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The Decameron
The Decameron
Completed about 1353 by Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron takes place in Florence in 1348. About the same time that Boccaccio was writing The Decameron, the plague or Black Death was making its way through Western Europe. About a fourth of the population of Europe died from the plague. Boccaccio himself had someone personal die from the plague. His lover, Maria d'Aquino, died in 1348. He represents her in many of his stories as Fiammetta. Having gone through the plague, Boccaccio knows what he's talking about.
Like I said before, this story takes place in 1348 in Florence, Italy during the time of the plague. The narrator explains to us that Florence is filled with sick and dieing people. There are dead bodies outside of household doors from neighbors bringing the dead decaying bodies out to be collected by the becchini. Often times they had too many bodies that they didn't know what to do with them. Four to five bodies would be carried to the church graveyard at a time. Many of the houses were abandoned or only one person would be living in these big beautiful houses because all the family members have died of the plague. Then the narrator takes us into a church where seven young women are talking. One of the women, Pampinea, suggests that they leave the city of Florence and live in the countryside where they all have country homes. Because they no longer have a reason to stay there, all family and friends have died, there is no one to take care of. After discussing it and making sure there are men along with them, they decide to go to the countryside and live. While they are living in the country, they elect to have a leader each day. To pass the time to stay out of the hot afternoon sun, they tell stories to one another.
One of the stories they told was about a man with a prized falcon. For this story, the person telling it, Dioneo, had to tell the story so that it was a love story that ended happily after a period of misfortune. The reason Fiammett had Dioneo tell the story in this manner, I think, is because after seeing all the death back in Florence she wants things to end happily with all of them. He tells a story in which a rich man becomes poor, after falling in love. A woman loses her husband to death. The woman's son becomes ill, the only thing that will help her son recover fast in her son's eyes, is a prized falcon owned by the poor man. The woman tries to get the man to give up the falcon, but asks for it too late. Because the man in so in love with this woman, he cooked his prize falcon for her to eat, because she's worth it he says. After she returned home, her son dies a few days later. Since mourning for her son for some time, she came to realize what the man had done for her. Her brothers gave her away in marriage and the two of them lived a happy life.
After reading the story that Dioneo told I realized that it was kind of their story. Except these people didn't have their happy ending yet. When you think about it, these people obviously had money. What is told to us in the beginning of the book is that there were people dieing left and right. Poor people were dieing and rich people were dieing. For the rich people it still didn't matter that they had money, they were still dieing. And for the rich that were still alive, there were no people to enjoy it with, it was useless. The death to the husband just represents having loved ones die in their arms, I think. For the young boy that is on his sick bed that is need of that one special falcon to help him feel better I think represents hope. They are all holding on to hope that this Black Death will be destroyed. That one day they can return to normalcy when they return to Florence. When the little boy dies I think that represents the reality of it all. This plague is not going to go away tomorrow. There are still going to be some hard times ahead of them that they are going to have to face until the plague is gone. And at the end when the two of them get married, I think that represents when the plague is gone, everyone will be happy and things can finally return to normal.
Based on my analysis after reading The Decameron, I thought this piece of literature was very successful. The characters of the stories the people told were well developed and we could either feel for them or we could dislike them. In the second story of the fourth day, you could both feel and dislike the deceitful friar. I very much liked reading this piece. Thus far I have actually enjoyed all the literature after the Holy Bible. I'm not saying that I didn't like it; it was just hard to understand. But this reading was very successful.