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Literature: The Decameron
is a classic work of Italian
literature, written c.1350-53 by Giovanni Boccaccio
In the midst of The Black Death
, ten wealthy young Florentines decamp to the countryside with their retinue, and pass their days in storytelling, an attempt to reclaim a world that everywhere is dying.
Over the course of ten days, the three young men and seven young women tell a hundred stories, full of generous aristocrats, clever tricks, toilet humor, lustful women, wicked churchmen and lots of illicit sex. Boccaccio himself steps out of the shadows twice (once in the introduction to the fourth day, once in the epilogue) to deliver impassioned, hilarious, self-deprecating
, and (in the case of the epilogue) incredibly obscene defenses of his work.
Famous stories include:
- Day 1, story 1: Ciapelletto, a notoriously wicked Italian Amoral Attorney and scoundrel (he's a murderer, forger, perjurer and Depraved Homosexual among many other things) falls terminally ill while on business in Belgium, where almost absolutely no-one knows him. His slightly less evil companions bring a monk from a nearby convent to confess him and give him last rites. Ciappelletto proceeds to tell him the most ridiculous lies about his life and how holy he's been the whole time, while pretending to cringe over venial sins. He is completely believed by the friar, who preaches a sermon on his life and ends with everyone there believing him a genuine saint and attributing miracles to him.
- Day 1, story 2: A Jew converts to Catholicism after seeing the corruption of Rome, reasoning that if Christianity can still spread even when its hierarchy is so sinful, it has to have something else going for it.
- Day 3, story 1: Masetto da Lamporecchio feigns to be dumb to win a seat as gardener in a convent. He ends up having sex with all of the nuns.
- Day 3, story 10: Long considered the most obscene and was censored or removed in translations for a significant period. Might be a codifier of Is That What They Are Calling It Now.note
Tropes in The Decameron include:
- All Women Are Lustful: And how! Provides the page quote for that trope: "While farmers generally allow one rooster for ten hens, ten men are scarcely sufficient to service one woman."
- An Aesop: All the stories end with some kind of lesson. However, some of them fall into other categories:
- Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Girolamo after two years comes back to find his lover married to another man and she completely forgot about him. He dies after failing to win her back and she dies from remorse.
- Accidental Pornomancer: Alatiel (Day 2, story 7)
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Ciapelletto's List of Transgressions includes blasphemy, sacrilege, inciting violence, and many felonies such as assault, robbery, and murder, but concludes by noting that he's known to use loaded dice.
- Bed Trick: More than once, used in various ways.
- Black Comedy Rape: (Day 3, story 10).
- Blasphemous Boast: (Day 1, story 6).
- Brainless Beauty: Cesca (Day 6, story 8).
- Lisetta da Quirino (Day 4, story 2).
- Cimone before falling in love (Day 5, story 1).
- Buried Alive: (Day 3, story 8), (Day 10, story 4).
- Butt Monkey: Calandrino.
- Corrupt Church: Very frequently referenced.
- Dead Person Conversation: (Day 7, story 10)
- Death by Despair: Girolamo and his lover.
- Depraved Homosexual: Ciapelletto (Day 1, story 1); Pietro (Day 5, story 10).
- Dirty Old Monk: At least half of all male clergymen in the stories are also shameless leches.
- Domestic Abuse: It will lead to your wife stop being so stubborn (Day 9, story 9). You were warned about the Family-Unfriendly Aesop.
- Downer Ending: Day 4, although the second tale has a comedic tone and the person who suffers is an asshole.
- Distinguishing Mark: Teodoro is recognized by a strawberry shaped birth mark (Day 5, story 7).
- Dreaming of Things to Come: (Day 4, story 6), (Day 9, story 7).
- Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: Messer Gentile goes hugging and kissing his lover's corpse, just to find out her heart is still beating.(Day 10, story 4).
- Exact Words: Ciapelletto doesn't have to lie when the monk asks him whether he has ever fornicated with women...
- Female Misogynist: The female storytellers. One of them narrates the infamous "Salomon and the Bridge" tale.
- Flat Character: The ten storytellers. Or so many readers think; some scholars think there's actually a lot more to them than meets the eye.
- Far East/Imperial China: The story of Mithridanes and Nathan (Day 10, story 3) takes place in "Cathay", a little bit outside the capital (probably Khanbaliq, i.e. Beijing).
- Fate Worse Than Death: A lady rejected her knight suitor and rejoiced when he killed himself. She's sentenced to be hunted and killed by him, eaten by his dogs and brought back to life every Friday for the same amount of years than the months she was cruel to him. This frightens Nastagio's love so much she finally agrees to marry him. (Day 5, story 8)
- Happily Ever After: Day 5.
