The Decameron

The Decameron

by

Giovanni Boccaccio

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Boccaccio Character Analysis

Boccaccio is the voice of The Decameron’s narrator—which may or may not be the same as Giovanni Boccaccio, the book’s author. Although in both the Prologue and Epilogue, Boccaccio claims that he simply records the tales as told by the members of the brigata, he neither places himself in the action nor identifies himself with any of the male storytellers. The scant biographical details he offers indicate that he is bourgeois rather than aristocratic, that he is a working poet, that he once experienced fin’amors when he fell in love with a noblewoman who didn’t return his affections, and that now he is a white-haired elder. Time, by the grace of God, made his burning love more bearable, so out of gratitude, he offers The Decameron as an entertaining diversion and an educational text for fine ladies. At the beginning of Day IV, Boccaccio defends himself against the criticisms that he is overfond of ladies with a parable and an appeal to nature, which gives men and women bodies to love and be loved. He claps back at critics who think his work unworthy of patronage, since enough people like his work for him to make a living. He also demonstrates the verbal play and wittiness that make so many of the tales entertaining when he lists graphic puns in the Epilogue, or when he subtitles his book, “Prince Galahat,” after the stereotypical lovers’ go-between of medieval literature. The personality of Boccaccio allows Giovanni Boccaccio to defend himself against potential critics, stake a claim for the value of vernacular literature, and indulge in fierce anticlerical satire while also maintaining a winking distance from all the ideas expressed in the tales, some of which are pornographic or blasphemous.

Boccaccio Quotes in The Decameron

The The Decameron quotes below are all either spoken by Boccaccio or refer to Boccaccio. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love and Sex Theme Icon
).
Day 1: Introduction Quotes

Swayed by this argument, and sparing no thought for anyone but themselves, large numbers of men and women abandoned their city, their homes, their relatives, their estates and belongings, and headed for the countryside, either in Florentine territory or, better still, abroad. It was as though they imagined that the wrath of God would not unleash this plague against men for their iniquities irrespective of where they happened to be, but would only be aroused against those who found themselves within the city walls; or possibly they assumed that the whole of the population would be exterminated and the city’s last hour had come.

Related Characters: Boccaccio (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

For not only did people die without having many women about them, but a great number departed this life without anyone at all to witness their going. Few indeed were those to whom the lamentations and bitter tears of their relatives were accorded; on the contrary, more often than not bereavement was the signal for laugher and witticisms and general jollification—the art of which the women, having for the most part suppressed their feminine concern for the salvation of the souls of the dead, had learned to perfection.

Related Characters: Boccaccio (speaker)
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Day 2: Eighth Tale Quotes

The doctor was holding [Jacques] by the wrist, taking his pulse, when Jeannette […] entered the room in which the youth was laying. When he saw her coming in, the flames of passion flared up in the young man’s breast, and although he neither spoke nor moved, his pulse began to beat more strongly. The doctor noted this at once, but concealing his surprise, he remained silent, waiting to see how long his pulse would continue to beat so rapidly.

As soon as Jeannette left the room, the young man’s pulse returned to normal […] [The doctor] waited for a while, and then, still holding the patient by the wrist, he sent for Jeannette […] and no sooner did she enter the room than the youth’s pulse began to race all over again: and when she departed, it subsided.

Related Characters: Elissa (speaker), Boccaccio, Jeannette (Violante), Jacques Lamiens
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:
Day 3: Introduction Quotes

The sight of this garden, and the perfection of its arrangement, with its shrubs, its streamlets, and the fountain from which they originated, gave so much pleasure … that they all began to maintain that if Paradise were constructed on earth, it was inconceivable that it could take any other form, nor could they imagine any way in which the garden’s beauty could possibly be enhanced … [And] the garden was liberally stocked with as many as a hundred different varieties of perfectly charming animals […] Here were some rabbits emerging from a warren, over there hares were running, elsewhere they could observe some deer lying on the ground, whilst in yet another place young fawns were grazing. And apart from these, they saw numerous harmless creatures of many other kinds, roaming about at leisure as though they were quite tame, all of which greatly added to their already considerable delight.

Related Characters: Boccaccio (speaker)
Related Symbols: Gardens
Page Number: 191
Explanation and Analysis:
Day 4: Introduction Quotes

In the course of my lifelong efforts to escape the fierce onslaught of those turbulent winds, I have always made a point of going quietly and unseen about my affairs, not only keeping to the lowlands but occasionally directing my steps through the deepest of deep valleys. This can very easily be confirmed by anyone casting an eye over these little stories of mine, which bear no title and which I have written, not only in the Florentine vernacular and in prose, but in the most homely and unassuming style it is possible to imagine. Yet in spite of all this, I have been unable to avoid being violently shaken and almost uprooted by those very winds, and was nearly torn to pieces by envy.

