The Book of the Courtier

Il Cortegiano
PublisherAldine Press
Publication date

The Book of the Courtier (Italian: Il Cortegiano [il korteˈdʒaːno]) is a courtesy book or book of manners which dealt with issues of etiquette, behaviour and morals, particularly at princely, or royal courts. Courtesy literature can be traced back to 13th century German and Italian writers.[1] The Book of the Courtier was written by Baldassare Castiglione over the course of many years, beginning in 1508, and was ultimately published in 1528 by the Aldine Press in Venice just before his death. An English edition was published in 1561.

The Book of the Courtier addresses the constitution of a perfect courtier, and in its last installment, a perfect lady. It takes the form of a Renaissance dialogue, a literary form that incorporated elements of drama, conversation, philosophy, and essay. Considered the definitive account of Renaissance court life, it is cited frequently, along with Stefano Guazzo's The civil conversation of 1574 and Giovanni Della Casa's Galateo of 1558, as an important resource on court life during the Italian Renaissance.


The book is organized as a series of fictional conversations that occur between the courtiers of the Duke of Urbino in 1507 (when Castiglione was in fact part of the Duke's Court). In the book, the courtier is described as having a cool mind, a good voice (with beautiful, elegant and brave words) along with proper bearing and gestures. At the same time though, the courtier is expected to have a warrior spirit, to be athletic, and have good knowledge of the humanities, Classics and fine arts. Over the course of four evenings, members of the court try to describe the perfect gentleman of the court. In the process they debate the nature of nobility, humor, women, and love.

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