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The book of the courtier, (Everyman's library [no. 807]) [Unknown Binding]

Baldassarre Castiglione
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: E.P. Dutton (1928)
  • ASIN: B0006DDL5W
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,473,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
I HAVE spent a long time wondering, my dear Alfonso, which of two things was the more difficult for me: either to refuse what you have asked me so often and so insistently, or to do it. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting. 27 Aug 2011
Castiglione, writing in the 16th century is noted as a renaissance writer, and his role was that of giving advice to the young men of the aristocracy. However, do not expect much similarity to the gems of essential wily wisdom offered by that other 16th century statesman and political scientist, Machiavelli, and do not expect pointed, shrewd and perceptive psychological insights of a similar quality to those that La Rochefoucauld offered the elite aristocrats in the 17th century.

Castiglione however, I found to be interesting for anthropological or sociological reasons. We gain insight into the roles of women, and the assumption that men were innately superior beings - Castiglione teaches that women are inferior, somewhat wretched beings, aspiring for cosmic and heavenly perfection when they form bonds with men - whilst men are corrupted and made imperfect by their bonds with women.

We also learn about men's tastes in art, and fashion - Castiglione chastises a fashion amongst the idle rich of wearing eye liner and plucking their eye brows, and behaving in an effeminate manner, whilst he advises his charge to be manly, taking care of his physical form, that should be as masculine as imposing as possible, yet, graceful and dignified. The young aristocrat should also ensure that he studies painting and classical Greek and Roman literature.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book of the Courtier 17 July 2008
There really was a Camelot. But it was in Italy, Urbino in northern Italy to be exact, in the 1500s. Perched on top of a couple of hills in the region Le Marche, Urbino was ruled by the Montefeltro family. From 1444 to 1482 Federigo de Montefeltro skillfully steered his tiny domain through the rough storms of Italian Renaissance realpolitik. Federigo was a successful soldier of fortune yet maintained one of the largest libraries in Italy, spoke Latin, read Aristotle, helped orphans and in general earned the love of his people. He built a beautiful fairy-tale palace and had Paolo Uccello and Piero della Francesca decorate it.

His less fortunate son Guidobaldo inherited this charming and well-run dukedom. Guidobaldo married the cultivated Elisabetta of the Gonzaga family from Mantua. He was an invalid and not made of his father's stern military stuff. A victim of the brilliant military campaigns of Cesare Borgia that so enchanted Machiavelli, Guidobaldo was temporarily deposed. When the Borgias (Cesare and his father Pope Alexander VI) died, the people of Urbino rose up, drove out Borgia's soldiers and cheered Guidobaldo and Elisabetta upon their return.

For the next few years the court of Elisabetta and Guidobaldo was the most beautiful, enlightened, genteel place on earth. They attracted musicians, scholars and artists. Conversation was honed into a fine art. Into this paradise strode our Lancelot, Baldasare Castiglione, a diplomat descended from minor Italian nobility. He loved Elisabetta, but as far as we know the devotion remained platonic

It is because of Castiglione that we believe we have a sense of what the court of Montefeltro was like, or at least how they would have like to have been remembered.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, witty insight into C16th Italy 15 April 2009
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
One of the `bestsellers' of the European Renaissance, Castiglione depicts, debates and has fun with articulating the virtues of the ideal Renaissance courtier. Engaging, witty, and entertaining, this is set up as a series of discussions set over four evenings at the court of Urbino, with the various characters agreeing, disagreeing and contesting each others' assertions. Everything from the courtier's ability to play tennis (really!) to his love life is up for debate, and this at least purports to give a female as well as male view.

The translation is now an old one, but it is elegant and unobtrusive. The introduction is probably a little slight as are the notes, but this is still a good price for an unexpectedly engaging read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A civilised read 10 Mar 2014
By William Cohen VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It felt at times like reading a book on a university reading list - hard work but you can see it's a classic. It's the Italian Renaissance equivalent of How To Win Friends and Influence People.

Still, it's relevant today - how are you supposed to behave in the court of David Cameron, for example? He's surrounded by aristocratic and talented individuals, and he clearly wants loyalty, but how should his courtiers handle him?

The perfect courtier needs to be honest and persuade the prince to be virtuous. How many of them manage that?

It reminded me of Montaigne and Robert Burton - good stories from the Classical world are used to explain ideas.
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