The Praise of Folly
The Latin title for The Praise of Folly is Stultitiae Laus or Moriae Encomium that can be also translated by In Praise of More. The book was written to amuse Thomas More and the preface is a letter from Erasmus to More. He writes that he was on the road from Italy to England and, rather than wasting his time, he preferred to occupy it by writing this book. This idea was suggested to him by the similarity of the name “More” with “Moria,” which is the Greek word for “folly”.
It is a short book of 150 pages divided into 3 sections, even if there is no official separation of these sections. It is narrated by Folly herself, a female personification of folly (madness, craziness), who stands before a crowd speaking. The book is a satirical attack of the superstitions and traditions of European society as well as of the Church. Even if the subject was touchy, Erasmus conceived it as minor work and was surprised of the controversy that began after the publication. Many theologians criticized it but it was still circulating throughout Europe and even the Pope, Pope Leo X, was highly amused by it.
The real controversy started with the Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther which provoked the decline of Erasmus's reputation, as he would not fully throw his support behind the Catholic Church. And, 20 years after his death, The Praise of Folly was placed on the Roman Index of prohibited books. It is, in reality, during the Enlightenment that Erasmus was rediscovered and is today widely read. Every 1st of April, the city of Rotterdam celebrates the publication of The Praise of Folly, that we will now analyze more deeply.