The Decameron Study Guide

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The Decameron


1) Love, Fortune, Ingenuity

These three forces are at work throughout the entire book. Love is closely alligned with desire or the natural, while Ingenuity is the work of men. Often there is a struggle between these two forces in each story. The representation of Fortune in the text is very close to that of Chance. Fortune comes along an messes everything up. It can never be predicted and it can conveniently explain anything unfortunate. Fortune always makes the stories more unpredictable. The battle between Love and Ingenuity can also be looked at from the perspective of Nature verse Society.

2) The Catholic Clergy and Women

Boccaccio is very critical of the present Catholic Clergy and Dogma. He is very careful not to show preference for one religion over another. Furthermore he even includes stories that are critical of catholicism. His social attitude towards Women even reflects his ideas. During the time period the church still suported Eve’s sin and women’s general wickedness. He clearly does not follow that ideology

3) Boccaccio vs. Dante

Boccaccio had read Dante’s work and considered Dante as one of his role models. Throughout the book it is important to look for connections between the two works, as Boccaccio always has Dante’s work in mind.

DioneomaleA lover, who loves to please women
EmiliafemaleShe first only writes of nobles and then includes peasents and clergy members Fiammettafemalenarcissist
Filomenafemalevery assertive- cleaver stories
Filostratomaletales of sex
Laurettafemalename means justice ad stories are filled with it Neifilefemaleassertive and favors authority
Pampineafemaleoldest and wisest woman- her idea to come to the countryside- queen for first day Panfilomalelover of all


Introduces the theme of pity and the necessity of it in the time of the plague. “To take pity on people in ditress is a human quality which every man and woman should possess, but it is especially requisite in those who have once needed comfort, and found it in others.”- also emotion plays a larger role than we have seen before. Introduction-

The background of the plague is given along with the horrors associated with a world which can turn on its members so quickly and with so little guiding the survival of any member of society but luck. Then the trip to the countryside is outlined and the rules for the story telling is given (it is decided that they should have fun since the escaped the sorrows of the city). Day I:

Story I: In this story the man called Ser Cepperello, who is a friar, gives a false confession and then dies. He, however becomes a saint in death. This can be compared to Dante, as Boccaccio was in love with Dante and references him often. Story 2: This story concerns Abraham, a Jew, who’s faith is challenged by Jehannot. Abraham subsequently takes a trip to Rome where he experiences the corruption of the Clergy. He then returns to Paris and becomes a Christian. Story 3: this is another story concerned with religion. Melchizedek is also a Jew. He has stories concerning three rings. Saladin attempts to trick but Melchizedek avoids the trap. This shows how Boccaccio values cunningness as a quality. Day II:

Story 7: The daughter of the Sultan of Babylon is sent off to become the wife of the King of Algarve. She, however, passes through the hands of nine men over four years in several different locations. After being returned to her father as a virgin she is sent off again in attempt to marry the King of Algarve. Story 8: the count of Antwerp is forced to go into exile about being falsely accused of several obscenities including ravishing the women accusing him. He returns only to find his family well. He becomes a groom in the French army and then after establishing his innocence, is returned to his former position. Story 9: this story...
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