The idealism of a courtier and the role of gender during the Renaissance
The Renaissance started in the 14th century; this cultural movement focused on appreciating both ancient culture and the culture of that time. A branch of philosophy called humanism accompanied innovation in politics, arts, and literature. Italy was a big part of this movement; it had a significant role in the Renaissance during the 15th century and in the courts. Naples, Urbino, Milan, Ferrara, and Mantua were one of the most well-known courts[footnoteRef:2]. A court is a physical space composed of a building like a palace and a courtyard, where the prince, his family, his household, courtiers, and many nobles lived[footnoteRef:3]. The court had a significant role in defining some Renaissance ideas. Inside it, the noble people aspired to be ideal courtiers, both women and men—each ideal required values, behaviors, and activities. Baldassare Castiglione talks about all this in his book, The Book of the Courtier. He shows the mindset of that era through dialogues between nobles at the court of Urbino. The nobles used to play games where they described the ideal courtier in one of them. The goal of this perfect courtier was to excel in everything and have a good reputation for getting more power. Both women and men were expected to be an ideal courtiers. However, there was a double standard for the role women played. [2: Cole, Art of the Renaissance, pg. 7] [3: Cole, Art of the Renaissance, pg. 8]
The courtiers discussed the characteristics that an ideal courtier should have throughout most of the book. They mentioned qualities, activities, and values that make a courtier perfect. Count Lodovico said that a courtier needs to come from a good family since this motivates a higher performance [footnoteRef:4]. An ideal courtier is also expected to excel in activities. The court said they needed to excel at the art of arms, and if they did it successfully, they would deserve praise. He also says that a courtier must be a good scholar (especially on humanism[footnoteRef:5]), be a musician, and be manly. He insists on this last one because, according to him, a courtier cannot appear feminine. The way they walk, talk, and stand must be manly. Moreover, Lodovico points out that a courtier needs to be fit for sports, well-built, and athletic. For example, doing essential sports like swimming or running was critical. All of these show that a courtier needed to be perfect to achieve this idealism. [4: Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier, First Book, pg. 54] [5: Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier, First Book, pg. 90]
In the book, the nobles make a difference between the role of women and men. Both of them have an ideal courtier that they aspire to be. Whereas men have the one mentioned above, lady courtiers have different characteristics to accomplish. Ladies were expected to preserve chastity[footnoteRef:6], while the man did not. According to Giuliano De Medi...