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From THE LIFE OF BENVENUTO CELLINI, (Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin Books, 1961) 86-338 passim.

The passages from the famous AUTOBIOGRAPHY of a Renaissance artist tell of Cellini's commission to design a button for the Pope, to design a coin for the Pope, and his encounter with Bandinello over the merits of the latter's statue of Hercules.



Most high school students associate the Renaissance with great painters, sculptors and architects. Of course they are correct. But the Renaissance should also be remembered for its great contributions to western thought. Like many scholars during the Middle Ages, the men of the Renaissance rediscovered the great Greek and Roman classics, copied them, and translated them into the languages of the day. They also wrote great original works which have in turn become classics of their own.

The learned men of this period called themselves humanists from the word humanista, a slang term coined by students for teachers of grammar, rhetoric and other humane studies. The humanists were classical scholars. They learned Greek, Latin and Arabic in order to study the classics in their original languages. They began to write in these languages and to publish learned treatises on the works of the ancients. They also wrote poems and other works in the vernacular.

The four excerpts in Reading XXI were written by three great Renaissance scholars. Study questions precede each excerpt. Think about them as you read.


The two readings below represent the work of the humanists
at its best. They are from the pen of Francesco Petrarca
(1304-1374), one of the greatest of the humanists.

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From J. H. Robinson and H. W. Rolfe, PETRARCH, THE FIRST MODERN SCHOLAR AND MAN OF LETTERS, (New York: G. P. Putnam & Sons, 1914) IV, 170; and Raymond Phineas Stearns, PAGEANT OF EUROPE (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1961) 11.

The first selection from Petrarch is one of his letters praising a translation of Cicero. Petrarch admits unabashed admiration for the great Latin orator. The second selection is one of the poet's famous sonnets to Laura,


The well-rounded man represents the ideal of the Renaissance,
Our best portrait of an ideal Renaissance type was written
by Baldassare Castiglione in a book called THE COURTIER,
published in 1528. In this volume Castiglione revived the
classical ideal of the well-rounded man and combined him
with modern ideas of the humanities and a liberal education.

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"For this evening's game let us select someone from the company and give him the job of portraying a perfect Courtier, explaining all the conditions and special qualities that a Courtier must have; if he mentions something that is not correct, anyone may contradict him."

.Since one cannot spend all his time in every exercise and since repetition is tiresome, we must always vary our life with various occupations. Por this reason I would have our Courtier sometimes take part in quieter and more peaceful exercises, and in order to escape envy and to seem agreeable to everyone, let him do what others do, yet never departing from praiseworthy deeds, and governing himself with that good judgment which will keep him from all foolishness; but let him laugh, joke, banter, frolic and dance, but in such a way that he shall always appear genial and discreet, and that everything he may do or say shall be stamped with grace.

"I would have him accomplished in letters, at least in those studies which are called the humanities, and able to speak and understand not only the Latin language but also the Greek. Let him know the poets, and the orators and the historians. Let him be proficient in writing, verse, and prose, especially in this vulgar tongue of ours; for besides the enjoyment he will find in it, he will never lack agreeable entertainment with the ladies, who are usually fond of such things. If other jobs or lack of study prevent his reaching such perfection, let him be careful to suppress his work so that others may not laugh at him, and let him show them only to a friend whom he can trust: because at least the exercise will enable hin tu judge the work of others."

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From Baldassare Castiglione, THE BOOK OF THE COURTIER, translated by Edwin Fenton

"My lords, you must know that I am not content with the Courtier unless he is also a musician, and besides being able to understand and read notes, he must be able to play different instruments. For music 18 the best relaxa• tion or medicine for the troubled spirit and most becoming and praiseworthy in time of leisure and especially in the courts, where besides the relief from boredom that music gives us, many things are done to please the ladies, whose tender and gentle spirit is easily affected by harmony and filled with sweetness. Thus, it is no surprise, that in ancient and modern times, musicians have always been favored and have found refreshing spiritual food in music.

"I wish to discuss another matter, which I think 18 very important and therefore think our Courtier should not overlook: and this is to know how to draw and to know the art of painting.

Do not be surprised that I want this art, which today seems to be that of an artisan and not for a gentleman; I remember having read that the ancients, especially in Greece, had the boys of noble birth study painting in school as an honorable and necessary thing and it was recognized as the first of the liberal arts, while at the same time by public edict forbidden to slaves. Among the Romans, too, it was held in highest honor....

And truly one who does not honor this art seems unreasonable to me, for this universal fabric that we see--with the vast heaven so richly adorned with shining stars and in the middle the earth circled by seas, varied with mountains, valleys and rivers and decorated with so many different trees, beautiful flowers and grasses--may be said to be a great and noble picture, composed by the hand of nature and of God; and whoever is able to imitate it, seems to me to deserve great praise: nor can it be imitated without the knowledge of many things, as he who tries well knows..


Niccold Machiavelli (1469-1527) taught the world a lesson
in practical politics. A Florentine lawyer, he had
traveled widely in the employ of the government of his
city. Everywhere he observed politics as they were
actually practiced. Exiled from his native city la a
change of administration, he wrote THE PRINCE as a
guidebook to a despot in order to try to gain favor
and to set forth the techniques by which a prince
might be able to unite all of Italy. Like other humanists,
Machiavelli had read widely, and he drew many of his
examples fro.n the classics as well as from his keen
observations of contemporary life.

* Prom Nicco18 Machiavelli, THE PRINCE, G. C. Sansoni ed., (Florence,

.1899) Edwin Fenton, trans.

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'. . . It is a good thing to be considered generous. But if liberality 18 not openly displayed for all to see, no one will ever hear about it, and under these circumstances person would soon become known as a miser. Por this reason many men who wish to earn a reputation for liberality depend upon lavish displays or costly shows which are easily seen. If a prince does this, he is likely to spend most of his money on display, and if he wishes to keep his reputation for liberality he will have to impose heavy taxes and do everything possible to obtain more funds. This course of action will make his subjects begin to hate him; they will not even respect him because he will be poor. His liberality will have injured many and benefited only a few. .For these reasons a prince must not worry if he becomes known as a miser.


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"Is it better to be loved more than feared or feared more than loved? Ideally, one ought to be both feared and loved, but it is difficult for the two sentiments to go together. If one of the two must be sacrificed, it is much safer to be feared than loved. In general men are ungrateful, dishonest, cowardly, and covetous, As long as you help them, they will do your bidding. They will offer you their blood, their goods, their lives, and their children when it appears that you will not need to take them up on the offer. But when you try to collect, they often go back on their word. If a prince has relied solely on the good faith of others, he will be ruined. Men are less afraid to offend a prince they love than one they fear. ...

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"...I conclude, therefore, with regard to being feared or loved that men have control of their love but the prince controls fear. The wise prince will rely on what he can control and not on what is in the control of others. He must be careful, however, not to make men hate him.

"Everyone knows that it is a good thing for a prince to keep his word and live a faithful life. The history of our own times shows, however, that those princes who have done great things have had little regard for keeping faith.

.& successful prince must imitate both the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves, He must, therefore, be at the same time a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten off wolves. . .A prince ought not to keep his word when doing so would go against his best interest, and when the reasons which originally motivated him no longer exist. If men were all good, this rule would not be a sound one. But because they are bad and would not honor their word to the prince, he is not bound to keep faith with them.

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