This essay explores the Erasmian humanism and ecosociable sensibility of As You Like It. Both Shakespeare and Erasmus cultivated recreation and play, practiced an irenic and ecumenical approach to wisdom, respected women's virtuous capacity, and acknowledged their kinship with other creatures. Like The Praise of Folly and Erasmus's writings on friendship and peace, As You Like It builds a multidimensional portrait of virtue as lively, gracious, embodied, performative, hospitable, and always open to irony — aware of the costs and conditions of virtue in the world. In his irenic writings, Erasmus lays out an account of human nature that highlights human beings’ vulnerability, sociability, and creaturely state. How does a naturally gentle species become bellicose? Echoing the teachings of Pythagoras, Erasmus finds the origins of war in the killing of animals, first in self-defense and then in the hunt. In As You Like It, Shakespeare traces the emergence of human and animal aggression from acts of self-preservation and care, and he stages a softened Augustinianism in a created world that is “very good” (Gen. 1:31). His Erasmian sensibility is also Orphic and Pythagorean. This essay supplements Renaissance humanism with Rabbinic and post-Rabbinic readings of Genesis in order to construe the virtue of magnanimity as a hospitable stance toward different wisdom traditions.
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Research Article| September 01 2022
“Good in Every Thing”: Erasmus and Communal Virtue in As You Like It
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (2022) 52 (3): 567–591.
Julia Reinhard Lupton; “Good in Every Thing”: Erasmus and Communal Virtue in As You Like It. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 September 2022; 52 (3): 567–591. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-9966135
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