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The Book of the City of Ladies

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Adam Oliver Honors Cultural Perspectives 101 Dr. Frost 21 November 2004 Renaissance Leadership During the renaissance many different views of leadership surfaced. Christine de Pizan's The Book of the City of Ladies, Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince, and William Shakespeare's Richard III each present distinct views of what would make a good leader during the renaissance period. Shakespeare and Christine de Pizan's views align most closely with Plato's. Christine de Pizan's view also aligns with Augustine's medieval view of leadership. Machiavelli's view, however, strays the farthest from Plato and Augustine. In The Book of the City of Ladies, Christine presents an allegorical city made up of great ladies from history. Allegorical characters Reason, Rectitude, and Justice guide Christine to the proper view of women by dispelling slanderous lies spread by men throughout history. As the leaders in Christine's journey, Reason, Rectitude, and Justice represent characteristics that leaders should hold. Christine establishes Reason as the foundation of great leadership by saying through Reason, "I was commissioned, in the course of our common deliberation, to supply you with durable and pure mortar to lay the sturdy foundations and to raise the large walls" (12). Rectitude represents the benevolence leadership requires as she says, "I often visit the just and exhort them to do what is right, to give to each person what is his according to his capacity, ...read more.


Most importantly, a good leader must act wisely and decisively in all situations, using all actions to extend control. These actions must promote more control for the prince. Machiavelli introduces the principle of fear being more powerful than love, saying, "Love endures by a bond which men, being scoundrels, may break whenever it serves their advantage to do so; but fear is supported by the dread of pain, which is ever present" (66). Machiavelli emphasizes that ruling by fear gives the prince the power while love gives the power to the people. Shakespeare's Richard III functions differently as it is not a treatise on leadership or a defense of women, but rather a historical play. However, Shakespeare's picture of leadership may be seen through his depiction of Richard. Richard's downfall and the hatred he invites upon himself signal Shakespeare's disapproval of the methods of leadership used by Richard. From the beginning of the play, Richard will do anything to obtain power, even adopt a manipulative persona around his family. He orchestrates his brother's imprisonment while staying in his brother's favor. His duel, manipulative character can be seen in his opening monologue as he admits his intent, "To set [his] brother Clarence and the King In deadly hate, the one against the other; And if King Edward be as true and just as I am subtle, false, and treacherous" (I, i, 34). ...read more.


Augustine's view of leadership most agrees with Christine de Pizan. Augustine favored leadership motivated by a love for God and the people. Many of Christine's leaders show such motivation, especially the many martyrs she glorifies. Supporting this idea, Augustine's ideal leadership also requires private, as well as public virtue. Christine de Pizan's leaders favor virtue over all other qualities, displaying both in private and public life. Though Shakespeare's leader comes close to resembling the Augustine ideal by supporting a leader who cares more about unifying the country than personal gain, the lack of spiritual motivation prevents true alignment. Since Machiavelli's leadership ideal promotes assuming leadership through selfish ambition, his work is completely opposite the ideal Augustine leader. Christine de Pizan, Niccollo Machiavelli, and William Shakespeare show several different forms of Renaissance leadership. Each writer expresses their version of leadership by giving examples of what a leader should and should not be. Shakespeare and Christine de Pizan's leaders most closely fit the Platonic ideal of leadership by ruling through wisdom, being reluctant to lead, and promoting the idea of true virtues over shadows of virtue. The Augustine leadership ideal, characterized by a love for God and people, most closely resembles Christine de Pizan's view as many of her leaders strive to please God in their leadership. Machiavelli's radical idea of leadership resembles neither Plato nor Augustine as it promotes seeking power through less than virtuous methods for less than noble reasons. 1 ...read more.

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