Courtly Performances: Masking and Festivity in Castiglione's Book of the Courtier

Courtly Performances: Masking and Festivity in Castiglione's Book of the Courtier

Courtly Performances: Masking and Festivity in Castiglione's Book of the Courtier

Courtly Performances: Masking and Festivity in Castiglione's Book of the Courtier

Excerpt

Introduction: Idealism, Masks, and Festivity

When Sir Thomas Hoby published his translation of The Book the Courtier in 1561, he appended to it two brief lists of rules he had extracted from Castiglione's dialogue: "A Breef Rehersall of the Chiefe Conditions and Qualities in a Courtier" and "Of the Chief Conditions and Qualityes in a Waytyng Gentylwoman." Most likely, Sir Thomas intended these lists as aids to his fellow countrymen, for they, like him, worried about the "barbarity" (Hoby, p. 9) of English manners, which they inevitably perceived whenever they compared themselves and their court with the refined civilization of France and the much more refined courts of Italy. To remedy this defect, they eagerly studied books such as The Courtier, Giovanni della Casa Il Galateo, and Stefano Guazzo's Civil Conversazione, because such works offered handy, comprehensive sets of formulas they could apply to the task of polishing their native manners. That Castiglione's helpful work also sparkled with the wit of its conversations, the elegance of its social intercourse, and the subtle interplay of its personalities and ideas, so much the better. What mattered to most Elizabethan . . .

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