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The Book of the Courtier [Norton Critical Edition]

von Baldassare Castiglione, Daniel Javitch (Herausgeber)

Weitere Autoren: Harry Berger, Jr. (Mitwirkender), Peter Burke (Mitwirkender), Virginia Cox (Mitwirkender), James Hankins (Mitwirkender), Daniel Javitch (Mitwirkender)6 mehr, Joan Kelly-Gadol (Mitwirkender), David Quint (Mitwirkender), Amedeo Quondam (Mitwirkender), Wayne Rebhorn (Mitwirkender), Eduardo Saccone (Mitwirkender), Charles S. Singleton (Übersetzer)

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Today the Book remains the most reliable and illuminating account of Renaissance court life and of what it took to be the "Perfect Courtier" and "Court Lady." The Singleton translation--the most acclaimed and accurate available--is accompanied by annotations. "Criticism" features ten essays on The Book of the Courtier, which represent the best interpretations from the United States, Italy, and England including the backgrounds-rich essays by Amedeo Quondam and James Hankins. A Selected Bibliography, a Chronology, and an Index are included.… (mehr)
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The English translation of this book made in 1561 was subtitled "Very necessary and profitable for young gentlemen and gentlewomen abiding in Court Palace or Place. A Courtier is a person who was in attendance at the Court of a King, Duke or other Royal personages. The Court would also serve as the centre of government and so the work of the Courtiers was usually a round the clock job, as their political and social life was inextricably mixed. Courtiers were not all nobles as the usual business of government would be undertaken by an army of clerks, soldiers, clergy and secretaries, however it was the inner circle of mostly nobles who were closest to the King or Duke and it was from this group that important and lucrative government positions were held. Promotion and advancement could be rapid and so there was a keen competitive edge amongst this group. Castiglione's Book of the Courtier was incredibly successful; during the first century of its publication in 1528 there were over 110 editions; 60 in Italian and 50 in other languages. It could be considered as a sort of 16th century "Courtiership for Dummies" manual, however the way that Castiglione has approached his subject has provided the modern reader with an intimate view of life and society at the sophisticated Court of the Duke of Urbino (Italy) in the early sixteenth century. It contains plenty of instruction, but also stories, snapshots of lives, anecdotes, philosophy, politics and jokes and finishes with a sublime discourse by Pietro Bembo on beauty and love and how the individual through a contemplative life can achieve a certain godlike perfection or fulfilment.

Castiglione was a Courtier to The Duke Guidobaldo of Urbino whose court was considered as one of the most elegant and refined of it's time, attracting artists and men of letters to its circle. Castiglione first started making notes for his book in 1508 but there was a twenty year gestation period before his tome was eventually published. It went through many drafts before it's final edition consisting of four books. During its gestation Castiglione had copied drafts sent to various writers and notables including those who were featured in his book, asking for their comments and observations and probably this has resulted in adding to the feel of authenticity that hangs around the whole project. Each of the four books is reputed to be a record of conversations of an inner circle of courtiers over a four night period who are discussing the requirements for the perfect courtier. It is proposed by the Duchess as a sort of game or amusement and she or her lady in waiting preside over the debate. The Duke who was in effect an invalid has retired to bed and so this group is at liberty to let rip with their views, but always aware that their prime occupation is to serve the Duke. Castiglione presents us with a dialogue that is usually carried by one main speaker, who is interrupted at times by others either in disagreement or asking for clarification on points raised, this rhetoric has the effect of putting both sides of the argument and it is Catiglione's skill in presenting to us a lively debate which has all the competitive edge that would be familiar to the participants; points are scored, reputations tarnished, the battle of the sexes is rehearsed and jokes are made, but the overall impression is of a delightful eloquence in the exposition of the points made.

Book one starts with the more traditional skills expected of the courtier, the necessity of being a master in the art of war, having excellent proficiency in weapons and be able to display skills in horsemanship at the highest level, it also propounds the necessity to be skilled in reading, writing and an appreciation of the arts as well as a certain ability as a musician. Amongst all this emerges the important concept of sprezzatura which all are in agreement as being absolutely essential for the courtier to possess. Sprezzatura is an art that hides art, the cultivated ability to perform any act or gesture with an insouciant or careless mastery, almost nonchalantly displaying a skill that promises hidden talents. This is the highest art of the courtier, which breeds confidence in others of ones innate abilities and which will impress the Duke, but almost as importantly provide you with an edge over other competitors. However this introduces a more shadowy aspect; that of being and seeming and leads to an idea of deceit, which emerges as just as important in the armoury of the courtier. Questions are raised about affectation and early in book 2 their emerges the more deceitful side to courtiership as when dealing with this question Frederico Fregosa who is holding the chair replies:

Then Frederico laughed and said: "If you will remember the Count wished the chief business of the Courtier to be arms, and spoke at length of the way in which he should apply himself to that, therefore we will not repeat this. Yet you may also take it to be implied in our rule that whenever the Courtier chances to be engaged in a skirmish or an action or a battle in the field, or the like, he should discreetly withdraw from the crowd, and do the outstanding and daring things that he has to do in as small a company as possible and in the sight of the most noble and respected men in the army and especially in the presence of and, if possible before the very eyes of the king or prince he serves,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,And I recall that in the past I have known men who, though very able, were stupid on this score, and would risk their lives as much to capture a flock of sheep as to be first to scale the walls of a besieged town - which is something our courtier will not do, if he will but keep in mind the motive that leads him to war, which is nothing except honor.

