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The Decameron

Related: Giovanni Boccaccio - 1300s - Italian literature - Middle Ages - Pasolini - Western canon


The Decameron is a collection of novellas that was finished by Giovanni Boccaccio (1313 - 1375) in 1353. To establish the frame narrative or frame tale for the book, Boccaccio begins his work with a description of the Bubonic Plague (specifically the epidemic which hit Florence in 1348, see Black Death) and leads into an introduction of a group of seven young women and three young men who flee from Plague-ridden Florence to a villa outside of Naples. To pass the time, each member of the party tells one story for each one of the ten nights spent at the villa. In this manner, 100 stories are told by the end of the ten days.

Furthermore, each of the ten characters is charged as ruler of the company for one of the ten days in turn. This charge extends to dictating the content of the stories for that day, so that there is a very loose organization to the tales (although adherence to this concept is not very strict). The themes range from "stories of bad luck unexpectedly changed to happiness" (day two, under Filomena) to the considerably more interesting "stories of deceptions women have played on their husbands" (day seven, under the rule of Dioneo). Each day also includes a short introduction and conclusion to continue the frame of the tales by describing other daily activities besides story-telling. These frame tale interludes frequently include transcriptions of Italian folk songs.

The Decameron (ca. 1351) - Giovanni Boccaccio

  1. The Decameron (ca. 1351) - Giovanni Boccaccio [Amazon.com]
    This fourteenth-century Italian book, which inspired Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Balzac, remains one of the most enjoyable anthologies of short stories ever written. Some young unmarried nobles, the "beautiful people" of the age, decide to wait out the Florentine plague in their country estates, amusing each other every evening with earthy stories, some outright bawdy, others pointing to a moral. Nine capable Brits represent the storytellers in Naxos's sampling of a graceful, uncredited translation. Well-chosen music adds to the atmosphere. Y.R. AudioFile 2001, Portland, Maine-- Copyright AudioFile, Portland, Maine

    Book Description
    The Decameron (c.1351) is an entertaining series of one hundred stories written in the wake of the Black Death. The stories are told in a country villa outside the city of Florence by ten young noble men and women who are seeking to escape the ravages of the plague. Boccaccio's skill as a dramatist is masterfully displayed in these vivid portraits of people from all stations in life, with plots that revel in a bewildering variety of human reactions.

Scenes from the Decameron were fairly popular subjects for Renaissance painters such as Titian. In 1970, Pier Paolo Pasolini made a film based on some of the stories. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Decameron [Aug 2004]

The Decameron (1970) - Pier Paolo Pasolini

The first (and best known) of the director's "erotic trilogy", based on the stories of Boccaccio. Many hilarious and memorable segments. The film has the feeling of a painting come alive, full of color, comedy, seriousness, horror, and lots of sex.

The Decameron was the first of director Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Trilogy of Life." The film, based on the sexually supercharged tales of Boccaccio, is a patchwork of many of Pasolini's favorite themes, with a surprising endorsement of heterosexuality-- specifically female heterosexuality--included in the proceedings. Pasolini himself plays the role of an aspiring fresco painter who is advised that his completed work will never be as satisfying as his dream of that work. Not one to make his films accessible to a general audience, Pasolini nonetheless enjoyed a positive public response to The Decameron (a response due more to the film's raw eroticism than the public's grasp of Pasolini's messages). - ForeignFilms.com

  • The Decameron (1970) - Pier Paolo Pasolini [Amazon.com]
    A collection of bawdy tales from Boccaccio, adapted and directed by the taboo-busting Pier Paolo Pasolini--sounds irresistible, doesn't it? Pasolini approaches the material not like a literary classic to be reverently served, but rather as if the various anecdotes were episodes from scruffy, everyday life in medieval Italy, caught on the fly, like neighborhood gossip recounted in a taverna. The film is black-sheep kin to the director's amateur-theatrical take on Scripture, The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964); both films abound in earthy settings framing vivid faces that might have gazed out of a Renaissance painting. Yet where Gospel was searing, The Decameron is perfunctory. Most of the stories dribble away absentmindedly before they've even begun to establish a situation, let alone any tension. Pasolini himself reappears periodically as an artist--Giotto--planning an epic cathedral painting. At the end, he's still thinking about it and wondering, "Maybe it's enough to dream a masterpiece rather than paint it." Which seems a handy copout for not really making the film we've been trying to watch. --Richard T. Jameson,Amazon.com

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