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“How to Succeed at Court: Annibal Guasco’s Advice to his Daughter Lavinia and Renaissance Manuals of Conduct”


In spite of the scant scholarly attention it has received, Annibal Guasco’s Discourse to Lady Lavinia, His Daughter (1586) is an unicum of Renaissance literature and, in particular, on the subject of women’s education. The present article shows how Guasco’s manual, while following the lead of the international best-seller of the period, Baldassar Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier (1528), also, and more importantly, ‘fills-in’ where the canonical text falls short of its promise. In order to gage the full extent of its originality, seminal passages in Guasco’s meticulously organized, detailed, astute, and often progressive ragionamento will constitute the focus of the present article. In addition, the text will be discussed alongside two other cinquecento manuals: the first of its kind in the genre, Anne de France’s Enseignements (ca. 1505), and another contemporary Italian publication, Lodovico Domenichi’s La donna di corte (1564).

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