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Encyclopedia > Rabelais

François Rabelais (ca. 1493 - April 9, 1553) was a Renaissance writer, born in Chinon, Indre-et-Loire, France.



Rabelais was first a novice of the Franciscan order, and later a friar at Fontenay-le-Comte, where he studied Greek and Latin, as well as science, philology, and law, already becoming known and respected by the humanists of his era, including Budé. Harassed due to the directions of his studies, Rabelais petitioned Pope Clement VII and was granted permission to leave the Franciscans and enter the Benedictine order at Maillezais, where he was more warmly received.

Later he left the monastery to study at the University of Poitiers and University of Montpellier. In 1532 he moved to Lyons, one of the intellectual centres of France, and not only practiced medicine, but edited Latin works for the printer Sebastian Gryphius. As a doctor, he used his spare time to write and publish humorous pamphlets which were critical of established authority and stressed his own perception of individual liberty. His revolutionary works, although satirical, revealed an astute observer of the social and political events unfolding during the first half of the sixteenth century.

Using a pseudonym, in 1532 he published his first book, Pantagruel, that would be the start of his Gargantua series (see Gargantua and Pantagruel). In his book, Rabelais sang the praises of the wines from his hometown of Chinon through vivid descriptions of the eat, drink and be merry lifestyle. Despite the great popularity of his book, both it and his follow-up book were condemned by the academics at the Sorbonne for their unorthodox ideas and by the Roman Catholic Church for its derision of certain religious practices. Rabelais's third book, published under his own name, was also banned.

With support from members of the prominent du Bellay family (esp. Jean du Bellay), Rabelais received the approval from King François I, to continue to publish his collection but after the death of the enlightened king, Rabelais was frowned upon by the academic elite and the French Parliament suspended the sale of his fourth book.

Afterwards, Rabelais travelled frequently to Rome with du Bellay, and lived for a short time in Turin with du Bellay's brother, Guillaume, during which François I was his patron. Rabelais probably spent some time in hiding, threatened by being labeled a heretic. Only the protection of du Bellay saved Rabelais after the condemnation of his novel by the Sorbonne.

Rabelais later taught medicine at Montpellier in 1537 and 1538, and in 1547 became curate of St. Christophe de Jambe and of Meudon, from which he resigned before his death in Paris in 1553.

He wrote a famous one-sentence Will: "I have nothing, I owe a great deal, and the rest I leave to the poor."


  • Pantagruel - 1532
  • La vie très horrifique du grand Gargantua - 1534
  • Tiers Livre - 1546
  • Quart Livre - 1552
  • Two versions of a fifth book appeared after his death but how much of this work is that of Rabelais remains unknown.

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Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
François Rabelais

  Results from FactBites:
Francois Rabelais - LoveToKnow 1911 (6016 words)
Rabelais is the incarnation of the "esprit Gaulois," a jovial, careless soul, not destitute of common sense or even acute intellectual power, but first of all a good fellow, rather preferring a broad jest to a'fine-pointed one, and rollicking through life like a good-natured undergraduate.
Rabelais is, in short, if he be read without prejudice, a humorist pure and simple, feeling often in earnest, thinking almost always in jest.
It is not, indeed, to be contended that Rabelais was a man with whom religion was in detail a constant thought, that he had a very tender conscience or a very scrupulous orthodoxy.
François Rabelais - Encyclopedia.com (537 words)
Harassed because of his humanist studies, Rabelais petitioned Pope Clement VII and received permission to leave the Franciscan order and enter the Benedictine monastery of Maillezais; the monastery's scholarly bishop became his friend and patron.
Rabelais made several trips to Rome with his friend Cardinal Jean du Bellay; he lived for a time in Turin with du Bellay's brother, Guillaume.
Rabelais apparently spent some time in hiding, threatened with persecution for heresy.
  More results at FactBites »



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