• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Boccaccio's Decameron

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Boccaccio's Decameron Boccaccio's The Decameron is today acknowledged as a masterpiece of medieval literature, and its influence can be seen in the work of other great writers such as Chaucer and Shakespeare. Yet, the intellectual elite of his time rejected his masterpiece when it was first published, overlooking his wit and ingenuity and choosing instead to decry his lack of etiquette and political correctness. Clearly, he was prepared against just such attacks, for throughout his work he cleverly weaves in his defense against would-be detractors, using the narrative frames of himself in both the first and the third person points of view. In the Prologue, Boccaccio the author makes plain his ostensible purpose for writing - having survived a bout of lovesickness thanks to the encouragement of his friends, he now hopes to provide women afflicted by the same curse a diversion from their melancholy in the form of stories. This lovesickness is quickly juxtaposed with the image of the dreadfulness of the Black Death in the author's Introduction. Here, he sets the background of his tale in a time of which horrors would still be very much alive in the memories of his readers, and hence framing the extenuating circumstances for the ribaldry and impiousness that is to follow. Indeed, "in the face of so much affliction and misery, all respect for the laws of God and man had virtually broken down and been extinguished", and out of necessity, standards of sexual propriety had also fallen (Boccaccio 7-9). ...read more.

Middle

The first story of Day Six is meant to illustrate to the reader what exactly he thinks about storytelling. He likens it to the gentlemanly arts of swordplay and riding. He shows how it is neither the content nor details of a story that matter, but rather how it is told. In this, he answers the critics who accused him of plagiarizing ideas from other well-known tales at that time or fault his recollection. The knight in the story possessed a tale which was "in itself...indeed excellent" (Boccaccio 447), but due to his poor delivery he makes a mess of his tale, and his unfortunate listener Madame Oretta is comically portrayed as falling ill, testament to the harm that a badly spun yarn can cause. The crux of the entire story, however, lies in her timely comment to the knight which saves her from further agony. She says to him, "Sir, you have taken me riding on a horse that trots very jerkily. Pray be good enough to set me down." (Boccaccio 447). The sexual reference here is unmistakable. Boccaccio is equating the art of storytelling to that of lovemaking. In that light, would not the young, unmarried women to whom he is addressing the book be able to savor that sensual pleasure vicariously by reading his stories? Bawdry though they might be, if the stories fulfill the function of helping to satiate the reader's appetite for sex and prevent worse sins like fornication, perhaps the Church should not be so opposed to it. ...read more.

Conclusion

He presents the different narrative layers as if he had no hand in the stories at all, " I could only transcribe the stories as they were actually told...even if one could assume that I was the inventor as well as the scribe of these stories (which was not the case)..." (Boccaccio 800). Last but not least, he emphasizes that once the storyteller has fulfilled his duty to entertain, the story is merely what the listener wishes to make out of it, for "like all other things in the world, stories, whatever their nature, may be harmful or useful, depending upon the listener" (Boccaccio 799). Ultimately, the critical reader must heed what Boccaccio has written in the Prologue, and "learn to recognize what should be avoided and likewise what should be pursued" (Boccaccio 3). His stories "will not run after anyone demanding to be read" (Boccaccio 800). The reader who has read this far has no right to be outraged by his lack of modesty, for he has always had the option of turning away. By delighting in the tales enough to read the entire book to its conclusion, the reader has become complicit in the crime. Boccaccio has negated his responsibility to uphold morality due to the sheer nature of his job as a storyteller. The clergy and others who would have had reason to condemn the book have been caught wrong-footed and cast in a bad light by the genius of Boccaccio once again - only this time, it is happening in real life. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Geoffrey Chaucer section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Geoffrey Chaucer essays

  1. Compare and contrast Shakespeare and Defoe's presentations of the characters of Robinson Crusoe and ...

    However, no matter how Defoe presents Crusoe's power and wealth in solitude, the author makes it clear that Crusoe's omnipotence is meaningless as he is effectively only ruler of himself. Crusoe recognizes his need for another to represent the lower classes, and/or slavery in his imperialistic 'empire'.

  2. Colonial literature from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries has made a large impact on ...

    In the Age of Reason reaching moral perfection was a reasonable idea that would better society. It secularized the Puritan values making moral perfection a more rational idea rather than religious. The belief in divine mission is also a characteristic of Colonial literature.

  1. Define the terms symbol and imagery, and analyze how each of the stories uses ...

    Ultimately, at the time of Miss Emily's death, the house is seen by the townspeople as "an eyesore among eyesores" (74), and Miss Emily is perceived as a "fallen monument" (78). Both are lifeless and empty. Maybe even more significant is comparison of Emily's unwillingness to change and the appearance of the Grierson's house.

  2. 'It is possible to defend the idea that Satan is the true hero of ...

    as the Satan in us enables us to receive it' - C.S. Lewis]. Satan's victory speech to his followers in Hell is meant to represent his authority, i.e. how he perceives himself and his heroic status. His version of events is a distorted perspective because a biased viewpoint is presented.

  1. Sympathy for the betrayers and the betrayed. Cresseid and Madame Bovary are dissimilar ...

    Not only does Cresseid receive a gruesome affliction, the reader is also left with the feeling that her punishment is undeserved. The reason for her sentence is blasphemy, since 'whoever blasphemes... all Gods offer insults.' Betrayal is heavily frequented with profanities such as 'Good God', yet nothing results.

  2. Free essay

    Select a Specific Incident in The Aspern Papers that you believe to be a ...

    for him in order of him to get the papers so he was expecting her to come into the room. At the beginning he was just expecting the meeting between him and Miss Tina but then thought that she might have been asleep so then in his thoughts: 'I had

  1. Henry James referred to TTOTS as a potboiler. In light of this comment, explore ...

    We learn that about the Governess, moreover, we learn Douglas? opinion of her. ?Is in old faded ink and in the most beautiful hand?. From this we can interpret that Douglas? may be fond or possibly in love with the Governess making his opinion biased thus taking away from the reliability of the story.

  2. When Im bad, I am bad In the light of this comment, discuss ...

    But when she sees Miles on the grounds of Bly she panics because not only is he all alone without anyone supervising him, he is also looking above the window Flora is looking out so the governess believes he is contacting Quint.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work