During the growth of post medieval nations, it was recognized that personal desires and passion had overwhelmingly taken centre stage in the leadership circles in most countries. Over the past centuries, many scholars across the globe tried to explore this phenomenon developing several arguments in a bid to unmask the denting effects of the “me” and not “us” in terms of leadership and resource allocation in different nations. Over the pas years, it has been quite evident that political, tribal and racial diversity has been used by world leaders to fight for their own interest in the pretext that they are fighting for the good of the nation. This prompted most scholars to look at and uncover the hidden motives behind leader’s ideologies. Machiavelli, Erasmus and More are among the scholars who undertook this daunting task. This paper seeks to explore the different works of these early scholars with the aim of uncovering whether they employed the usage of masks or not and its significance in their works.
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A mask can be defined as a fact or action that conceals something. It is a covering or disguise used to shield anything in a piece of art. Erasmus, More, and Machiavelli all disclosed important information to us in their texts. The general interpretation of their ideas has been guided by the ongoing analysis in the manner in which they presented their work. It is believed that they were greatly influenced by the so- called “masks” behind which they hid. They must have either done it intentionally or inadvertently. Regardless of their motives, the information gathered from these books has been analyzed for centuries. The political, social, and religious reasons for using masks in their writingsbecomes clear as one delves further into the personal motives that may have inspired the ideas. One must bear in mind that it is always wise to look beyond the initial interpretation of a chosen piece of literature. Each of these literary has important messages to pass. It is up to us to decide if the way in which this material is presented; albeit behind a hidden mask, adds to the clarity and purpose of what the author is trying to convey.
Erasmus’s Praise of Folly was written in Latin and dedicated to his good friend Thomas More. This writing uses a mask of satire and irony throughout the text to make a firm statement regarding Christian ideals in the sixteenth century. As the text evolves, the writing takes a deeper tone as Folly also uses self- deception and madness. Folly praises herself constantly with a claim that life would not be good without her. “You’ll find nothing frolic or fortunate that owes it not to me.”Folly is found everywhere. Various people rely on her for their accomplishments such as doctors, lawyers, priests, authors and lovers.
Although it is unusual for a feminine figure to reveal such important things during this time period, folly is always present to entertain people. She demands that we think about life and how we live in this earth compassionately. Folly questions hierarchy and claims that she can make mankind happier than wisdom. Her argument is that man is better of when he is ignorant of the real atrocities of the world. By the end of the essay, Folly has touched everyone in different ways. Praises of Folly are constructed in ways that does not use the typical rhetorical tricks even though she ironically proceeds to use them constantly. Many times throughout the essay certain characters are diminished for the way they speak and use the language to their advantage, yet Folly ironically seems to be doing the very same thing. This proves her argument that almost every aspect of our lives is Folly. The satirical style used by Erasmus throughout Praise of Folly allows him to be resolute and unapologetically honest, with little personal risk.
Also, originally written in Latin, Utopia is the work of Thomas More. It seems to be a satire, which is indirectly critical of Europe’s religious hypocrisy and political corruption. In Utopia, More write in a playful manner, which quite possibly masks his obvious care and concern about what he is hearing and describing. Because Thomas More is the first person narrator, most of the time it feels as if we are listening to a real account of what actually happened. One must bear in mind that More is in essence telling the story of another first person account. Could this be a mask of deception? His text can certainly implore you to consider whether he is trustworthy and truthful. As mentioned before, although the text carries a playful tone, there are a number of questions regarding political philosophy particularly sixteenth century European politics.