Book 2 carries on in the same vein as the first book, with issues arising out of youth verses age, but also the speakers become increasingly circumspect about the need to please their Prince. Their is a section on pleasantries and then the speakers attempt to outdo each other in telling the best jokes, some of which are amusing. Throughout this section a tension seems to be brewing around the worth of women at court until the "enfant terrible" of the group Gaspar Pallavicino bursts out with "women are beyond the pale of reason." This leads the group onto the next nights topic which is to discuss the qualities needed for a lady courtier. This soon develops into a battle between the misogynists on one side and the defenders of women on the other. It develops into a discussion and anecdotal history of famous women from the past. Amongst all this a sensible view prevails on the qualities needed for a woman to be successful at court, however this is mixed in with remnants of issues resulting from the still relevant ideas on courtly love.

Book 4 and the climax to the book does not disappoint, this seems to be the book that caused Castiglione the most problems. Here the courtiers come off the shovel and discuss the issues that are at the heart of their occupation. What they should or should not do to please their prince; in this case the Duke. Should they follow blindly his orders, even when they know them to be wrong, in error, or what is worse dishonourable. Should they commit murder on his behalf, what should happen if they were forced to serve an evil ruler. This leads them to see themselves as educators: they should be on hand to guide their Prince in the right direction. They then go on to discuss various forms of government and their are supporters of a republican type of government, however the whole tenor of the book has been built around how courtiers should serve a despotic prince, because that is the reality of their situation. The book ends with Pietro Bembo's ideas on Neo-Platonist idealism and platonic love, but that enfant terrible Gaspar Pallavicino cannot stop himself from interjecting and almost has the last word. At the end of Pietro's discourse signora Emilia says "Take care messer Pietro that with these thoughts your soul does not leave your body" Pietro has indeed taken the reader on a flight of fancy, but much here is relevant to Renaissance ideas on divine love. This is humanistic in thought, which is a feature throughout the book; the pagan thoughts of the ancients are almost an accepted fact; clergical Christianity hardly gets mentioned.

The Norton critical edition has an excellent introduction and I particularly enjoyed the essays of criticism that follows the text. They are all relevant and added to my thoughts and enjoyment immensely. James Hawkins essay on Renaissance philosophy was particularly enlightening and so was David Quits on Courtier, Prince, Lady where he poses questions about the interrelations of male and female courtiers and asked whether these mirror relations with the prince. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the Renaissance, it is an authentic slice of renaissance life albeit a rather rarefied one. I think it would appeal to most lovers of history and even the general reader. An important book and a five star read. ( )
7 abstimmen baswood | Apr 29, 2013 |
This is a review of the Singleton translation found in the Norton Critical Edition (2002).

One of the most popular books of the 16th century. Written at a time when the Italian Renaissance was drawing to a close as France invaded Italy, Castiglione looked back at all the best qualities of the Renaissance and applied them to the model of the French court in the form of the "perfect courtier". Highly influential for generations its echo's on western civilization can still be felt to this day. ( )
  Stbalbach | Apr 29, 2007 |
keine Rezensionen | Rezension hinzufügen

» Andere Autoren hinzufügen

AutorennameRolleArt des AutorsWerk?Status
Baldassare CastiglioneHauptautoralle Ausgabenberechnet
Javitch, DanielHerausgeberHauptautoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Berger, Harry, Jr.MitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Burke, PeterMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Cox, VirginiaMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Hankins, JamesMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Javitch, DanielMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Kelly-Gadol, JoanMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Quint, DavidMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Quondam, AmedeoMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Rebhorn, WayneMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Saccone, EduardoMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Singleton, Charles S.ÜbersetzerCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
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Do Not Combine: This is a "Norton Critical Edition", it is a unique work with significant added material, including essays and background materials. Do not combine with other editions of the work. Please maintain the phrase "Norton Critical Edition" in the Canonical Title and Series fields.

The ISBN for the NCE is 0393976068.  Some library sources, such as the Library of Congress, include the subtitle "The Singleton Translation: An Authoritative..."  Some users put (Norton Critical Edition) in the title of their book.  All these title variations refer to the exact same book and ISBN.  Please check for ISBN match before combining.
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Today the Book remains the most reliable and illuminating account of Renaissance court life and of what it took to be the "Perfect Courtier" and "Court Lady." The Singleton translation--the most acclaimed and accurate available--is accompanied by annotations. "Criticism" features ten essays on The Book of the Courtier, which represent the best interpretations from the United States, Italy, and England including the backgrounds-rich essays by Amedeo Quondam and James Hankins. A Selected Bibliography, a Chronology, and an Index are included.

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