Rabelais, François

Rabelais, François

biographical name


François Rabelais.—Spencer Arnold—Hulton Archive/Getty Images

(born c. 1494, Poitou, France—died probably April 9, 1553, Paris) French writer and priest. After apparently studying law, he took holy orders as a Franciscan but later, because of a dispute, removed to a Benedictine house. In 1530 he left the Benedictines to study medicine, a profession he would follow the rest of his life. He became a significant humanist scholar, publishing translations of Hippocrates and Galen. His fame rests on the five comic novels (one of doubtful authenticity) known collectively as Gargantua and Pantagruel, including the masterpieces Pantagruel (1532) and Gargantua (1534) as well as Le Tiers Livre (1546; “The Third Book”), his most profound work. These works display a delight in words, a mastery of storytelling, and deep humanist learning in a mosaic of scholarly, literary, and scientific parody that is unlike any previous work in French. The books were banned by civil and church authorities for their satirical content and earthy humour, but they were nevertheless read throughout Europe. Throughout his career, Rabelais owed his freedom to the protection of powerful patrons.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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