In Praise of Human Folly
The Praise of Folly has long been famous as the best-known work of the greatest of the Renaissance humanists, Erasmus of Rotterdam. It is a fantasy which starts off as a learned frivolity but turns into a full-scale ironic encomium after the manner of the Greek satirist Lucian, the first and in its way the finest example of a new form of Renaissance satire. It ends with a straightforward and touching statement of the Christian ideals which Erasmus shared notably with his English friends John Colet and Thomas More. The text as we have it now moves from light-hearted banter to a serious indictment of theologians and churchmen, before finally expounding the virtues of the Christian way of life, which St Paul says looks folly to the world and calls the folly of the Cross. The bantering tone, the attack on the theologians and the satire on widely practised religious observances provoked a reaction of shocked hostility during Erasmus's lifetime.