The Book of the Courtier

by Baldassare Castiglione

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What are some comic elements in Baldassarre Castiglione's Book of the Courtier (1528)?

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Although Castiglione shared the classicist ideals of fellow Renaissance writers such as Bembo, he conceived literary form in a much more open way and believed there could be a profitable exchange between oral and written expressions. He thought that the imitation of classical models should be balanced with contemporary traditions and with the different languages of the Italian peninsula at the time. Thus, wit and comic elements were given large space in the treaty. Because the Book of the Courtier is a dialogue, comic elements make the exchanges between the characters more lively and keep the readers' attention. In addition to this formal element, part of the second book (chapter 45-95) is devoted to the use of wit in court. Language puns and linguistic creativity were considered a mark of social superiority. Castiglione links spontaneous manifestations of wit to the courtly value of natural grace (in Italian "sprezzatura"). The character who explains how to use wit in court is Bibbiena, a Renaissance playwright famous for his salacious plays that were tolerated only as expression of "carnevalesque" and imitation of Boccaccio's Decameron rather than realistic portraits of social behaviors. Boccaccio's stories are quoted in the Book of Courtier as example of wit.

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