The Book of the Courtier

by Baldassare Castiglione

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Student Question

How does The Book of the Courtier reflect Castiglione's views on chivalry and social conduct?

Quick answer:

The Book of the Courtier is about how to conduct oneself at court, and it provides great insight into courtly life. The main point you should look at is the way Castiglione wrote the book in the vernacular.

Expert Answers

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The way Baldassare Castiglione wrote The Book of the Courtier is important and ultimately shows his stance on the "Questione della Lingua" because he wrote his book in the vernacular. Like Dante using the Tuscan dialect for La Divina Commedia, Castiglione is showing the importance of this dialect as the language for the whole of Italy. Castiglione perceived the noble class as being responsible for unifying the language since these kinds of discussions started in courts. It was more advantageous for the discussion on the "Questione della Lingua" to be considered in terms of administration, laws, government, etc. which the nobility partly had a say in, rather than in the arts through literature or other forms of high culture. It is interesting to see how even though Castiglione is using literature to show this, he is speaking through the nobility of his book. This was not only an issue pertaining to Italy, but it was also seen throughout the courts of Europe. In France, for example, there was the idea starting in the courts to make French the universal language for all. It was spoken and written throughout Europe mainly among the elite classes. This idea lasted for a couple of centuries. Eventually, the Tuscan dialect did become the official language of Italy; it is what we know as the Italian language today.

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