Baldassare Castiglione’s work “The Courtier” has similar conceptions of grace and love when compared to with Christian conceptions. Baldassare Castiliogne characterizes the courtiers of Urbino as omini per virtu singulari” (IV, 2, 446: “men singular in worth”), emphasizing their grace and virtue they were able to exhibit throughout the entire passage. This also reflects the ways they were able to entice the imagination of the readers and make their (readers) minds more creative. Castiglione writes about the Urbino court and its inhabitants as a kind of ideal place where grace and virtue was heavily practiced.
Most of the courtiers and ladies in the court possess only minor character flaws and petty foibles. In his writing, he idealizes them as civilized and perfectly restrained individuals who are devoid of serious personal vices and defects. In a sense, Castiglione wants to present them as ideal types, as the “onorati esempi di virtu” (IV, 2, 448: “honored models of worthiness”) as can be read from his prologues where moral fortitude, scholarship and genuine love should emulate and be exuded by the readers even after reading the entire piece.
The following excerpt from “The Courtier” shows that Lord Guidobaldo has lived an exemplary life worth of emulation by the other inhabitants. “When lord Guidobaldo di Montefeltro, duke of Urbino, passed from this life, I together with several other knights who had served him remained in the service of duke Francesco Maria della Rovere, heir and successor to Guidobaldo’s state; and as in my mind there remained fresh the odor of duke Guido’s virtues and the satisfaction which I in those years had felt from the loving company of such excellent persons, as then frequented the court of Urbino”.
(Letter, 1, 67-8) Castiglione’s goal in his work was to set his statements of praise for Urbino and its inhabitants in general and conventional terms. He did not cite the military exploits or civic triumphs of a character he praises, instead, he celebrates all of them for their virtu, (virtue) their ingegno, (ingenuity) their ottime qualit?? (high dignity). Instead, Castiliogne characterizes these exploits as a collective victory for the person he is giving life to. This also gives life to the colorful sceneries and animations to the story as this draws the attention of the readers.
Castiliogne pursues the elevation of Urbino’s image to an exemplary moral excellence and its value for posterity. In his first two prologues, Castiglione highlights the superiority of Urbino’s inhabitants. In the prologue to Book III, Castiglione states that if Urbino’s pastimes convince him of its excellence, he should be able to imagine easily how much greater the courtiers’ virtuous actions were (III, 1, 336). In the last prologue, Castiglione praises the courtiers directly as “omini per virtu singulari” (IV, 2, 446: “men singular in worth”).
He viewed the court as a paragon of moral exempla (IV, 2, 448: “chiari ed onorati esempi di virtu”). The court is presented as an ethical model not only to other existing courts at that time but also to the succeeding generations to come. Moreover, Castiglione confesses in the third prologue that he wrote his text carefully to “faria vivere negli animi dei posteri” (III, 1, 336: “make it live in the mind of posterity”). Finally, as his culture upholds classical antiquity, he projects that the young and upcoming generation will envy his time because of the exemplary Urbino court.
(III, 1, 336: “forse per l’avvenire non manchera chi per questo ancor porti invidia al secol nostro”). Similarly, the virtues of grace and love which are present in Castiliogne’s work are also present in Christian morals and manners. Christian morals are a function of moral discernment and moral reasoning. For instance, James Gustafson stated that moral discernment refer to basic dispositions that are shaped in part by the faith and trust Christians have as they offer themselves up to God.
Moreover, James Gustafson stated that the concept of moral discernment was related to moral reasoning. Gustafson explained that moral reasoning pertains to a character, or personal moral ability, which covers dispositions, traits, and actions of the moral agent. (Selnick, 1992). Castiliogne stated that the courtier is expected to serve and increase in favour with her Lady. He should instruct her in virtue and refrain from vice and dishonesty. He should speak truth all the time. This concern is evident in Christian morals and manners.
