“The Decameron” in translation means the book of ten days and its composed out of hundred novels with different themes and content. The plot is divided into ten days and all the novels are linked by the plague which happened in Florence in 1348.
“The Decameron” can be perceived as the start of the European prose. The themes are numerous as well as the sources, ideas and plot twists. Through the story, we have an insight into the everyday life of those times, the legends and the folk’s tales that came into Europe during the Crusade. Author has proven himself to be very familiar with the Ancient literature.
Through the story, he reveals his opinion, the vices of his time. He also mocks ignorance, primitivism, superstitions, priests’, nobleman’s and government’s hypocrisy. Also through the stories lies, hypocrisy, conservatism are mocked.
The narrating is dynamic without redundant details which give the stories authenticity and life. Considering the time in which this book was written, its style is open and simple. In those times love thematic wasn’t very often. Boccaccio approached love from a common man point of view on a simple, interesting and slightly comic way. He showed people for what they are and doesn’t care for breaking the Church’s norms. He even described physical love not minding the taboos of his times with style which causes envy today.
Boccaccio showed the medieval man who lives before his time. He didn’t care about the judgments and wrote about people who have souls and his descriptions people and their souls don’t always live in a symbiosis.
Many different, unusual characters make the work that more interesting next to all the unexpected plot twists and they encourage the readers to give their own judgment about different topics and problems presented in the book.
Genre: book of novels
Theme: stories narrated by different people during the plague in Florence
Idea: Everyone has a right to be happy and free and show his emotions. The author reveals his opinions, mocks his society and primitivism. It’s not alright to follow other people’s life patterns and live by someone else’s rules. Everyone has the right to live his life how he wants.
The plot revolves around seven girls and three young men who decide to run away from Florence and the plague. They end up in a nearby estate. Before going to the estate they meet in the Church Santa Maria Novella and get to an agreement to dedicate themselves to joy and fun despite the death ruling the town.
The girl is between eighteen and twenty-eight years old while all the men are over twenty-five. Their names are Pampinea, Filostrato, Fiammetta, Elissa, Dioneo, Lauretta, Emilia, Panfilo, Filomena, Neifile.
On Wednesday they went on a journey with their servants to the castle nearby Florence. They stayed there for two weeks and narrated stories for ten days because Friday and Saturday were rest days.
The reasons for not narrating those days were stated by one of the girl at the end of the second day. They would skip Friday because it was the day of Jesus Christ’s torture so they thought it would be best to spend that day resting and they skipped over Saturday because that was the day Virgin Mary washed her hair so they would spend that day fasting in her honor and preparing for Sunday.
They’ve spend their times narrating stories to entertain themselves and make the time fly by faster. Every day a queen or a king would be chosen and they had the honor of picking a theme for that day and tell a story based on it.
Every day ten stories were narrated (everyone told one per day) and in the end, they told a hundred stories.
Their themes were very different but linked by the same principle of a free renaissance spirit. They are open, judge judgments and are critical .They glorified courage and wisdom.
Two main problems dominate through the stories, and they are wisdom or intelligence and love. The themes are also fortune related, for example on the second day they narrate about fickle fortune.
The third and fourth day they talk about love desires and tragic love stories. The fifth day they talked about the strength of love and its capability to conquer all while the sixth day they talked about witty and humorous responses. The seventh day was about female wisdom and resourcefulness and they mocked human stupidity and people worried about judgments and jealousy on the eight days. They didn’t have a special theme for the ninth day so everyone can tell the story they want to. The tenth day was about nobility and great actions.
All the stories have in common that they start with the choosing and announcement of the theme and after telling the story comes a conclusion. Also, all the stories have a lesson in the end which glorifies the renaissance spirit, freedom, right to happiness, spiritual and physical freedom and open show of emotions. The whole book is filled with a young, curious and joyous spirit.
Characters: Pampinea, Filostrato, Fiammetta, Elissa, Dioneo, Lauretta, Emilia, Panfilo, Filomena, Neifile
Through a great number of characters and their stories, the author gives us his moral lessons learned in his time. The young men and women narrate their stories, give their opinions and so the characters and the events lose on importance. Moral lessons are most important and, according to Boccaccio, essential to the plots. The author doesn’t care much about describing his characters, but he does care about the message they convey.
The characters belong to different social classes, so they are a perfect representation of diversity in dealing and understanding everyday life and problems.
The characters are shown differently starting from the kings, peasants, beggars, conmen, and knights all the way to nobility, popes, and priests. They all appear in sometimes serious and sometimes humorous situations.
Giovanni Boccaccio Biography
Giovanni Boccaccio was an Italian author who wrote during Renaissance. He was born in 1313 in Paris to a salesman from Florence Boccaccio and a French noblewoman.
His father brought him to Florence where he planned on continuing his work and because of that, he sent Boccaccio to Naples in 1325 so he could get the necessary education in banking to be able to take on his father’s business.
He rejected his father’s proposal, left law school and enjoyed a lifestyle more involved in art. He also started writing and disappoints his father even more.
His first works came to life in Florence and they were: “Filocolo” and novels in verses “Teseida” and “Filostrato”.
In 1340 his father had a financial breakdown which meant the end of the life as he knew it because he was cut off from his financial resources. He was forced to come to Florence where he became a diplomat. During his work, he never stopped writing and he became an esteemed author.
He also published “Ninfale Fiesolano”, “Ninfale d’Ameto”, a love novel “Elegia di Madonna Fiammetta” and many scientific works in Latin. He was also so infatuated with Dante that he decided to write his biography and a comment on the 17th canto of “The Divine Comedy”.
In 1348 plague came to Florence and he lost his father. The plague was his inspiration for “The Decameron” which made him famous worldwide. This book has a hundred novels, and they are filled with optimism.
In 1362 he went through a spiritual crisis and even thought about giving up on writing. He thought about death more often and he became more introverted. Boccaccio died in 1375 in Certaldo.