Related Characters: Boccaccio (speaker)
Page Number: 284
Explanation and Analysis:

Am I to be abused by these people, then am I to be mauled and mangled for liking you and striving to please you, when Heaven has given me a body with which to love you and when my soul has been pledged to you since childhood because of the light that gleams in your eyes, the honeyed sounds that issue from your lips, the flames that are kindled by your sighs of tender compassion? […] it is perfectly clear that those who criticize me on these grounds are people who, being ignorant of the strength and pleasure of natural affection, neither love you nor desire your love, and they are not worth bothering about.

Related Characters: Boccaccio (speaker)
Page Number: 288
Explanation and Analysis:
Day 5: Ninth Tale Quotes

You are to know, then, that Coppo di Borghese Domenichi, who once used to live in our city and possibly lives there still, one of the most highly respected men of our century, a person worthy of eternal fame, who achieved his position of pre-eminence by dint of his character and abilities rather than by his noble lineage, frequently took pleasure in his declining years in discussing incidents from the past with his neighbors and other folk. In this pastime he excelled all others, for he was far more coherent, possessed a superior memory, and spoke with greater eloquence.

Related Characters: Fiammetta (speaker), Coppo di Borghese Domenichi, Boccaccio
Page Number: 425-426
Explanation and Analysis:
Author’s Epilogue Quotes

Like all other things in this world, stories, whatever their nature, may be harmful or useful, depending upon the listener. Who will deny that wine, as Tosspot and Bibler and a great many others affirm, is an excellent thing for those who are hale and hearty, but harmful to people suffering from a fever? Are we to conclude, because it does harm to the feverish, that therefore it is pernicious? Who will deny that fire is exceedingly useful, not to say vital, to men and women? Are we to conclude, because it burns down houses and villages and whole cities, that therefore it is pernicious? And in the same way, weapons defend the liberty of those who desire to live peaceably, and very often they kill people not because they are evil in themselves, but because of the evil intentions of those who make use of them.

Related Characters: Boccaccio (speaker)
Page Number: 799
Explanation and Analysis:

I confess that I do have weight, and in my time I have been weighed on numerous occasions; but I assure those ladies who have never weighed me that I have little gravity. On the contrary, I am so light that I float on the surface of the water. And considering that sermons preached by friars to chastise the faults of men are nowadays filled, for the most part, with jests and quips and raillery, I concluded that the same sort of thing would not be out of place in my stories, written to dispel the woes of ladies. But if it should cause them to laugh too much, they can easily find a remedy by turning to the Lament of Jeremiah, the Passion of Our Lord, and the Plaint of the Magdalen.

Related Characters: Boccaccio (speaker)
Page Number: 801-802
Explanation and Analysis:
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Boccaccio Character Timeline in The Decameron

The timeline below shows where the character Boccaccio appears in The Decameron. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
Boccaccio confesses that he was tormented by love in his youth; it was painful because his... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
Boccaccio, remembering the kindness shown to him while he was lovesick, plans to show his gratitude... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
...hunt, play games, or work to avoid melancholy, since mental engagement relieves love’s suffering. But Boccaccio thinks that female hobbies—sewing, weaving, spinning—aren’t distracting enough. In this way, fortune is unfair, subjecting... (full context)
Day 1: Introduction
Men and Women Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
Because women are naturally compassionate, Boccaccio worries that the opening of his book will bother the sensitive ladies for whom he... (full context)
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
Between March and July, 100,000 people died. Boccaccio mourns palaces emptied of lords, ladies, and servants; prestigious family lines abruptly ended; riches lost;... (full context)
Men and Women Theme Icon
Class and Character Theme Icon
...They are between the ages of 18 and 27, intelligent, well bred, beautiful, and charming. Boccaccio will give them pseudonyms (based on their character or temperament) to prevent any embarrassment that... (full context)
Day 4: Introduction
Men and Women Theme Icon
Boccaccio interrupts his narrators at the beginning of the fourth day with some of his own... (full context)
Faith vs. Religion Theme Icon
Boccaccio offers a story to help rebut the first of these criticisms. A long time ago,... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Faith vs. Religion Theme Icon
At this point, Boccaccio cuts the tale short since it has already illustrated the overpowering nature of female beauty.... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
As for his age, Boccaccio quips that the leek’s tail stays green even when its head is white, and history... (full context)
Author’s Epilogue
Men and Women Theme Icon
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
Boccaccio addresses the “noble young ladies” for whom he labored to write this book. With God’s... (full context)
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
First, some might say that Boccaccio has made the company’s ladies hear and say less-than-virtuous things. However, he claims, nothing told... (full context)
Moderation and Excess Theme Icon
...even the Bible can be wrongly interpreted, anyone who wants to get “evil counsel” from Boccaccio’s tales will succeed—but only by twisting and distorting them. On the other hand, if read... (full context)
Men and Women Theme Icon
Class and Character Theme Icon
Boccaccio answers those who think he should have omitted some of the stories with the conceit... (full context)
Class and Character Theme Icon
Faith vs. Religion Theme Icon
...humorous. Maybe a man of “weight and gravity” should attend to more serious matters, but Boccaccio has no gravity. And when even priests add quips and jokes to their sermons, there... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Granting that things in this world are unstable and liable to change, Boccaccio affirms that he was recently told by a lady that he had the “finest and... (full context)