Monday, April 6, 2009

Performing Folly

I was struck in this recent reading of Erasmus's The Praise of Folly by the emphasis on theatricality. Shakespeare's famous line from As You Like It "all the world's a stage," seems fitting here with all of the many references to life as a show...something we "put on" for the sake of our audience (one another). It is especially complicated by the fact that Folly is herself a performer of sorts: an actor on a stage (almost pulpit-like in Holbein's image in your Norton). This emphasizes (ready for this?) the many rings of identity and selfhood. So, is Erasmus suggesting that Folly is but a performance, or is it that having Folly act her part emphasizes the distance between appearance and reality? Also, what would the implications of "life as performance" be for someone like Erasmus: humanist, priest/scholar, traveler, trans-European national (Dutch, yet spoke Latin and lived all over Europe during his adult life)? And, lastly, if Folly is an actor, does that increase the level of Erasmus's satire, or make it, well...true in its fiction? A satire of a satire of a satire? head is spinning.

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