Decameron

Front Cover
Wordsworth Editions, 2004 - 766 pages
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A new version of John Payne's Victorian translation, with an Introduction by Cormac O Cuilleanain.

1348. The Black Death is sweeping through Europe. In Florence, plague has carried off one hundred thousand people. In their Tuscan villas, seven young women and three young men tell tales to recreate the world they have lost, weaving a rich tapestry of comedy, tragedy, ribaldry and farce.

Boccaccio's Decameron recasts the storytelling heritage of the ancient and medieval worlds into perennial forms that inspired writers from Chaucer and Shakespeare down to our own day. Boccaccio makes the incredible believable, with detail so sharp we can look straight into the lives of people who lived six hundred years ago. His Decameron hovers between the fading glories of an aristocratic past - the Crusades, the Angevins, the courts of France, the legendary East - and the colourful squalor of contemporary life, where wives deceive husbands, friars and monks pursue fleshly ends, and natural instincts fight for satisfaction.

Here are love and jealousy, passion and pride - and a shrewd calculation of profit and loss which heralds the rise of a dynamic merchant class. These stories show us early capitalism during a moment of crisis and revelation.

 

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Contents

The Editors Introduction
xi
The Authors Preface i
lxx
Cimone kidnaps Efigenia 3 50
3
No set theme Introduction
5
Saint Ciappellettos Last Confession
24
Abraham goes to Rome
37
Saladin and the Jew
42
The monk the abbot and the girl
45
Pietro Boccamaza and the robbers
367
A nightingale sings
374
A daughter lost and found
380
Gian di Procida saved from burning
386
Teodoro and Violante
392
Nastagio degli Onesti and the ghost
399
Federigos falcon
405
Pietro and his wife have a friend for supper
411

The King of France and the Marquise
49
The simple man and the Inquisitor
52
Bergamino cures Can Grande of avarice
55
Guglielmo Borsiere shames Erminio dei Grimaldi
60
The King of Cyprus is stung into action
63
Alberto of Bologna and the young lady
65
Conclusion
68
Martellino pretends to be crippled
74
Rinaldo dAsti is lodged for the night
79
Alessandro and the Kings daughter
86
Landolfo Rufolos shipwreck
95
Andreuccio goes to Naples
100
Madama Beritola marooned
113
Alatiel the Sultans daughter
126
The Count of Antwerp and his children
146
The wife of Bernabo vindicates her good name
161
The judges wife and the pirate
173
Conclusion
179
Masetto the gardener and the nine nuns
186
King Agilulf his wife and the stableboy
193
Confessions of a lady in love
199
A monk teaches Puccio the way to salvation
208
Zimas dialogue with a silent woman
214
Mistaken identities in a bathhouse
220
Tedaldo disguised as a pilgrim
228
Ferondos visit to Purgatory
244
Gillette wins her husband
254
Rustico teaches Alibech how to put the devil in Hell
263
Conclusion
268
a tragedy 4 Gerbinos crime and execution 5 Lisabetta and the pot of basil 6 The death of Gabriotto
274
An anaesthetic farce Conclusion
343
3i6 323 327 333 337
346
Gostanza and Martuccio
361
Conclusion
419
How not to tell a story
426
A tasting of wine and wit
428
A bishop paid in his own coin
432
Why cranes only have one leg
434
Forese and Giotto exchange compliments
437
Why the Baronci are the worlds noblest family
440
Madonna Filippa conducts her own defence
443
Vanity rebuked
446
Guido Cavalcanti puts some young men in their place
448
Cipolla preaches a sermon
451
Conclusion
459
Gianni Lotteringhi and the phantom
467
Scraping the barrel
472
Friar Rinaldo the exorcist
477
Monna Tessa cures Tofano of his jealousy
483
Ciaccos revenge on Biondello
658
Solomon advises on love and wifebeating
662
Father Gianni tries to turn his friends wife into a horse
667
Conclusion
670
The King of Spain rewards a knight
674
Ghino di Tacco captures the Abbot of Cluny
677
Nathan cures Mithridanes of envy
682
Gentile de Carisendi finds love in a tomb
689
Madonna Dianora Messer Ansaldo and the magical garden
696
Old King Charles refrains from seizing two fifteenyearold girls
701
King Pedro of Aragon assuages the passion of a young girl
707
The extraordinary friendship of Titus and Gisippus
714
Saladin rewards Torellos hospitality
731
Patient Griselda
748
Conclusion
759
The Authors Conclusion
762
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About the author (2004)

Although Giovanni Boccaccio was born in France and raised and educated in Naples, where he wrote his first works under the patronage of the French Angevin ruler, Boccaccio always considered himself a Tuscan, like Petrarch and Dante. After Boccaccio returned to Florence in 1340, he witnessed the outbreak of the great plague, or Black Death, in 1348. This provided the setting for his most famous work, the vernacular prose masterpiece Il Decamerone (Decameron) (1353). This collection of 100 short stories, told by 10 Florentines who leave plague-infected Florence for the neighboring hill town of Fiesole, is clear evidence of the beginning of the Renaissance in Italy. The highly finished work exerted a tremendous influence on Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dryden, Keats, and Tennyson even as it established itself as the great classic of Italian fictional prose. Although Chaucer did not mention Boccaccio's name, his Canterbury Tales are clearly modeled on the Decameron. Boccaccio's other important works are a short life of Dante and commentaries on the Divine Comedy; Filocolo (1340) a prose romance; Filostrato (1335), a poem on Troilus and Cressida; and Theseus (1340-41), a poem dealing with the story of Theseus, Palamon, and Arcite. Boccassio's only attempt at writing an epic was a work that Chaucer rendered as his "Knight's Tale." Boccaccio's last work written in Italian was the gloomy, cautionary tale titled The Corbaccio (1355). The Nymph Song (1346), as a counterpiece for the Decameron, demonstrates that it is possible to read the Decameron as an allegory, with the plague representing the spiritual plague of medieval Christianity, viewed from the vantage point of Renaissance humanism. Many of the Decameron tales are indeed paganized versions of medieval sermons about sin and damnation with the morals reversed. After 1363 Boccaccio concentrated on trying to gain enduring fame by writing, in Latin, a series of lives of memorable men and women and a genealogy of the pagan gods. Boccaccio died in 1375.

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