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For as long as she can remember, reading has been a big part of her life, taking her out of a sometimes harsh reality to wonderful new worlds. When she was in high school, writing became more prevalent. Many such women became so powerful socially and financially that they could be particular about the men they associated with; in other words they chose their paramour as would any other mistress, not the other way around. Wealthy benefactors would go to great lengths to court a courtesan as a prize, the ultimate goal being a long-term contract as a mistress.

Occasionally courtesans were passed from one benefactor to another, thereby resulting in them being viewed in society circles as lower than both their benefactor and those of wealth and power with whom they would socialize. Often, in instances of this sort, if the courtesan had satisfactorily served a benefactor, that benefactor would, when ending the affair, pass them on to another benefactor of wealth as a favor to the courtesan, or set them up in an arranged marriage to a semi-wealthy benefactor.

In the event that the courtesan had angered or dissatisfied a benefactor, they would often find themselves cast out of wealthy circles, returning more often than not to street prostitution.


They were more respected by their extramarital companions, both placing one another's family obligations ahead of the relationship and planning their own liaisons or social engagements around the lovers' marital obligations. Affairs of this sort would often be short-lived, ending when either the courtesan or the courtesan's spouse received the status or political position desired, or when the benefactor chose the company of another courtesan, and compensated the former companion financially.

In instances like this, it was often viewed simply as a business agreement by both parties involved. The benefactor was aware of the political or social favors expected by the courtesan, the courtesan was aware of the price expected from them for those favors being carried out, and the two met one another's demands, an example being Madame de Pompadour. This was generally a safe affair, as both the benefactor's spouse and the courtesan's spouse usually were fully aware of the arrangement, and the courtesan was not solely dependent on the benefactor.

It, rather, was simply an affair of benefits gained for both those involved. Publicly and socially, affairs of this sort were common during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, as well as the early 20th century, and were generally accepted in wealthy circles.

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  6. Very often, courtesans would betray one another in acts of political intrigue in attempts to climb into higher positions of power within royal courts. There are many cases throughout history where one courtesan would attempt sometimes successfully to supplant the mistress to a king or emperor. This was typically preceded by her discrediting the ruler's companion, often by divulging secrets that could lead to her rival being cast aside and replaced by her. However, this was a delicate process, and if a courtesan of "lower status" attempted to replace a courtesan who wielded a substantial amount of power within the court, it would often result in the lower courtesan being exiled from the royal court, or married off to a lesser noble in an arranged marriage, or even murdered.

    There are also many examples of courtesans who took advantage of their involvement with powerful individuals. In later centuries, from the midth century on, courtesans would often find themselves cast aside by their benefactors, but the days of public execution or imprisonment based on their promiscuous lifestyle were over. There are many examples of courtesans who, by remaining discreet and respectful to their benefactors, were able to extend their careers into or past middle age and retire financially secure; Catherine Walters is a good example. By the late 19th century, and for a brief period in the early 20th century, courtesans had reached a level of social acceptance in many circles and settings, often even to the extent of becoming a friend and confidant to the wife of their benefactor.

    More often than not, a woman serving as a courtesan would last in that field only as long as she could prove herself useful to her companion, or companions. This, of course, excludes those who served as courtesans but who were already married into high society. When referring to those who made their service as a courtesan as their main source of income, success was based solely on financial management and longevity.

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    Many climbed through the ranks of royalty, serving as mistress to lesser nobles first, eventually reaching the role of mistress to a king or prince. Others were able to obtain such a high position early on, but few lasted long, and after serving a prince or king there was nowhere to go but down. Pietro Aretino , an Italian Renaissance writer, wrote a series of dialogues Capricciosi ragionamenti in which a mother teaches her daughter what options are available to women and how to be an effective courtesan.

    Emile Zola likewise wrote a novel, Nana , about a courtesan in nineteenth-century France. In addition to the list above, the term "courtesan" has often been used in a political context in an attempt to damage the reputation of a powerful woman, or disparage her importance.

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    Because of this, there is still much historical debate over whether certain women in history can be referred to as courtesans. For example, the title was applied to the Byzantine empress Theodora , who had started life as an erotic actress but later became the wife of the Emperor Justinian and, after her death, an Orthodox saint. The attempt to define such women as courtesans is often intended to draw attention to certain perceived qualities, ambitions or conduct which are held to be courtesan-like.

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    For other uses, see Courtesan disambiguation. Polygamy Polyandry Polygyny. Cicisbeo Concubinage Courtesan Mistress. Breakup Separation Annulment Divorce Widowhood.

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    Emotions and feelings. This article includes a list of references , but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. September Learn how and when to remove this template message. Oxford English Dictionary.