Alfred the Great’s Boethius

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Abstract

Alfred the Great’s translation of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy into the Old English Boethius is notable both for its richness and for its difficulties. After briefly introducing Boethius and his greatest text, this essay will turn to the OE Boethius and its problems, which include questions about authorship and poor editions. Soon, however, a new electronic and a new print edition will help scholars better see what medieval audiences read. Those audiences included upper-class laity of some leisure and poorly educated clergy, not the most obvious recipients of Boethius’s difficult prosimetrum – yet Alfred’s translation conveys Boethius’s key themes and shows great interest in both theology and philosophy. At the same time, the Boethius also seeks to inculcate the king’s own sense of the responsibilities of subjects and leaders. Despite its difficulty, later readers found the text worth copying and preserving.

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