Castiglione presents to the readers fundamental etiquette, morals, and behaviours within the society. He addresses the inequality faced by women in the Renaissance era. In part three of The Book of Courtier, we learn about various arguments brought forth by different characters undermining and diming the women in the society. We also learn about the roles of women in the Renaissance era.
Magnifico's description of a perfect lady and their roles in the Renaissance era
Lord Magnifico attempts to give qualities of a perfect lady. He suggests that ideal lady should possess all courtier's qualities of being intelligent, beautiful, should be modest in her behaviour, a gracious hostess and must be attentive to what other people are expecting of her. These qualities of nobility, nonchalance, and grace are the account for every court lady should possess. According to Magnifico, a perfect lady should be well mannered and clever just like courtiers. Likewise gentle birth to avoid affection, prudent and should not be a troublemaker. Magnifico says "...likewise gentle birth, to avoid affection, to be naturally graceful in her doings, to be mannerly, clever, prudent, not arrogant... not vain, not quarrelsome... and to practice well and gracefully the exercise that benefits women" (Castiglione, 176). High-quality decency, as well as good manners, are standard but with the added prospect to feminine delicacy. "...it is becoming in a woman to have a soft and dainty tenderness with an air of womanly sweetness in her every movement" (pg. 175). It is believed that part of this comes naturally during her upbringing and her noble birth. However, it is still expected that she should project her best self for others to witness.
To achieve this, they are expected to be "calm and modest ... whereby she show herself alien to all indelicacy" (pg 176). As a demonstration of humility and nonchalance just like the courtier, the men decide that women are expected to be shy when performing a song or playing instrument. Therefore, the court ladies should be delicately ladylike and be able to run house chore and entertaining her husband as well as his friends. Lord Magnifico asserts this statement "...Above all, methinks that in her ways, manner, words, gesture and bearing a woman out to be unlike a man... it is becoming in a woman to have a soft and dainty tenderness with an air of womanly sweetness in her every movement" (pg. 175).
Additionally, more emphasis is asserted on a woman's beauty. They must be beautiful. It is their roles as women to make themselves look beautiful. Men's physical fitness is regarded as functional but not as general physical appearance. Therefore, they decide that being beautiful is more essential to the Court Lady compared to the courtier. From the statement "...beauty is more necessary for her... for in truth that woman lacks much who lacks beauty" (pg. 176). This, however, makes it looks like women are less important or less functional. Their roles regarded as being a pleasing tool for the men instead of being useful to society.
Lord Gaspar have got a negative perception about women and their roles in the society in general. In the conversation, we see him undermines the women's presence in the society. He believes women are very inferior. From his statement, he sees no need to give a "false praise" on women but instead he says he is very honest with women to tell them how inferior and wretched they are in the society. In an argument, Lord Magnifico is not affected by Gaspar's misogyny and gives numerous examples of women who are strong, intelligent, temperance, capable and ruthless just as men. Gaspar treats Magnifico's arguments with logical fallacies as well as goal post shifting. This shows how Gaspar’s dislikes and undermines the women's ability and useful roles in the society. He does not see anything meaningful or worth appraising in women despite the numerous example demonstrated by Lord Magnifico. Gaspar reiterates that the ladies described by Magnifico in his numerous paragraphs do not exist today. Frisco joins Gaspar and says "... I have never heard any of the women you are talking about, Magnifico, so your evidence is invalid." (pg.185). Gaspar shows women no respect. He says women are stupid and imperfect defects of nature in the presence of Duchess. Gaspar can hardly say a single line without showing hatred on women. In his defence, he tries to justify that women are indeed stupid, imperfect, and without good reason or judgment. This shows the highest level of inferiority faced by women and how they are undermined during the Renaissance era.
I think Castiglione was against the social position of women in the Renaissance era. The author through characters like Gaspar and Frisco presents misogyny. This is countered by equality arguments presented by Lord Magnifico and Cesare. Castiglione demonstrates the mistreatment women undergo in the society and how they are belittled. Readers familiarise themselves with these "enemies of women" and later get enlighten on equality within the society. Through numerous examples put forward by Lord Magnifico of capable and intelligent women is a demonstration that Castiglione views the women in a positive manner and wants the society to have the same notion as Magnifico. Castiglione writes this book with the aim of teaching the readers about manners.