- Historical-Domain Character: A lot of the people in the stories are historical figures- most of the time, they are merchants/aristocrats who were contemporaries of Boccaccio, but there's also some figures who are well-known today, such as the painter Giotto.
- Hormone-Addled Teenager: Surprised? The storytellers are all in their late teens or early-to-mid twenties. They are essentially unsupervised. An inordinate proportion of the stories either have to do with sex or hint strongly at sex. And there is much subtext indicating that each of the three guys is trying to get into at least one of the girls' pants (or in Dioneo's case, it would appear that he's trying to get into all of their pants). So no wonder there's so much fucking fucking in the stories.
- I Call Him "Mr. Happy": "The Devil".
- Incompatible Orientation: Pietro and his wife. (Day 5, story 10). The latter ends sharing her lover with him.
- Insane Troll Logic: Abraham's reasoning for becoming a Christian in Day 1, Story 2.
- In Which a Trope Is Described
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: (Day 10, Story 4); (Day 10, story 6); (Day 10, story 8)
- Karma Houdini: In some stories
- King Incognito: The princess in (Day 2, story 3), Saladin in (Day 10, story 9)
- Literary Agent Hypothesis
- Moral Dissonance/Protagonist-Centered Morality: A lot! One example: two stories involved ladies who dangerously prank their unwanted suitors to get rid off them (Day 8, story 7 and Day 9, story 1). For some reasons the storytellers think the first one is a bitch but praise the second's ingenuity. In another story, lovers use a stupid but apparently genuinely pious priest as an unwitting go-between. This is praised by the storytellers, despite being somewhat at odds with all of the other stories where they criticize the sexual immorality of the clergy and wish for a return of the Saintly Church.
- Mr. Seahorse: Calandrino is tricked by his two friend to believe he's pregnant. It works. Then he buys an expensive medecine to abort.(Day 9, story 3)
- National Stereotypes: Several stories note stereotypes associated with various Italian regions. For instance, people from Sienna were supposedly stupid and all Venetians are greedy and corrupt (because Venice was a rival of Boccaccio's city state, Florence).
- Naughty Nuns: In a couple of the stories; also frequent is the Sexy Priest and Dirty Old Monk.
- "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Every time someone (both genders) rapes or impersonates a spouse or a lover to have sex with somebody else, you can expect this.
- Out-Gambitted: It happens to some of the characters (e.g., Day 7, story 4).
- Please Kill Me If It Satisfies You: Nathan is willingly to be killed by his rival. (Day 10, story 3)
- Polyamory: After sleeping with each other's wifes, two men agree to share them freely. (Day 8, Story 8)
- Rape Is Love: The sixth tale of the third day.
- Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Ciuriaci, after killing his master the prince of Morea on the Duke of Athens' orders. (Day 2, story 7)
- Samus is a Girl: The abbot is the princess of England (Day 2, story 3), Sicurano the sailor (Day 2, story 9).
- Secret Test of Character: For years, the Marquis of Saluzzo test his wife's patience and obedience by mistreating her, pretending to kill their both children and pretending to dump her for a twelve year old girl. Jesus... (Day 10, Story 10)
- Stockholm Syndrome: (Day 2, story 7), (Day 2, story 10).
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Alatiel (Day 2, story 7)
- Suicide by Cop: Attempted by Gisippe accusing himself of a murder he did not commit (Day 10, story 8).
- Sympathetic Adulterer: Lots of them, generally involving a woman cheating on a much older husband and it often the case that the woman is an Impoverished Patrician and the husband a Nouveau Riche.
- Take That: Boccaccio really hated corrupt clergymen and Venetians.
- Those Two Guys: Bruno and Buffalmacco
- Toilet Humour
- Unusual Euphemism: "Putting the Devil back into Hell".
- Villain with Good Publicity: Ciapelletto
- Villain Protagonist: (Day 1, story 1), (Day 4, story 2), (Day 5, story 1).
- Violence Really Is the Answer: (Day 9, story 9) ouch!
- Virginity Makes You Stupid: Alibech (Day 3, story 10).
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Folco and Ninetta (Day 4, story 3).
- A Wizard Did It: An eden garden in winter (Day 10, story 5) and teleports a man from Saladin's palace to Pavia (Day 10, story 9).
- You Have Waited Long Enough: Torello arrives just in time when his wife is about to remarried after he had been declared dead (Day 10, story 9).
- Your Cheating Heart: too many examples.