Making and Breaking the Rules: Castiglione's Cortegiano
Castiglione's Cortegiano renews the forms of ancient dialogue in accordance with humanist cultural ideals and at the same time imbues them with the experiential reference of personal recollection. The basic dialogic structure reveals the importance of the book's classical sources, but the Cortegiano is not unrelated to the literary concerns of the Renaissance, not least in its subtext of the Decameron, nor to medieval discipline literature. Castiglione was aware of this latter genre, and this essay examines the possible connections between his text and one of the most influential of these medieval training guides, the De institutione novitiorum liber attributed to Hugh of St Victor (first quarter of 12th century). The Cortegiano marks off its own privileged area of pedagogical concern by shifting the perspective from the education of the young to the instruction of a courtier who has already had basic training. The Cortegiano remains a paradoxical text, seeking to provide rules but not believing that such rules can completely explain human behaviour.