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Erasmus’ Apophthegmata in Henrician England

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The sudden surge in English translations of Erasmus’ Apophthegmata during the later years of Henry VIII’s reign can be partly attributed to the gradual introduction of the new standards set by the humanist educational agenda and partly to the profound political and religious changes brought about by the English Reformation that was codified in the Act of Supremacy in 1534. Richard Taverner’s The garden of wysdom and The second booke of the Garden of wysedome (1539) and Nicholas Udall’s Apophthegmes (1542) reveal a pronounced shift towards a more widely conceived education of the English public. While Taverner’s translation, with its overt political commentary, provided a morally instructive commonplace book, marked by a Protestant overtone and influenced by Luther’s and Melanchthon’s views, Udall’s extensive pedagogical notes were meant to disseminate new methods of instruction modelled on Erasmus’ De ratione studii. Albeit in notably different ways, Udall’s and Taverner’s promotion of classical culture through apophthegms reflected their humanist zeal to reshape existing moral and cultural ideals and to expand the codes of conduct of the reformed Christian commonwealth in England.

Affiliations: 1: Memorial University of Newfoundland


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