Baldassare Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier: Love and Ideal Conduct

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Baldassare Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier was quite possibly the single most popular secular book in sixteenth century Europe, published in dozens of editions in all major European languages. The Courtier is a complex text that has many reasons for its vast popularity. Over the years it has been read as a guide to courtly conduct, a meditation on the nature of service, a celebration of an elite community, a reflection on power and subjection, a manual on self-fashioning, and much else besides. But The Courtier must also be seen as a book about love. The debates about love in The Courtier are not tangential to the main concerns of the text; they are fundamental to it. To understand the impact of The Courtier on discourses of love, one must place the text’s debates about love in the context of the Platonic ideas promulgated by Ficino, Bembo, and others, as well as the practical realities of sexual and identity politics in early modern European society. Castiglione’s dialogue attempts to define the perfect Courtier, but this ideal figure of masculine self-control is threatened by the instability of romantic love.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEarly Modern Cultural Studies 1500-1700
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages34
StatePublished - 2014

Publication series

NameEarly Modern Cultural Studies 1500-1700
ISSN (Print)2634-5897
ISSN (Electronic)2634-5900


  • Gender Relation
  • Marginal Note
  • Romantic Love
  • Sexual Desire
  • Sixteenth Century

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • General Arts and Humanities
  • Linguistics and Language


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