Miniature by Taddeo Crivelli in a manuscript of c. To pass the evenings, each member of the party tells a story each night, except for one day per week for chores, and the holy days during which they do no work at all, resulting in ten nights of storytelling over the course of two weeks. Thus, by the end of the fortnight they have told stories. Each of the ten characters is charged as King or Queen of the company for one of the ten days in turn.
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It was probably in the years —53 that Boccaccio composed the Decameron in the form in which it is read today. As the frame narrative opens, 10 young people seven women and three men flee plague-stricken Florence to a delightful villa in nearby Fiesole. Each rules for a day and sets stipulations for the daily tales to be told by all participants, resulting in a collection of pieces.
Each daily collection of stories takes a different tone or theme. Day 1 consists of a witty discussion of human vices. On Day 2, fortune triumphs over its human playthings, but it is trounced by human will on Day 3. Day 4 is marked by tragic love stories. Day 5 brings happy endings to love that does not at first run smoothly. Wit and gaiety again reign on Day 6. Trickery, deceit, and often bawdy license run free on Days 7, 8, and 9.
It is generally acknowledged that Boccaccio borrowed many of the stories from folklore and myth , but the exquisite writing and sophisticated structure of the work make clear that its author was no mere anthologist. His prose influenced many Renaissance writers, and his tales themselves have been borrowed for centuries.
While some critics attacked the work as vulgar and cynical , the author maintained an affirmation of moral values throughout even the most licentious passages. In its breadth of treatment of contemporary urban society—from humorous to tragic—as well as in its humanism and its swift and vivid narrative, it remained in the 21st century a remarkably fresh and penetrating document.
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Decameron – Giovanni Boccaccio
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