This book offers a modern critical approach to the study of Baldesar Castiglione's
Libro del Cortegiano (1528), a monumental work which reflects, par excellence, the culture and ideals of the Italian Renaissance. Generally interpreted in idealistic terms,
Il Cortegiano has been placed in the history of Castiglione criticism far from the realism and pragmatism of Machiavelli's
Il Principe (1513). Thoroughly based on a close reading of the primary sources (including the often neglected early versions of the treatise), this book challenges the traditional notion of
Il Cortegiano as an abstract work of art. Through a careful analysis of the structural changes and thematic developments that occur in the treatise, this book shows that the primary object of
Il Cortegiano is to describe the ways in which despotism exerts its power and influence within the court under the veil of figurative language.