Although More’s ultimate goal was probably to find areas of improvement to better Christian society, it can be a little confusing trying to decipher this information. But once one discovers the hidden agenda of Thomas More some deep seated issues take hold. “Then let me implore you, my dear Raphael, said I, describe that island (Utopia) to us!” (1.41) as mentioned before, his playful manner masks his concern, but it is obvious the characters in his text all feel strongly about finding some ethical and philosophical conclusions regarding social well-being and government. To do so, these characters need to appear unbiased and skeptical, so they can think clearly. Another mask Thomas More appears to use is one of fantasy. He uses elements that don’t exist to get us to think about the real issues of government, society, justice and many others.On a thorough analysis of these issues, we discover that Utopia isn’t really better. This playful, carefree world where a natural hierarchy exists has no violence against religion, religious uniformity or war. There is no money, plenty of time for rest and recreation, and all children are able to go to school. Yet, this still does not equate to the perfect place. For example, even though Utopians are all good and don’t need laws, they keep slaves. Also, all Utopians worship and believe in god, yet they are not Christian. The imaginary satire More presented us with actually allows the opportunity to see how early modern society existed with regards to politics, science, education, and religion. More exploited ambiguity to the fullest while presenting a vision of a society that appeared superior to the others. It raised serious doubts in the reader’s mind as to whether this was actually the case.
Machiavelli wrote The Prince at a time when competition for power in Italy was very intense. His intentions were to help others understand what he believed would be necessary for “princes” to help achieve peace and national unity through stability and power. His writing was very blunt. He was influenced by what he had seen in his lifetime in Italy and the many places around the world that he traversed. Politically speaking, he seemed to be accepting this evil. He appears bent on approving the evil deeds that were espoused the different behaviors of politicians. This was considered immoral and unacceptable by a majority as they found it shocking.
Through his analysis of the history behind all the supposed moral, honest, and Christian values; Machiavelli demonstrated that the world was a dark place filled with greed, deception and lies. He believed that the world was an ugly place with hidden disguises of naivety, pretentiousness and disillusionment. He believed such a world truly existed. Perhaps this exemplifies the attitude of Machiavelli and the darkness under which he seems to hide. It should be noted that although he hid under a mask of darkness and seemed to be accepting the evil that played out either openly or secretly, he appeared thoughtful beyond required standards to an extent that he was not aware of what he was doing.He could be described as a realist instead of an idealist as he believed that was more important to control one’s destiny than allow things happen on their own. He did not believe in the enjoyment of the benefits that accrued due to time factors. He also wrote of the real experiences of “princes” and men, with a view depicting him as one who believed that the truth was more important than any abstract ideal. This further proved that Machiavelli was indeed directly in conflict with the Catholic doctrines regarding politics and ethics at that time.
He seemed to be more influenced by pre Christian political philosophy. Throughout the text, it appears the author used the words prince and tyrant as synonyms. This was regardless of the fact that the word tyrant was criminal in nature or not. This could be a good reflection of the irony in his writing as it shows that Machiavelli contradicted and ridiculed tyrannical rule. He did so in a violent and harsh manner throughout his writing. Either, he employed the use of ambiguity.
This if event in the manner in which he tied to promote the republican government with an emphasis on its benefits as opposed to a monarch or tyrant system of governing. The Prince is used to satirize the unruly and selfish behaviors of political leaders. From the long and fierce struggle of the fifteenth century and onwards, Machiavelli was disliked and attacked from all sides. Could it be that he evaluated things too closely to what they really were, or could it be that this mask of darkness he hid behind was a true reflection of reality? These have been questions to ponder about with their answers being found from an in-depth analysis of their pieces of work.
Erasmus More and Machiavelli were all great scholars during the Renaissance period. Although they appeared to have embrace3d different schools of thoughts regarding the government’s system of administration, war, tolerance, and individual rights and privileges, it is evidently clear that their work is still influential to this date. The commonality lies in the format with which these works were undertaken. Both of them hid behind a “mask” throughout their pieces of work. The masks were in the form of satires, ironies or ambiguities. These masks were found to be significant as they not only helped to strengthen the information they were trying to present but also revealed an aspect of the author’s characteristics. Devotion, passion, and money were the three major things that they identified to be destructive in any society if they were used for personal gain and not for the general good of the people within any societal set up
In conclusion therefore, it is eminent that these authors employed the usage of masks in their work to pass certain information. This was found to be a safer of highlighting behaviors that were considered controversial if expressly presented as they were. Hence, it required a deeper analysis in order to understand it
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