Herbert and Savonarola: The Rhetoric of Radical Simplicity

Elizabeth Clarke

in Theory and Theology in George Herbert’s Poetry

Published in print September 1997 | ISBN: 9780198263982
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191682698 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Theological Monographs

Herbert and Savonarola: The Rhetoric of Radical Simplicity

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Savonarola’s De Simplicitate Christianae Vitae, first published in 1496, deserves detailed consideration by scholars of Herbert, as it is one of the few books that we know Herbert to have possessed and loved. A cursory reading of De Simplicitate reveals much about what Herbert would have been deep in sympathy with. Herbert’s work itself has often been seen as ‘simple’, but this stylistic sense of the word is an incidental and unnecessary effect of simplicitas, which in Savonarola’s writing is a comprehensive principle affecting the whole person. This chapter argues that in some ways the principle of simplicitas is useful for understanding Herbert’s rhetoric. There is a relative simplicity in Herbert’s diction, combined with an integrity of meaning, form, and style. Both Herbert and Savonarola are supremely concerned with truth and honesty. However, Herbert is prepared to work at the external features of simplicitas in a way that Savonarola is not, and the differences between Herbert and Savonarola are most apparent in their consideration of preaching.

Keywords: George Herbert; Savonarola; De Simplicitate Christianae Vitae; simplicitas; preaching

Chapter.  17022 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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