HIST 215 W12L23 (no week 22)
Monday, April 3 2017
Hist 215 (23) Castiglione, the Ideal Courtier: dancing and dueling - Lecture Outline
I Castiglione and the Ideal Courtier
Castiglione, The Courtier (1528)
• A new culture around violence – sociological Nobert Alisas (civilizing process):
norther Italian courts.
• Middle Ages: chivalric ideals created in order tot reign in violence of knights –
romance poetry portrayed kngiths as noble warrior, defended womwen, swore
allegiance to lord, rather die then let injustice happened.
• Medeivl duals fought on horseback with armour and sword.
• 15 century: Vergeriao rEnissance ideals: rejuvenated athletic Greek ideals and
influenced moral behavior on young boys focusing on ideal of self development.
• Civilziation process developed further in16th century: manuals on etiqueete and
• Noble (retiune) s: not servants, but had to behave in certain way in order to be
acceptable to ruler
• Machiavelli focused on power and rulers:
• Castiglione: undertook similar project, advised courtiers how to succeeed, unlike
Machiavelli – courtiers had no power, nor any real possible of gaining political
power, dependent on good will and generosity of princes and dukes.
• Success through nobles meant gaining influence, gaining ear of ruler – brought
stability, riches and some power.
• Unlike Machavellis Prince, Courtier could not use violent means – had to gain
affection of ruler by gaining affection.
• Advises courtiers how to showcase talents, or if have none, how to hide weakness and
pretend to have somes.
1506 setting of Courtier in Urbino court (small city in Central Italy)
1) Ideal Courtier
-- “Sprezzatura”: nonchalance-ease – effortless skill
1504-1513 -Castiglione served a duke, often sent to Rome, and made friends with
humanists at the court of Urbino
o During this time where he wrote the draft of his text (1528) all about the
o Courtier set in conversations in 1506, to discuss the ideal courtier and
▪ Debate b/w letters and arms, nobility based on birth or merit;
doctrine of platonic love etc.
▪ Ideal courtier – noble, as it will spur him to virtue, be worthy of
favour of a lord; should be handsome; grace and charm to attract;
should have natural talent, but also correct his weaknesses; perfect 2
courtier should cultivate a perfect reputation and good first
impression (sticks in people’s minds) – should be courageous and
brave, but should never boast.
▪ Should be modest and flee praise – brings in hatred and disgust
▪ Has to praise himself, to not cheat himself the honour of virtuous
behaviour, in a discrete manner. Following the advice of Cicero –
should self-praise while not self-praising in the meantime
▪ Courtier learns from training, imitation, hard-work.
▪ Most famous teaching was the universal rule – done or spoken, and
this is to avoid affentation as much as possible, practice in all
things of nonchalance to conceal artistry – make it seem effortless
▪ Once they become known, always conceal the art in effort of your
▪ Perfect courtier accomplished in literature etc.
▪ But should also conceal it.
▪ Act according to respectable mean – moderation.
2) Female Courtier
-- Gaspar Pallavicino argues that women are imperfect in nature vs. Giuliano de’
Medici who argues against this misogyny by referring to a long catalogue of
o Noble birth, naturally graceful in all actions, not arrogant etc., she must
perform well in all the exercises suitable for a women. Beauty most
important, attractive, yet be chaste and virtuous.
o Yet some argue that women are imperfect v. Medici who brings in famous
catalog of women
o So far from being active and powerful most scholars see them putting
them up on a pedestal, can’t do anything.
3) The Courtier and the Prince
• What purpose of being courtier according to castiologne: educated in sport, war,
music, all to win favour and ear of Prince, once gained friendship and trust – urge
Prince to what is right and virtious, frighten him away from what is evil and icious.
Worst thing for Princes: flatteres – true Courtier is never afraid to tell his Prince the truth
or to correct him, unlike Machiavelli – Castiolgone advocates a classical conception of
-- Classical ethics – Plato: no one knowingly errs or acts evil. Evil is the product of
• In platos diaologues: Socrates argues that no one knowingly acts evil, evil is product
of ignorance – so whenever someone does evil, mislead and falsely believes some
good in what he is doing, men choose evil to be evil, but deceived by some semblance
of the good.
• True suffering is evil – trick is how to distinguish fauls from truth: where Courtier
comes in. 3
• While Courier deceives Prince by covering his own efforts and tricks the Prince,
deceitpino is good.
• Courtier use skill in literature, music and sport to occupy the Prince and worldly
pleasures, but impress some virtuous habits with the pleasures.
• Courtier uses veil of pleasure for end of virtue.
• At heart of Aristotlian concepts: virtue can be learn, one acquires virtue.
• By acting justly – a ruler trains himself by repetition to be just.
• Born with capacity for virtue and vice, through practice learn both – but passions
tamed towards virtuious behavior.
• Purpose of ideal courtier: train Prince in virtue and show method and manner of right
rule, if one knowingly does evil, then ignorance root of all evil: difference of
• Prince knows certain actions re evil, but do them to retain power.
