Courtier Handout

English 514

Dr. Fike


Question for everyone:  What is the thesis of the excerpt from Book Four, and how does Castiglione go about proving it?


Individual/group questions:  You or you and a partner will prepare one of the following questions ahead of time for class discussion.  Note that all of them concern a connection to other works, some of which we have read, some not.  Please prepare a 1-page handout for all those in the class; it should include key quotations from The Courtier and your source(s).  (The handout for #1 will need to be longer.)  Our class format will be as follows:  we will begin with the question for everyone and will then work our way through questions 1-6. 

  1. Shakespeare's Hamlet: A third connection to Shakespeare is possible on page 119.  See Hamlet 2.2.294-311; the key passage begins with the phrase "What piece of work is a man!"  What is the connection?
  2. Plato: Of course, this part of The Courtier is Neo-Platonic, for a better understanding of which please consult Plato's Symposium and Republic. You are looking for the ladder of love, the myth of the cave, and the doctrine of Forms.  Find echoes of these elements in Book Four.  Helpful hint:  There is an article on "Platonism" in The Spenser Encyclopedia
  3. Shakespeare's Sonnets: Find passages in Book Four and Shakespeare sonnets that discuss reason.  How may The Courtier illuminate the psychology of Shakespeare's sonnet sequence?
  4. Shakespeare's T&C: A further connection to Shakespeare is mentioned in the note on page 123.  Find the passage in Troilus and Cressida and explain how it relates to The Courtier.  A helpful reference is E.M.W. Tillyard's The Elizabethan World Picture.  Include something about page 123, line 24 in your answer.
  5. Shakespeare's MSND: What point does The Courtier make on pages 128-29 about the imagination? Do you see a connection to what Theseus says about the poet in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream?
  6. Shakespeare's MSND: Do you see something higher than understanding in page 133's reference to St. Paul? See I Corinthians 15:40ff., II Corinthians 12:2ff., and Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  7. Spenser's FQ: As readers of Spenserís Faerie Queene, how would you respond to what The Courtier says about the unstable relationship between beauty and virtue?  You might look closely at Spenser's description of Duessa's true appearance at I.viii.46-49.  Consider especially pages 123-26.  Also, does page 132 offer a gloss on the Redcrosse knight's journey (I.i.10-11)? Consider also the mention of temperance on page 126, line 27.
  8. Spenser's Amoretti: Regarding Spenser, what connection can you make between page 127 and the Amoretti, sonnet 64?  You may also find a connection in sonnet 79.
  9. Spenser's "Hymne": Make connections between The Courtier and Spenser's "A Hymne in Honour of Beautie," which starts in GH on page 351.


Connection to our future reading:  How would Anne Locke respond to Lord Gasparís statement that "'women be not as meet for heavenly love as men'"?