The Book of the Courtier by Baldassare Castiglione

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What are the characteristics of the courtier that are most prized in The Book of the Courtier?

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Count Baldassare Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier (1528), as your question suggests, is a detailed discussion among a group of Italian aristocrats, ladies and gentlemen, about the physical and mental qualities of an ideal courtier in sixteenth century Italy, one who is both an ornament to his prince and a counselor.

If we were to encapsulate the qualities of the ideal courtier, we would describe him as something close to a "Renaissance Man," someone who is skilled at all physical activities, especially those dealing with military life, and, equally important, writing, speaking, music (singing and playing multiple instruments), swimming, dancing, fencing, horsemanship. In addition, he must be morally perfect, modest but brilliant, a font of wisdom for his prince, and he must be able to do everything brilliantly without appearing to have expended any effort—in Italian, the word is sprezzatura, the art of doing everything without trying hard.

The basic quality of the ideal courtier, one...

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