Acquiring Wisdom

Daniel Anlezark

in The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Literature in English

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780199229123
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Acquiring Wisdom

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  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)



This article examines the acquisition of wisdom through literary text in medieval England. The most famous collections of wisdom in the Middle Ages were found in two Old Testament books attributed to King Solomon, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes which contains aphorisms, often arranged around themes and at times profoundly enigmatic in style. Old English epic poems, including Beowulf to Geoffrey Chaucer's Miller's Tale, also offered the medieval reader a measure of common sense with which to understand the chaos of human existence. This article suggests that the unlettered were not ignorant of the traditional knowledge of their society because a store of wisdom was preserved and transmitted in memorable sayings, proverbs, and maxims.

Keywords: wisdom; literary text; medieval England; Proverbs; Ecclesiastes; Beowulf; Geoffrey Chaucer; Miller's Tale; sayings; maxims

Article.  8717 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)

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