The Book of the Courtier
This list is an abridgement of the list given in the English translation
of The Book of the Courtier by Sir Thomas Hoby (1561) as edited
by Walter Raleigh for David Nutt, Publisher, London, 1900, and partakes
of the virtues and faults, as may be, of that edition. It was transcribed
by Richard Bear at the University of Oregon during the summer of 1997.
This edition is provided to the public for nonprofit purposes only; the
design is copyright © 1997 The University of Oregon. Corrections and
comments to Richard Bear at email@example.com.
The online copy of the book may be found at:
The following list has been abridged from the original and according the
the abridger is a list of those qualities that should be of most note to
members of the SCA. I have also included notes.
William E Wilson, known in the SCA as Barwn Master Gwylym ab Owain,
A BREEF REHERSALL OFTHE CHIEFE CONDITIONS AND QUALITIES
IN A COURTIER
TO be well borne and of a good stocke.
All members of the SCA are considered to be noble born. This
means that none of us are of a base profession or lineage.
Not to praise himself unshamefully and out of reason.
Not to crake and boast of his actes and good qualities.
There is nothing worse than having to listen to someone praise
their own merits. If you must hear these great things of yourself please
do the period thing and pay someone to praise you.
Not to carie about tales and triflinge newis.
Nothing will destroy a group quicker than rumormongering. High
ideals and the concept of the Dream preclude this type of destructive activity.
No fonde flatterer.
Have you ever eaten something that was just too sweet to stomach?
To be seen in tunges, and specially in Italian, French, and Spanish.
Many of the period manuals are written in these languages. As
it was then, it is also good now to be conversant in more than just one
To play for his pastime at Dice and Cardes, not wholye for monies sake,
nor fume and chafe in his losse.
To be meanly seene in the play at Chestes, and not overcounninge.
The playing of chess and period games is very important in the
Society. Chess at least is a pre-requisite to peerage.
To speake and write the language that is most in use emonge the commune
people, without inventing new woordes, inckhorn tearmes or straunge phrases,
and such as be growen out of use by long time.
To compete in the Arts and Sciences you must be able to write
To be handesome and clenly in his apparaile.
To make his garmentes after the facion of the most, and those to be black,
or of some darkish and sad colour, not garish.
What more can I say about this? Do you want to be considered
a fop or would you prefer to be considered a highborn gentleman who knows
To gete him an especiall and hartye friend to companye withall.
All gentlemen should have a travelling companion.
Not to be ill tunged, especiallie against his betters.
Need we say more?
To be no envious or malitious person.
To have the feate of drawing and peincting.
To daunce well without over nimble footinges or to busie trickes.
To singe well upon the booke.
As Arts and Sciences were important then, so they are in the
To be skilfull in all kynd of marciall feates both on horsbacke and a foote,
and well practised in them: whiche is his cheef profession, though his
understandinge be the lesse in all other thinges.
To play well at fense upon all kinde of weapons.
Not only must the courtier know how to fight at the lists but
they should also know how to fence.
To fight at Barriers.
To sett out himself in feates of chivalrie in open showes well provided
of horse and harness, well trapped, and armed, so that he may showe himselfe
nymeble on horsbacke.
Never to be of the last that appeere in the listes at justes, or in any
When you go to the lists do so with all the honor and chivalry
that you may muster.
To have in triumphes comelie armour, bases, scarfes, trappinges, liveries,
and such other thinges of sightlie and meerie coulours, and rich to beehoulde,
wyth wittie poesies and pleasant divises, to allure unto him chefflie the
eyes of the people.
To undertake his bould feates and couragious enterprises in warr, out of
companye and in the sight of the most noble personages in the campe, and
(if it be possible) beefore his Princis eyes.
Make sure your armor is well maintained and that you comport
yourself well in combat.
Never to be sad, melancho[l]ie or solenn beefore hys Prince.
The Crown and Coronet has enough to worry about without you beleaguring
them with more problems.
His conversation with women to be alwayes gentle, sober, meeke, lowlie,
modest, serviceable, comelie, merie, not bitinge or sclaundering with jestes,
nippes, frumpes, or railinges, the honesty of any.
The gentle lord is to protect all ladies. Never let a lady carry
anything heavy, always ask if you may assist. When in the presense of the
Queen, Princess or Baroness, show them great respect. Entertain them, but
do not annoy them.
His love towarde women, not to be sensuall or fleshlie, but honest and
godly, and more ruled with reason, then appetyte: and to love better the
beawtye of the minde, then of the bodie.
Not to withdrawe his maistresse good will from his felowlover with revilinge
or railinge at him, but with vertuous deedes, and honest condicions, and
with deserving more then he, at her handes for honest affections sake.
Do not throw affections on ladies in the pretense of courtly
love. Treat ladies with the respect due to them as a noble-woman of the
OF THE CHIEF CONDITIONS AND QUALITYES
IN A WAYTYNG GENTYLWOMAN
TO be well born and of a good house.
To have a good grace in all her doinges.
Like the courtier the lady is of noble lineage. And also like
the courtier she must be graceful in everything.
Not to be haughtie, envious, yltunged, lyght, contentious nor untowardlye.
To have a sweetenesse in language and a good uttrance to entertein all
kinde of men with communication woorth the hearing, honest, applyed to
time and place and to the degree and dispostion of the person which is
her principall profession.
Not willinglie to give eare to suche as report ill of other women.
To beeware of praysinge her self undiscreatlye, and of beeing to tedious
and noysome in her talke.
No rumormongering, talking ill of others or praising of oneself.
Be gentile. Be ladylike.
To apparaile her self so, that she seeme not fonde and fantasticall.
Wear reasonable garb.
To have an understandinge in all thinges belonginge to the Courtier, that
she maye gyve her judgemente to commend and to make of gentilmen according
to their worthinesse and desertes.
Ladies, please know how your gentlemen are supposed to act and
remind them when they are being louts.
To be learned.
To be seene in the most necessarie languages.
To drawe and peinct.
To devise sportes and pastimes.
The Arts and Sciences are as important for the ladies as it is
for the men. And ladies, remember that it is not meet to take part in sports
but devise them for the gentlemen. That is what Castiglione said. Please
don't blame me.
To shape him that is oversaucie wyth her, or that hath small respecte in
hys talke, suche an answere, that he maye well understande she is offended
Do not let the gentlemen abuse you. Let a Knight or Defender
of the White Scarf know of this abuse and it will be taken care of.
To geve her lover nothing but her minde, when eyther the hatred of her
husband, or the love that he beareth to others inclineth her to love.
Ahem... hrm... What can I say here?
To showe suche a one all signes and tokens of love savynge suche as maye
put hym in anye dyshonest hope.
Do not lead the poor boys on.
The final ende whereto the Coutier applieth all his good condicions, properties,
feates and qualities, serveth also for a waiting Gentilwoman to grow in
favour with her Lady, and by that meanes so to instruct her and traine
her to vertue, that she may both refraine from vice and from committing
anye dishonest matter, and also abhorr flatterers, and give her self to
understand the full troth in every thyng, without entring into self leeking
and ignorance, either of other outward thinges, or yet of her owne self.
Act as if you are a member of the court. When this is done by
the gentlemen as well as the ladies then the Society may truly be a place
where the Dream comes alive.