is a definite pact between people-which can be rather called as a concious... [tags: Papers]
1043 words (3 pages)
- Praise of Folly: A Current Perspective According to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, satire is "a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn." When examining satire of the Renaissance, one has to wonder what a man like Erasmus of Rotterdam would think of today's world, politically and morally speaking. Would a man like Erasmus, who was so outspoken in his own time, be able to stand aside and let the folly flow freely. Where are the Erasmus' of our own time, and who will stand against our government, churches, and other powerful organizations for what is right, even if it requires speaking out against the actions and agendas of these very powerful entities.... [tags: Personal Essays]
1058 words (3 pages)
- Desiderius Erasmus, a man of few spoken words, wrote many arguments about how the church was being run. He felt that everyone acted “godly” and thought that they were above people. He critiqued not only those in the church, but many broad generalizations of people as well, citing the bible. Most of Erasmus’ disdain for the way things were run was due to the circumstances he was raised in. With his “The Praise of Folly” Erasmus shows his humanistic worldview, as well as tells people what they should change in order to live a better life.... [tags: Religion, Philosophy]
1026 words (2.9 pages)
- A date that may have little connotation in the minds of history students everywhere was, in fact, the date that gave birth to a man more brave than any comic book could ever illustrate. On October 28, 1466, Desiderius Erasmus was born the illegitimate son of Margaretha Rogers and Gerard in Rotterdam, Holland. Despite such a dull and seemingly trite birth, Erasmus would grow to be a great influence in the Renaissance era. Through the questioning of established people and institutions, such as modern theologians and education systems, Erasmus became known as the “Prince of the Humanists” and a great revolutionary known throughout the world.... [tags: essays research papers]
635 words (1.8 pages)
- Desiderius Erasmus, the Great Humanist Desiderius Erasmus was one of the great humanists. He was well educated and practice scholasticism. He was also a great writer, who wrote books of many types. He is even called the greatest European scholar of the 16th century (Britannica Macropedia). He was also courageous, as he criticized the Church harshly. It was said by R. C. Trench that "Erasmus laid the egg of the Reformation and Luther hatched it." Erasmus was the illegitimate son of a priest named Gerard.... [tags: Biography Biographies Essays]
581 words (1.7 pages)
- Democracy in Civil Disobedience, Slavery in Massachusetts, Benito Cereno and Bartleby the Scrivener
- The Good and Evil Angelo of Measure for Measure
- Comparing Measure for Measure and The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night
- Edna Pontellier’s Search for Independence in Chopin's The Awakening
- Glorified Colonialism and Imperialism in Heart of Darkness
- Illusion and Reality in Shakespeare's The Tempest