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The Oxford History of Classical Reception in English LiteratureVolume 1: 800–1558$
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Rita Copeland

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199587230

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587230.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 06 December 2021

Boethius’ De consolatione philosophiae

Boethius’ De consolatione philosophiae

(p.269) Chapter 14 Boethius’ De consolatione philosophiae
The Oxford History of Classical Reception in English Literature

Ian Cornelius

Oxford University Press

Written on the cusp of antiquity and the Middle Ages, Boethius' treatise De consolatione philosophiae was among the most influential works in the literary culture of medieval Europe. This chapter offers a narrative history of its reception in Old and Middle English, with contextualizing discussion of the medieval Latin and French traditions. The Consolatio first emerged into English literature around the turn of the tenth century, in a strikingly independent translation traditionally ascribed to King Alfred. A second great episode of Boethian literature began with Chaucer's writings late in the fourteenth century. Both early and late, the text was valued as a compendium of poetry and classical lore; an authoritative synthesis of ancient philosophy; a model of dialectical method; and an artfully crafted first-person narrative of embattled virtue. The focus of this chapter is on the textual forms of the Consolatio's reception—commentary, adaptation, and translation—and on reinterpretations of its ethical teaching.

Keywords:   Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy, King Alfred, Geoffrey Chaucer, Old English, Middle English, translation, commentary, literary adaptation, reception history

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