The View sub specie aeternitatis and Consolation: Parallel Themes in the Old English Boethius and Selected Medieval English Literature

No Thumbnail Available
Copeland, Dawn Gibb
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
The ninth-century Old English Boethius, commissioned by Alfred the Great, is an adaptation of Boethius’ s The Consolation of Philosophy. The appearance of new scholarly editions in recent years has helped medieval scholars better understand Anglo-Saxon educational interests and the primary concerns of Alfred’s kingdom of Wessex as a land besieged by Viking invasions and tremendous loss. Focusing on the themes of consolation and the view sub specie aeternitatis (from the aspect of eternity) addressed in the Old English Boethius through a dialogue between Wisdom and the fictional narrator, Boethius, this dissertation treats the text as a stand-alone literary work comprised of concepts that resonate in Old and Middle English literature. Exploring thematic parallels in the Old English Boethius, the Old English poems “The Seafarer,” “The Wanderer,” “The Dream of the Rood,” Beowulf, and other literary works, this study illustrates that the universal themes found in Boethius are reflected in the selected literature. As does the fictional Boethius, the kings, warriors, and other literary characters throughout these works remember through memory, dreams, and reason the source of divine goodness, the value of wise choices for the greater good, and the need for equanimity as they navigate earthly suffering and loss. The themes of consolation and the view sub specie aeternitatis are also present in the later Middle English poem Pearl as a grieving father comes terms with his daughter’s death, further demonstrating that the Boethian themes are echoed in selected Old and Middle English literature throughout the Middle Ages and illustrate the universality of human suffering and the need for consolation.
Alfred the Great, Consolation, Medieval English Literature, Old English Boethius, Sub specie aeternitatis, Medieval literature, English literature, Spirituality