This witty, influential work by one of the greatest scholars of the Renaissance satirizes the shortcomings of the upper classes and religious institutions of the time. The most effective of all Erasmus’s writings — ripe with allusions, vignettes, and caricatures — the literary gem was not only an extremely intelligent and articulate response to pretentiousness of all sorts, it also proved to be spiritual dynamite, leaving monastic brothers and clergymen the objects of universal laughter.
The book’s purported narrator, the goddess Folly, proclaims herself to be the daughter of Youth and Wealth, nursed by Drunkenness and Ignorance. She is accompanied by such followers as Self-love, Pleasure, Flattery, and Sound Sleep.
A clever mix of drollery and fantasy, fast-paced and lighthearted in tone, the work has proved to be a lively and valuable commentary on modern times. It remains, according to the great Dutch historian John Huizinga, “a masterpiece of humour and wise irony … something that no one else could have given to the world.”