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The Decameron by Boccacio 
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Post Re: The Decameron by Boccacio
I'd say yes, because The Decameron has been translated into English, but most versions of The Canterbury Tales have not. I think most of the problems people have with The Canterbury Tales are related to reading a virtually foreign language.

I'm certainly not an authority, and I'm only up to the fifth story out of 100 so far. But they are entertaining and clever stories, and show traits that people still exhibit today, 660 years later.


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Fri Nov 19, 2010 10:43 am
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Post Re: The Decameron by Boccacio
As I get deeper into the tales of the first day, I’m beginning to see that the clergy provide a frequent bulls-eye for the storytellers, so I guess my initial impression about hypocrisy among those closely connected to the church was correct. In fact, the ease of hitting ‘sitting targets’ such as the clergy is mentioned in the course of telling one of the later stories on the first day. Wealthy bankers and merchants are also lampooned, just as Wall Street takes its shots today, but they don’t get nearly as much attention as the clergy.

I still think, as I near the end of the first day’s ten stories, that most of them are quite entertaining. That naturally implies that some of them are not. I understand now, in doing a little research on the internet, that there are actually editions of Decameron available which suggest which stories might be skipped over by someone who doesn’t want to read them all. I’ll still try them all, because I don’t always agree with assessments like that made by others. I might ease up on the pace, though, and maybe even start reading something else in parallel, because it will take a while to plow through all 100 stories.

I’m going on radio silence for a while as I think I’m hogging the discussion.


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Last edited by DickZ on Sat Nov 20, 2010 7:26 am, edited 2 times in total.



Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:53 pm
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Post Re: The Decameron by Boccacio
Hi, DickZ. I've been noticing the discussion of The Decameron and would like to join in, but first have to obtain a copy from the library. It might be of peripheral interest that there's a film in the style of Boccaccio called "Boccaccio '70" that was a favorite of mine in high school. I watched it again a couple of years ago, and I realized that it was really only one of the four stories that we were big on. That was one featuring a 50-foot Anita Eckbert on a billboard. She came to life in way very satisfying to 16-year-old boys who could never even imagine a Victoria's Secret catalog.



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Post Re: The Decameron by Boccacio
Yes, organized religion is made fun of quite a bit. Money lenders also take quite a beating. Boccaccio's father dealt with money... I can't recall if he was a money lender or just a merchant. I'll have to look that back up.

I've read most of the second day but I don't have time tonight to post about them. Expect something tomorrow! The great thing about this book is that you can take your own time - each story is so short that you can read another book alongside this one. :)



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Post Re: The Decameron by Boccacio
The second day is Filomena's! She represents fortitude. She chooses to have the stories told by the other 9 to be about those who, after a bit of suffering, are brought to a state of unexpected happiness.

What a great exercise in storytelling. Each story is assured of having a happy ending. This second day is all about a twist of fortune. The first day had its twists as well. Ciapelleto's , the Jew who turns Christian despite seeing what should have made him a Jew for life, the Sultan... each story has its twist. The second day's is more defined.

The first story on the second day is told by Neifile. Her story in the first day was my least favorite as I recall. Her story on the second day is pretty humorous and had me laughing - having an actor fake being retarded in order to get a special privilege and then he's beaten for it. That's slap-stick, low brow comedy at its absolute best!

Boccaccio has a way of mingling fact and fantasy - history and fiction so well as to create stories that seem very likely to be true, especially to the reader of his day. The names and dates he comes up with, and certain events, are sometimes accurate enough to make a story very plausible. My case in point would be the 5th story of the second day. Off topic, it happens to be probably the longest story so far.

I keep having to go to notes in the back of the book to find out who the people Boccaccio is writing about are. I'm amazed that so many of them are actual people! It makes a person wonder if some of these stories are inspired by actual events that Boccaccio has heard about in his life time. I don't doubt that some of them are - not to take away from his literary genius at all... it still takes a great writer to put pen to paper.

The Second story has to be my one of my favorites of the second day. Rinaldo gets a very happy ending ;)

Third story was a dud as well as the fourth. The fifth was long but good. Now I'm on to the 6th.

Sorry I haven't been able to respond but I'm fighting a cold that just won't seem to go away.



Tue Nov 23, 2010 8:17 pm
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Post Re: The Decameron by Boccacio
I will certainly agree with your assessment of the fifth story of day two as a long but good story, President Camacho, and it had a little humor as well. How often do we run into stories in which the main character falls into a latrine and spends the rest of the story fouling the air around him, much to the chagrin of all those he meets along the way?

