Friday, July 8, 2011

Book Review of The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio

Name of Book: The Decameron

Author Name: Giovanni Boccaccio

ISBN: 0-14-044-269-3

Publisher: Penguin Classics

Type of book: Adult, historical, anthology, classic

Year it was published: 1350s? (Penguin Edition 1972)


The Decameron, here presented entire and unexpurgated in a new translation, remains one of the supreme monuments of world literature. The Black Death of 1348 lends a macabre setting to the hundred stories which are supposed to be recounted, during ten days, by a party of wealthy young patricians taking refuge in a villa outside Florence. With equal felicity they range over comedy and tragedy, morality and bawdy; and the skill with which Boccaccio matches the style and mood of his prose narrative to the tales and their tellers is as astonishing as the variety of a collections which has often been imitated but never bettered.

I have many favorite tales from the book I fell in love with and enjoyed. My favorite one in particular was "devil in hell" (Day 3, story 10) story. I also loved first day stories, second and third day stories as well. I think for me it went downhill perhaps after third or fourth or fifth day, I forget. I stopped laughing because the stories seemed same old same old. The ten narrators, besides Filostrato and Dioneo are difficult to distinguish from one another and as mentioned in some reviews, I do wish he would give us more information about them than just the stories.


Figuring out the theme is different because its not a single novel but its an anthology so to speak. Most of the themes deal with love, and (un)requited love between the forbidden couple.


This is very tell and show type of stories, but despite the ten narrators the stories are interesting and varied with different characters. There are a few that get repeated, but I feel that its not necessary to know all the characters in it. The first half of the book is laugh out loud funny as well as shocking. Unfortunately the latter half is not very good and same old tales get old. (He must have at least 80 if not more married woman falling in love with unmarried man and vice versa. Why be married at all if that's the main couple?)

Author Information:

From book: "Giovanni Boccaccio was born in 1313, either in Florence or Cetaldo. His father, a prosperous merchant banker with the Compagnia dei Bardi, entertained notions of his son following in his footsteps, and between the years 1325-8 sent his son to Naples to learn the trade; he himself moved there in 1327 when he was appointed general manager of the Neapolitan branch. When he realized that Boccaccio had no vocation for banking he arranged for him to study canon law. This was equally unsuccessful and father a few years Boccaccio gave up his legal studies and devoted his time to literature. At this period Naples, under the Angevin king, Robert of Anjou, was one of the major intellectual and cultural centres of Italy. TO judge from references in his Latin Epistles, Boccaccio considered this the happiest period of his life. For political and economical reasons he was forced to return to Florence in 1341. His experiences during the Black Death (1347-9) are recorded in the introduction to the Decameron, and when he met Petrarch in 1350 he had probably begun work on it. He had already gained a reputation as a man of letters in Florence, and the government sent him on several minor missions. In 1354 and 1365 he was sent to the Papal Court at Avignon, and in 1367 to Rome in order to congratulate Urban V on the rturn of the papacy from the Babylonian Captivity. He revisited Naples twice in 1355 and 1362: but each time he came away saddened, unable to recapture his lost youth. He moved to Certaldo and spent the last thirteen years of his life there, dying in 1375, about nine months after Petrach. Boccaccio wrote several other works, including Elegia di madonna Fiammetta, described as 'the first modern psycholoical novel.'"


I really had a difficult time deciding on the rating of this book. On one hand I loved the first half of the stories for as promised they were shocking, unbelievable and something you wouldn't think of associating with the "god fearing clean Medieval works". But after a while, well everything gets same old same old doesn't it? Unfortunately in teh latter half, the stories became boring and I chuckled a few times, while in the first half I laughed non-stop, always eager to move to another story. I first heard of the book many years ago, and read some funny stories in Norton World Anthology for homework. When I heard the premise of the book, I immediately thought it was Edgar Allan Poe's work. (Forgot name of story, something about Crimson Death invading and killing everyone...) the book however, despite the dark time, was written well lightly. This also struck me as sort of a parody. (In literature back then, there was a constant man falling in love with the married woman.) In his stories, the women fell in love with the men back (for the most part,) yet they gave themselves pleasure from it. These stories are shocking but at the same most of them will really cause you to think and perhaps have a change of beliefs.

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)


  1. Great, detailed review! I hope you don't mind me linking it from my own Decameron review post :)

  2. Have been working on this book for over two years.


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