François Rabelais (1483–c.1553) was a French physician, humanist, and satirist. Famed for his classic series of satires, Rabelais’s writings are noted for their plain humor, their lampoon of medieval learning and literature, and their affirmation of humanist values.
Born the son of a lawyer from Chinon, in the Loire valley, Rabelais was a rightful Renaissance man owing to his various careers and immense learning. He first became a Franciscan and later a Benedictine monk. After leaving the monastery as a secular priest, he studied law and medicine. In 1530, he entered the University of Montpellier as a medical student and received his degree in two months. He became the private physician and secretary of Jean Du Bellay, a powerful bishop of Paris.
Between 1532 and 1552, Rabelais wrote his four-volume masterpiece that has come to be collectively called Gargantua and Pantagruel: Pantagruel (1532,) Gargantua (1534,) Le Tiers Livre (1546,) Le Quart Livre (1552.) A fifth volume appeared in 1562, but its authenticity has been questioned. This comic monster fable has been described as a novel, a satire, and a crude compilation of scatological jokes, and a somber moral inquiry into philosophy, politics, and education.