Sexual behaviour standards during the Renaissance era.
The Renaissance era, sexual behaviour reduced the women to vessel for producing children. The society viewed love and marriage as two different things. Sexual behaviour was gender biased since it placed women on pedestal virtue due to the social perception of courtly love. Women were viewed as wanton pleasure seekers, virtuous and beautiful. Women had the power to exhaust their husbands and made them ill due to their voracious appetite for sex. They are seen weak in restraining their sexual appetite. Sexual behaviour was characterized by discrimination towards the female gender. Women are viewed as unequal to men despite their vital role of the court. Lord Gaspar challenges Magnifico by posing a question "...Why is it that a woman always naturally loves the man who first tasted the sweets of love with her? and on the contrary, a man holds that woman in hatred who was the first to give herself to him?" (pg 185). This shows that despite the sacrifice by women to satisfy the men sexually, they are still belittled. It assumed that women receive sexual perfection from the man while men receive imperfection from the women. That well describes the hatred according to Lord Gaspar.
Lord Magnifico challenges various sexual norms in society. First, he disregards the argument by Gaspar since it does not apply to all women. He asserts that women just like men plays an important role during intimacy. To procreate, the two are equally very important, and one cannot stand on his or her own. He says "...for woman is not made perfect by man, as matter by form: because matter receives its being from form and cannot exist without it; nay, the more matter forms have, the more they have of imperfection, and are most perfect when separated from it... both join in procreation, which neither of them can effect without the other" (pg 186). Magnifico continues to drive sense into Gaspar by explaining that a woman's love for the first man is due to their constancy and firmness which men lack. He describes men hatred as inconstancy portrayed by men. "...the male naturally derives from that quality lightness, movement, and inconstancy, while from her frigidity woman, on the other hand, derives quietness, firm gravity, and more fixed impressions." (pg 186). Magnifico believed that women have done much for the society and should not be disregarded based on their gender. He gives several examples of women in the ancient time who made both Greece and Rome proud in Renaissance society. He talks of Amala Sontha well known for wisdom during her reign, Queen Isabella of the Spain and Queen Lombard. I believe his argument since it is a big challenge to Gaspar who fails to give concrete evidence of being misogyny. Magnifico tends to beat them in the debate by giving a good number of women whose role in society cannot be disregarded just because of their gender.
Court lady ideal role in courting process.
Magnifico vividly describes the roles of an ideal court lady. In his description, a court lady should have the ability to manage his husband's property if she married (pg 176). She should also demonstrate the qualities of a good housewife that is, taking care of the children. He continues to explain; the lady should be able to entertain any kind of a man in a good manner. Additionally, she should practice good manners as well as gracefully exercise that befit women (pg.177). Lastly, being respectful and loving to the husband and family at large is one of the integral roles of a court lady in the courting process.
However, Magnifico also outlines various pitfalls that a court lady should avoid. For instance, she should avoid the error that many women trapped into such as saying and listening to evils about other women. The lady should not naively pretend to know what she does not know. She should avoid mingling serious matters with their humorous and playful discourse. Lastly, they are advised not to be arrogant.
A courtier should have reverence of women who are esteemed and virtuous. He should demonstrate the act of adoration and respect at all time. Courtiers should protect the woman from any false imputations. Lastly, he should guide, love and respect her woman by possessing qualities such as magnanimity, continence, and many others. A courtier should not fall into the pitfalls of disrespect, abusive and criticizing women.
Yes. In personal opinion, true happiness is possible for noble couples. This is because they are gentle birth and so during their upbringing, they are taught various virtues of importance. The love and respect will grow within the family hence happiness for the noble couples
In conclusion, women play crucial roles in society. From taking care of children, domestic chores and offering leadership when need be. They deserve treated with respect, love, and affection from their husbands.
Castiglione Baldassarre. The Book of Courtier. Dover Publications, 2003. Internet source.
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