Boethius Goes to Court: the Consolatio as Advice to Princes from Chaucer to Elizabeth I

  • Deanne Williams
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


For medieval readers, the Consolatio was more than prison literature: it was also an ars amatoria. On the one hand, Boethius was studied in the medieval schools and translated and commented on by scholars across Europe. As the French medievalist Pierre Courcelle put it, “Le public lettré se dispute le livre: on le cite, on le traduit, on l’imite, et toute une tradition iconographique se développe à son propos” [“the educated public fought over the book: it was cited, translated, imitated, and an entire iconographic tradition developed in its wake”], and the French theological historian M.D. Chenu dubs the twelfth century a veritable aetas boethiana. On the other hand, vernacular poets translated Boethius’ Consolatio Philosophiae into the language of eros and amor. Jean de Meun’s influential thirteenth-century translation of Boethius, Li Livres de confort de philosophie, inspired the ballades and complaintes of Jean Froissart, Charles d’Orléans, Eustache Deschamps (who compared Christine de Pizan to Boethius) and many others. The dits amoureux adopted the structure of combining verse with prose along with the Boethian thematics of consolation. Guillaume de Machaut’s Remède de Fortune, for example, renders the prisoner being visited by Lady Philosophy as an unhappy lover receiving instruction from Dame Espérance, who transforms the state of being unlucky in love, after he Boethian fashion, into a condition of greater wisdom.3


Fifteenth Century Twelfth Century Bryn Mawr Henry VIII Good Woman 
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Copyright information

© Catherine E. Léglu and Stephen J. Milner 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deanne Williams

There are no affiliations available

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