I think my favorite of this batch of ten stories would be the eighth one, The Count of Antwerp. It featured a few instances demonstrating the universality that’s always so welcome in stories from so many years ago. By universality, I mean that while technology marches onward and evolves considerably over time, human nature remains unchanged from what it was hundreds of years ago. Just one example of this in the eighth story would be “when people reach a certain age, they tend to forget what it was like to be young.” I think most of us still do exactly that.

I guess there are different editions of the book, as you say yours has notes in the back of the book saying that many of the characters were real people. I had no idea that any of these folks were real, and my book doesn't have any notes at the end.


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Wed Nov 24, 2010 7:43 am
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Post Re: The Decameron by Boccacio
The Count of Antwerp story was quite an epic tale for such a short story!!! It wasn't humorous as some of the others were. Although I've yet to read the Odyssey, I imagine Odysseus when I think of this tale. It truly has great potential to be a full fledged novel. Good choice!

These stories are about people. It IS the human comedy. That's what Boccaccio was going for. As far as universality... I know what I think you mean and I can concede your point by blurring my vision a little. Culture has a way of drawing lines between then and now... but on the whole if we zoom out and out and out - I agree with what you say.

Yes, the notes in the back are extremely helpful. Some of the events are real and some aren't some are a mixture of both. You'd be surprised how many characters in the Decameron are real people or based loosely on them. :)



Thu Nov 25, 2010 4:13 pm
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Post Re: The Decameron by Boccacio
Hey everyone! I am currently skimming this book for a paper I have to write. I was wondering if you can help me with some insight. To me Boccaccio is putting religion in a negative light.. right??



Thu Nov 25, 2010 8:06 pm
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Post Re: The Decameron by Boccacio
Yes, Heidi, Boccaccio attacks the hypocrisy of the clergy very vigorously, as we discussed in earlier posts in this thread. I hope you'll read some of the stories carefully so you can draw your own conclusions and give some specific examples, and don't rely too heavily on our discussion. Your professor will be able to tell if your conclusions are your own, or someone else's.

The first story of the third day is a great example of this hypocrisy, and is pretty shocking, at least to me, but I don't want to get ahead of the curve here. You might want to read that one carefully, rather than skimming it. It's better to have a thorough understanding of a few of the stories than a cursory view of all of them. Citing specifics beats tossing out generalities hands down.

There are several examples of this hypocrisy among the ten stories of the first day, so you should study in depth at least three of them as well, to back up whatever point you're trying to make.


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Post Re: The Decameron by Boccacio
Yes, I read the first day and part of the second day. He told us we don't have to read the whole book but I think it will be hard to get everything completely accurate without reading them all. I was very suprised when I started reading it and found his views on religion.



Thu Nov 25, 2010 8:51 pm
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Post Re: The Decameron by Boccacio
Human nature is celebrated in this book. The clergy takes a stomping in these tales.

Why? Is it because a story about the clergy being drunk, fornicating, liars is amusing? Would it be amusing to hear a story about a hero being a drunk, fornicating, liar? I don't think so. When I think of a hero that is being degraded in such a manner, I would become incensed. To pass off a lie as discovered truth would be foolish, probably wouldn't be funny... it wouldn't last as the truth would come out and those you had fooled would become your bitter enemies. But to poke fun at something that everyone knows about and no one mentions - something a little taboo to speak about but that's common knowledge... Now that!!! That is what Boccaccio is doing. He is taking the truth and mingling it with fantasy and providing very amusing stories. Are any of the tales about the clergy unbelievable? If you can reason that they are you may want to read the quote below.

"I shall show the even greater foolishness of those who, overestimating their natural powers, resort to specious reasoning to persuade themselves that they can do the impossible, and who attempt to mold other people in their own image, thus flying in the face of nature."

He's just trying to show human nature. Clergymen are no better than anyone else and in fact they're worse because they are parasitic and lie, lie, lie. They attempt to go against nature and that's something this book fights very hard against. But! This is nature as Boccaccio sees it. You'll notice that despite the degradation the clergy are subject to, women fair little better. He does help to liberate them, though, at no small cost to their dignity.

In these stories the women need sex as much as the clergy does. It's natural. To deny any natural urge seems to meet with that urge somehow or another getting fulfilled.