• Courtier best seller in 16 and 17 century –model for courtly behavior, priceps
adbsorbed into etiqueete: part of what Norbert Elias calls the process of
II Manners and the Civilizing Process
“The Process of Civilization” Norbert Elias
In addition – other wrote books of manner
-- Giovanni della Casa, Il Galateo, on manners (1558):
“don’t fart or pick nose at dinner table”
• Don’t talk or laugh loudly, don’t take best morsel of food, don’t smack lips loudly,
don’t drink or eat with mouth full – 16 century advice books.
-- The Fork: 16 c. Italian court invention
• 16 century- Fork began to spread throughout Europe.
• In addition to table manners – Renissance introduced soap and tooth picks.
• Courtier had to have self control and be aware of body language, could be recognized
by way road, walked, gestured and danced:
III Dancing and Virtue
• In 15 century – Vergerio forbidden students to dance because thought lead to lust.
• Preacher Giovanni Dominici around same time – warned about dangers of dance:
cautioued about needs to boys to have masculine nature.
Giovanni Dominici (15th c. preacher): “boys who play with toy swords will grow up
to be soldiers, but boys who dance with girls will be nourished on fetid flesh.” 1402
• But same preacher encouraged readers to do physical exercise to release dangerous
humors, just not dancing
• Others saw value of dance and saw it good for health, increase flow of blood, release
sweat and bad humours. 4
• Some renaissance warriors even danced as part of training: Sigismonod put on masks
and dance in front of troops:
"Nor do you, Sigismondo, consider the study of dancing disgraceful; you usually
exercise and perform in public, and you sometimes put on a show both unmasked or
in costume; and you often use this reasoning that in dancing no part of the body
should be at rest but that the neck, ankles, and hands should be exercised all
together by him who wishes to have a body most agile and ready for every military
movement and speed." (Valturio 15th. c. on Sigismondo Malatesta) 1455
• Dancing not only brings grace and charm, but body cotrnol and flexibility = essential
in close combat.
• Sigismondo: following ancient precedent.
• Same advisor Valturio – cites Spartans acceptance of dancing as useful exercise for
War, quotes Socrates: not shameful but necessary.
• Cicero: not only studied dancing, but boasted still at it, Scipio Africanius = cause no
shame, even if seen by enemy. Sigismondos dance also masculine.
• Plato defines gymnastics of consisting of two things: dancing and wrestling.
“Of dancing, there is one branch in which the style of the muse is imitated,
preserving both freedom and nobility, and another which aims at physical
soundness, agility and beauty by securing for the various parts and members of the
body the proper degree of flexibility and extension and bestowing also the
rhythmical motion which belongs to each.” Plato, Laws
• Plato allows the softer kinds of dancing in peace to express joy, peaceful kings of
dancing, Plato elaborates of difference on proper noble dancing that fits law abiding
men, and questioning dancing (rebels).
• In general: especially in times of war, Plato stresses importance of war dancing, civic
processions and festivals: sword dance that the Spartans did.
• Spartans imfamous at Pyrhhic war dance – strengthens limbs for combat and
practices for War.
• Phyricc dance revived in Renissance, poets celebrated large pyrrhic war dances.
Renissane: debate surrounding morality and utility of dance, especially for men:
Vergiliolo condemned it because excited sexual urges, but Italian renaissance saw it
as a serious art.
Dance masters: predominantly Jewish, traveleld from court to court to teach craft in 15h
century: writer celebrated most famous dance master -
Praise for Guglielmo “the Jew”:
So much grace and angelic harmony is in the sweet music of Guglielmo Ebreo. So
much elegance is in the beautiful dancing that it would make Maccabeus put his
weapon away, Solomon lose his wisdom, and King David be embarrassed. Were it
Judith, she would dance, and Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, and someone born more
rational. Dancing would captivate Cato, make Diana bow to her followers, and
make Scipio quit his noble enterprise.
• Alluges to quasi magical ability of dance tha captures and entices, Apollo originator
of Dance, Plato, cicero and others all seen most graceful dance as reflecting
movement of the heavens and therefore magical. 5
• Angelic dancing – dancing angels and graces appear often in Renissance art, alludes
to tradition of mystical dance.
• Dancing taken very seriously in Renaissance, numerous dance manuals printed and
found ways into noble libraries, Italian dancing masters appeared in courts of Europe.
• Dancing formed an important part of festivals, courtiers appear to have danced way in
• England: Queen Elizabeth – made someone captain of guard and lord chancellor
because dancing skills.
IV Music and the Warrior
• In the Laws – plato defined music as form of gymnastics for the soul, just as physical
exercise trains the body, music the soul.
• Aristotle: made music prominent in education: frees the spirit and ennobles the soul.
• Vergerio: manual on education from 1402 – refers to Socrates who encouraged
youths to music, moderate soul on reason, emphasizes use of music for relaxing the