On one hand, Castiglione has a fairly conventional view of women. They must by all means retain their femininity; they must be pleasing to the (male) eye, agreeable, and charming in conversation. Just as the male courtiers must never give the appearance of artifice, women should also always have an almost effortless air of femininity about them. Being feminine should come naturally to a woman.
At the same time, the characters in The Book of the Courtier often show a high regard for women, especially in relation to their intellectual capacities:
I say that everything men can understand, women can too and where a man's intellect can penetrate, so along with it, can a woman's. (Book 3, Section 12, p.214).
High intellect is acceptable in a woman. It makes her a more agreeable companion to men. It is to be valued, then, not in itself, but to the extent that it satisfies the needs and desires of the male species. A lady should, however, refrain from certain sports and activities that must remain...
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