The Praise of Folly


Moriae Encomium was hugely popular, to Erasmus' astonishment and sometimes his dismay. Even Erasmus' close friends had been initially skeptical, and warned him of possible dangers to himself from thus attacking the established religion. Leo X thought it was funny. Before Erasmus' death it had already passed into numerous editions and had been translated into Czech, French and German. An English edition soon followed. It influenced teaching of rhetoric during the later sixteenth century, and the art of adoxography or praise of worthless subjects became a popular exercise in Elizabethan grammar schools: see Charles O. McDonald, The Rhetoric of Tragedy (Amherst, 1966). A copy of the Basel edition of 1515/16 was illustrated with pen and ink drawings by Hans Holbein the Younger.[2] These are the most famous illustrations of The Praise of Folly.

Its role in the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation[1] stem from the foundation of critique which the essay laid against the practices of the Church and its political allies.[3]

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