BALDASSARE CASTIGLIONE THE BOOK OF THE COURTIER PDF

Start your review of The Book of the Courtier Write a review Shelves: translated-from-italian , visited-location-while-reading When I opened this book today to attempt to review it, a bookmark fell out. Reviewing the book now feels like finally closing the chapter on that trip. I had set out for Italy with three books in my bag, one of which was this one. Although it is three months since I returned home, and although the other two books have been finished and reviewed months ago, this book has hung on, if When I opened this book today to attempt to review it, a bookmark fell out.

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On a chilly evening in early March , high in the Apennine Mountains of northern Italy, a group of cultivated gentlemen and ladies sit around the fire in the audience chamber of the Duchess of Urbino discussing the qualities of the perfect courtier. Such is the setting of one of the most celebrated books of the Italian Renaissance, The Book of the Courtier Il libro del cortegiano by Baldassare Castiglione , which was an international best-seller for a century after its first publication in The four nights of fictional dialogue Castiglione recounts display the ceremonial politeness of the Urbino courtiers, their easy familiarity with classical authors, their repeated outbreaks of laughter, and the apparent frivolity of some of the topics they discuss; but if the conversation happens to adopt a mildly philosophical tone, as it does when one speaker begins to use Socratic cross-examination with his interlocutor, or when two others start a debate involving Aristotelian concepts of matter and form, then a senior lady of the court typically intervenes, seeking not always successfully to cut the exchange short.

Or at least this is the case for the first three nights. On the fourth night, the Duchess calls upon two of her courtiers to present their views on topics which will lead the discussion in a more philosophical direction. These two discussions have often been criticised in ways which neutralise their philosophical significance. Although this view is less often maintained today, it does show that many readers consider the final night to be thematically discrepant with the rest of the text, thus making it appear to be an appendix to the work rather than an integral conclusion to it.

It presents three nights of discussion on courtly etiquette, and a fourth night of idealist rhetoric on topics which might make a contribution to superficial courtly conversation, but not to philosophical thought.

The answer is not straightforward, firstly because there is a large and usually unappreciated element of allegory in The Book of the Courtier. On the surface Castiglione seems to present a virtue ethic, but only in an exhortatory sense that is, he recommends that a prince should have an education in virtue , not in a philosophically developed way.

Castiglione then applies this medical ethical system to the ethics of statecraft by analogy. Concerning statecraft, we see that in the case of a courtier acting to save his state from a corrupt tyrant, if these requirements had been routinely observed in Renaissance Italy, then many of the disasters that followed upon attempts to overthrow or assassinate tyrannical rulers would have been avoided: in most such instances the conspirators were captured, tortured and killed, while the ruler himself either resumed his rule with a harsher regime than before, or if assassinated, was replaced by an even more authoritarian tyrant.

If such a prince can be successfully removed without causing more harm than good to the state, then it is ethical for the perfect courtier to act toward this end. Otherwise, the courtier must simply turn his back on the wicked prince and seek a better prince elsewhere whom he can serve. In this Platonic dialogue the principal speakers agree that the true ruler must have a specific form of knowledge that enables him to judge rightly and command appropriately.

A person who holds the office of ruler but lacks this knowledge is a ruler in name only; while a person who has this knowledge, even if he holds no office at all, is nevertheless entitled to rule. So while Castiglione is every bit as willing as Machiavelli to recommend forceful political action, even to the point of sanctioning the assassination of a ruler in extreme circumstances, he nevertheless does so within an intellectual context which Machiavelli abandons — that of classical political philosophy.

Moreover, its political philosophy is of interest for more than historical reasons, for it can be applied by anyone today who works closely with or acts as an advisor to a person with significant decision-making authority, and not just to the Renaissance courtier who undertakes to counsel his prince.

Critics have rightly observed that this speech advocates turning away from worldly concerns and devoting oneself entirely to contemplative meditation. What has rarely been noted, however, is that Bembo describes this ascending path as one that will be followed to the end only by very few.

So although it is true that a person who has reached the later stages of the ascent could not be an effective political actor, it is also true that only a small number of people will ever reach this level. For someone at the middle of the ascent, however, the situation described by Bembo is quite different.

Here the politically-active courtier achieves enough philosophical detachment to be free from the distractions of passionate love that characterise the initial stages of the ascent without having to abandon the affairs of the world, as those at the final stages must necessarily do. Article tools.

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Baldassare Castiglione

On a chilly evening in early March , high in the Apennine Mountains of northern Italy, a group of cultivated gentlemen and ladies sit around the fire in the audience chamber of the Duchess of Urbino discussing the qualities of the perfect courtier. Such is the setting of one of the most celebrated books of the Italian Renaissance, The Book of the Courtier Il libro del cortegiano by Baldassare Castiglione , which was an international best-seller for a century after its first publication in The four nights of fictional dialogue Castiglione recounts display the ceremonial politeness of the Urbino courtiers, their easy familiarity with classical authors, their repeated outbreaks of laughter, and the apparent frivolity of some of the topics they discuss; but if the conversation happens to adopt a mildly philosophical tone, as it does when one speaker begins to use Socratic cross-examination with his interlocutor, or when two others start a debate involving Aristotelian concepts of matter and form, then a senior lady of the court typically intervenes, seeking not always successfully to cut the exchange short. Or at least this is the case for the first three nights.

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The Book of the Courtier

In the book, the courtier is described as having a cool mind, a good voice with beautiful, elegant and brave words along with proper bearing and gestures. At the same time though, the courtier is expected to have a warrior spirit, to be athletic, and have good knowledge of the humanities, Classics and fine arts. Over the course of four evenings, members of the court try to describe the perfect gentleman of the court. In the process they debate the nature of nobility, humor, women, and love.

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