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Giovanni Boccaccio (1313 –1375) was an Italian author and poet, a friend, student, and correspondent of Petrarch, an important Renaissance humanist and the author of a number of notable works including the Decameron, On Famous Women, and his poetry in the Italian vernacular. Boccaccio is particularly notable for his dialogue, of which it has been said that it surpasses in verisimilitude that of virtually all of his contemporaries, since they were medieval writers and often followed formulaic models for character and plot. In essence, he was one of the first authors to depart from the old way and venture into new forms of writing that would come to shape renowned Renaissance writers like Dante and Niccolo Machiavelli.
The Decameron is a collection of 100 novellas that Boccaccio probably began writing around 1350 and finished between 1351-1353. It is a medieval allegorical work best known for its bawdy tales of love, appearing in all its possibilities from the erotic to the tragic. Other topics such as wit and witticism, practical jokes and worldly initiation also form part of the mosaic. Beyond its entertainment and literary popularity it remains an important historical document of life in the fourteenth century, and it was very influential with later authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer.
This edition of The Decameron is specially formatted with a Table of Contents.
In time for Giovanni Boccaccio's 700th birthday, Wayne A. Rebhorn, professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin and translator of The Prince and Other Writings by Machiavelli, has provided a strikingly modern translation of Boccaccio's medieval Italian classic. Fleeing Florence and the plague of 1348, 10 young men and women retreat to a country estate, "surrounded by meadows and marvelous gardens," where they spend their days in leisure while the Black Death ravages the city. To fill their time, and affirm life in the face of death, they tell stories: on each of 10 days, every character spins a tale on a theme. Thus, there are 100 stories in total, which range in tone from tragic to triumphant and from pious to bawdy, and which serve as monuments to the rich medieval life and society that the plague was to fundamentally alter. Rebhorn's translation is eminently readable and devoid of the stilted, antiquated speech associated with the classics. Indeed, at times the translator's rendering of Boccaccio's Italian into contemporary idiomatic American English feels jarring: "my cheesy-weesy, sweet honeybun of a wife." But on the whole, his translation's accessibility allows for the timeless humanity of the work to shine through. The Decameron affords a fascinating view into the lost world of late-medieval Italy, and the variety and volume of tales offers us a refuge and relief from the tragedies that haunt our own world.