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The Book of the Courtier (Penguin Classics) Paperback – October 28, 1976
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Original Language: Italian --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is structured as a conversational game carried out the court of the Duke of Urbino in the rooms of his wife Elisabetta Gonzaga. In four books, different members of the court sketch out the ideal Courtier and the ideal Lady. The books treat various subjects, including the nature of grace, love, humor, gender equality, and necessary skills. The unfamiliar details of the time are mixed with the quite familiar and recognizable human foibles that are still relevant today.
Castiglione is perceptive and witty and quite loving in the way he draws the people in the book. Both the "real" people having the conversation, and the imaginary ideal people being described are well developed.
I enjoyed it, and I recommend it. You don't need to be a scholar to enjoy it as well.
This delightful four-part book at the social nobility of the Italian Renaissance opens with an apology by Baldesar on the quality of his writing. Something that was clearly debated after Petrarch, Dante and Boccaccio as there is somewhat of a lengthier side discussion on the merits of using the vernacular in written speech partway through the first `book'.
The `handbook' opens with the matriarchal Duchess ordering that a game be played and that signora Emilia decide the nature of it. It is first set to Count Lodovico to describe those qualities best attributed to a courtier with the rest of the `players' questioning or discussing his points further.
The Count states that a good courtier should possess charm, be handsome, be of noble birth, modest, physically fit, be good at sports, should both observe and imitate those good qualities of other courtiers, be a good dancer, have an appreciation of music, letters and art, not be affectatious, be an above average scholar in the humanities and that his first and truest profession be that of arms. Quite a long section is taken with a development on the theory of writing and letters which has many references to the desired quality of those in the ancient world. Indeed, Castiglione holds up those practices of the ancient world in high esteem as being worthy of the perfect courtier.
The second book is to be continued by Duke Federico as to how and when the courtier should put the desired courtier qualities into practice.Read more ›
His less fortunate son Guidobaldo inherited this charming and well-run dukedom. Guidobaldo married the cultivated Elisabetta of the Gonzaga family from Mantua. He was an invalid and not made of his father's stern military stuff. A victim of the brilliant military campaigns of Cesare Borgia that so enchanted Machiavelli, Guidobaldo was temporarily deposed. When the Borgias (Cesare and his father Pope Alexander VI) died, the people of Urbino rose up, drove out Borgia's soldiers and cheered Guidobaldo and Elisabetta upon their return.
For the next few years the court of Elisabetta and Guidobaldo was the most beautiful, enlightened, genteel place on earth. They attracted musicians, scholars and artists. Conversation was honed into a fine art. Into this paradise strode our Lancelot, Baldassare Castiglione, a diplomat descended from minor Italian nobility. He loved Elisabetta, but as far as we know the devotion remained platonic
It is because of Castiglione that we believe we have a sense of what the court of Montefeltro was like, or at least how they would have like to have been remembered.Read more ›
Castiglione was extraordinarily fond of Federigo the duke of Urbino with whom he fictitiously converses in this work. I am inclined to believe, though possibly naively, that the fictitious conversations outlined in this work, though not actual, may have been a summation of actual conversations that Castiglione and Federigo actually had. We should remember that Federigo was a model duke and Urbino was the model court of renaissance Italy. Federigo was a lover of learning and the arts and an able ruler willing to give audience to any of his subjects. He also was a more than able military commander who was just in to his men and equally just to those whom he fought against. In short he was the finest example of a renaissance prince. Urbino, though far smaller than Florence, Venice, Genoa or Rome was a very well organized and lovely court that was a favorite place, not only for Castiglione, but also for many artists including Leonardo Da Vinci.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Wonderful! The original Handbook for Gentlemen. While, you are unlikely to ever approach the diversity of excellencies described herein, this text motivates and inspires the... Read morePublished 7 months ago by mark baldwin
A classic primary text a must read for all those interested in the history of the RenaissancePublished 18 months ago by Danielle M. Gagne
"The Book of the Courtier" is engaging, witty, light on its feet, yet deep. Singleton's translation is very faithful and readable, and exudes the spirit of the original. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Ovidius