An Analysis of Castiglione's 'The Courtier'

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Castiglione's The Courtier presents a set of female and male indications for being ideal or well-rounded persons, spread across four books of what was to become a Renaissance-specific manual for achieving the human etiquette ideal. A parallel is to be traced between these precepts that were drawn five centuries ago, and the current situation. The majority of The Courtier, namely the 1st, 2nd, and 4th books, altogether focus on the Renaissant court male's desirable qualities, and on their application. In short, the male was outlined as a good soldier (Northrop, 1998): brave, physically strong, loyal. Nevertheless, he also needed to be sufficiently educated in humanities domains such as literature, music or arts. Regarding social apparel or conduct, a man was supposed to be groomed but not effeminate, witty, agreeable in social encounters, modest, honest, morally righteous, discreet, lacking in envy, jealousy or malicious intent, dutiful, respectful of authority and kind to people of lower social status. Furthermore, he was strongly advised to avoid trivial gossip or evident displays of curiosity and emotion, to never associate with people of doubtful character, and finally to refrain from following a superior's order if that order is evil in nature (Castiglione, 1528). In addition, the showcasing of all these attributes at court was proposed to be accompanied by the "appearance of effortless distinction" (Hitchings, 2013), in an attitude called "sprezzatura . . .[and]
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