The clergy goes against nature and it's wrong. It doesn't work for what it has - it steals from other men. It doesn't practice what it preaches and even if it did it would be punished because it goes against nature.

You'll notice in the First Story how a religion is made. Boccaccio has explained how men create gods. This criminal lies is way into a belief system! People pray to him, will visit his dead body, someone may rob his grave to get some portion of his body as a relic, parents will name their children after him. A day will be devoted to him. People pray to this criminal without ever knowing he was a criminal because a group of men with a cross have deemed him 'holy' and worthy of worship. Isn't that ridiculous? But see how it can be true???? I wonder how many other saints bought their way into saint-hood. That might be a good little side-piece of your paper.

The Second story of the first day is slap in the face of the pope. Why would Boccaccio write such things? Because it was a common held stereo-type of clergymen. If the monks were sodomites then the pope must be the biggest one of them all. Some of this is tongue in cheek but every story smacks of plausibility. You actually feel like, although the situation may have been different inside the church, the general feeling of the bourgeoisie was as Boccaccio writes.

3rd of the 3rd
"The story I propose to relate, concerning the manner in which a sanctimonious friar was well and truly hoodwinked by a pretty woman, should prove all the more agreeable to a lay audience inasmuch as the priesthood consists of the most part of extremely stupid men, inscrutable in their ways, who consider themselves in all respects more worthy and knowledgeable than other people, whereas they are decidedly inferior. They resemble pigs in fact, for they are too feeble minded to earn an honest living like everybody else, and so they install themselves wherever they can fill their stomachs."

Mind you, this was written about 1350. Wow! Right?

These stories are for entertainment value. Some of it probably plays on the prejudices and stereo-types people had of the clergy. I'm not saying that all those monks and friars were drunk sexual deviants but ... Where have all these stories come from? Why are they so believable?

***Keep in mind that a lot of this is sexual fantasy meant to pass the time. There can be no real room for religion... only passion! With love conquering all! Who doesn't want to be Masetto, playing the part of a deaf/mute when he really isn't, and having sex with 9 different nuns day in and day out - only to retire a wealthy man with many children. Ha! Sign me up!!!



Last edited by President Camacho on Thu Nov 25, 2010 10:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: The Decameron by Boccacio
President Camacho wrote:
. . . Although I've yet to read the Odyssey, I imagine Odysseus when I think of this tale. . .

I hope we can do one of these discussions on The Odyssey sometime in the near future. I read it as a teenager, and would like to try it again now that I'm all grown up. Having the benefit of these discussions to hear what other people think, it would provide a lot more insight than reading it alone might yield. I'm new to this forum, but it's proving to be even better than I hoped it would be when I joined.


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Post Re: The Decameron by Boccacio
Dick, I see you're reading Return of the Native... good luck with that one. It was a hard read for me.

I'll let you know when I start reading the Odyssey! :)

What did you think of Toilers of the Sea? I didn't care for it very much. Hugo had a way of describing scenery that made me zzzz zzz zzz. And the ending... how disappointing. As if I couldn't see that coming 100 miles away. It was soooo painfully obvious that you just wished that he'd write it so well as to exceed expectation as Dumas does... but no... belly flop.



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Post Re: The Decameron by Boccacio
Yes, President, Return of the Native is pretty hard going so far - I'm about one-third the way through it. But it has an occasional spike upward to keep me staying with it. It's my first book by Hardy, and he was very successful, so I'm going to fight onward all the way to the end. The description of the heathland in the opening was great, and painted what I would guess was a vivid picture of what that terrain and the winds that sweep it must be like. I've never been to such a place, but felt I could tell what it was like from his words.

I actually liked Toilers of the Sea, despite the disappointing ending, that you could see coming well in advance, as you pointed out. And yes, Hugo sometimes goes overboard with his long-winded side discussions that you think are never going to end - the same thing happens frequently in Les Miserables, which I loved even more than Toilers. I guess that this has led to the production of abridged editions of Les Miserables.

But the description of Gilliat's salvage operation of a boat's engine was incredible, to me at least. Maybe it was just because I was in the Navy. Hugo did a lot of research to back up his stories, and I thought all that work shined through.


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Fri Nov 26, 2010 7:54 am
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Post Re: The Decameron by Boccacio
Yes, that was my favorite part of the book as well. His ingenuity, courage, and the reason he set out to do it all made him quite a hero in my eyes. The story starts to sink when he brings it in...

Try Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling if you like sea novels.



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