Portrait of Desiderius Erasmus

Erasmus on the “Folly” of upsetting conventional opinion by pointing out the sins of kings and princes (1511)

Found in: In Praise of Folly

In his sly and underhand way the Dutch theologian and critic Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) pokes fun at the pretensions of kings and princes and those who believe in their superiority to other people in his work In Praise of Folly (1511):

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Now if there should arise any starched, formal don, that would point at the several actors, and tell how this, that seems a petty god, is in truth worse than a brute, being made captive to the tyranny of passion; that the other, who bears the character of a king, is indeed the most slavish of serving-men, in being subject to the mastership of lust and sensuality; that a third, who vaunts so much of his pedigree, is no better than a bastard for degenerating from virtue, which ought to be of greatest consideration in heraldry, and so shall go on in exposing all the rest; would not any one think such a person quite frantic, and ripe for bedlam? For as nothing is more silly than preposterous wisdom, so is there nothing more indiscreet than an unreasonable reproof. And therefore he is to be hooted out of all society that will not be pliable, conformable, and willing to suit his humour with other men’s, remembering the law of clubs and meetings, that he who will not do as the rest must get him out of the company.