According to Harring, the moral and religious value of our acts attains the peak level only when the fundamental option results in the conquest one’s energies and vision such that one’s motives and decisions come from the depth in which the Spirit moulds and guides. (Harring, 1978). Castiliogne exhorts the courtiers to be kind to their subordinates, to avoid flattery, to be wise in the relations with other states and to have good manners in speech and language. Moreover, the courtier must have “good utterance” and “sweet language” to the other personalities in the court and avoid offending other people.
This exhortation finds a strong support in Christianity’s theological and ethical attention which has shifted away from the relations with the divine towards human relations to interpersonal human relations. (Post, 1990). This shift resulted in the sharp distinction between public activity and private relations. First, it highlighted the fact that the self’s relation with God does not necessarily impact on one’s neighbor. Second, it states that the divine intentions may not relate directly to an individual’s human flourishing.
This re-evaluation of one’s faith highlights the moral dimensions of Christianity and renders faith as an essential and crucial aspect of living well. (Weaver, 2002) The old men then attack the change in customs in Urbino court which they perceive as reflective of moral decay. In response to this, Castiliogne countered that he is a judge who can state that there is no age, past or present that is either totally good or totally evil. Then in this excerpt, Castiliogne argued that it is the old men who have changed their behavior and not the courts.
These old men lament their loss of youth, power, and vitality. This situation leads to nostalgia which distorts the truth about both past and present. This excerpt is as follows: ne dei passati piaceri riserva (l’animo) altro che una tenace memoria e la imagine di quel caro tempo della tenera eta, nella quale quando ci ritrovamo, ci pare che sempre il cielo e la terra ed ogni cosa faccia festa e rida intorno agli occhi nostri, e nel pensiero come in un delizioso e vago giardino fiorisca la dolce primavera d’allegrezza.
(The Courtier II, 1, 188) . . . and [the mind] retains of past pleasures merely a lingering memory and the image of that precious time of tender youth in which (while we are enjoying it), wherever we look, heaven and earth and everything appear merry and smiling, and the sweet springtime of happiness seems to flower in our thoughts as in a delightful and lovely garden. (The Courtier II, 1, 188) Similarly, Christian morality has shown interest in one’s personal ethical development.
The flourishing of the self encompassing virtue ethics and spirituality reveals a post modern reassessment of the classical concepts and tools for reflecting on the self’s good. (Naussbam, 1994). Baldassare Castiliogne characterizes the courtiers of Urbino as omini per virtu singulari” (IV, 2, 446: “men singular in worth”), emphasizing their grace and virtue. Similarly, Christian morals and manners show the importance of all the human virtues required of the courtiers during the time of the Urbino court.
The courtiers’ excellent speech, manners and deportment to their equals and subordinates exhibit a vivid example of their faith and their excellent human manners. Alongside the traditions and practices that the courtiers’ have shown, the author have clearly emphasized on the human manners that there should be equality among all others and in order to achieve a specific and unified goal, there should be subordination so that in the long run, there will be authority to be followed and rules are set on such manners. Works Cited: Castiglione, Baldassare.
The Book of the Courtier. New york: Scribner’s Son, 1901. 7-439. James M. Gustafson, “Moral Discernment in the Christian Life”, in Gene H. Outka and Paul Ramsey, Norm and Context in Christian Ethics. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1968, p. 31. Haring, Bernard. Free and Faithful in Christ. New York: Seabury Press: A Crossroads Book, 1978, p. 85. Kolsky, Stephen D. “Old Men in a New World: Morello da Ortona in the Cortegiano. ” Italica 75 (1998): 336-448. Long, Edward Leroy. A Survey of Recent Christian Ethics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. Martha Nussbaum.
The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994. Post, Stephen. A Theory of Agape: On the Meaning of Christian Love. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1990. Selnick, Philip. The Moral Commonwealth: Social Theory and the Promise of Community. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992, p. 361. Weaver, Darlene. Self Love and Christian Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Webhorn, Wayne. Courtly Performances Masking and Festivity in Castiglione’s Book in the Courtier. University of Texas at Austin, 1978.
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