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Decameron: Selected Tales

by Giovanni Boccaccio Broadview Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 360 pages
AU$37.99 NZ$39.12
Product Status: In Stock Now
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The editors have selected 33 of the 100 tales, including at least two from each of the ten days of storytelling. Included are Boccaccio’s general introduction and conclusion to the work, as well as the introduction and conclusion to the first day; the reader is thus provided with a real sense of the Decameron’s framing narrative. In selecting from among the tales themselves, the editors have looked to include the most interesting, the most representative, and the most widely taught of the tales, as well as a few (such as X.8, on the theme of perfect friendship) that are less familiar but that the editors believe to be deserving of wider circulation.

The Beecher and Ciavolella translation conveys some sense of the often extended structures of Boccaccio’s sentences, and a real sense as well of the different registers Boccaccio uses, from the often formal tone of the framing narrative to the highly colloquial feel of the dialogue in many of the more bawdy tales. Throughout, the translators have chosen language that makes this classic work accessible to twenty-first-century undergraduates.

The edition includes extensive explanatory notes and a concise but wide-ranging introduction to Boccaccio’s life and times, as well as to the Decameron itself. A unique selection of contextual materials concludes the volume; these include documentary accounts and illustrations of the Black Death in Florence; examples of source materials that Boccaccio drew on; samples from later medieval and early modern literature (both in Italy and in England) of work that was heavily influenced by the Decameron; documents (including Petrarch’s famous comments about the tale of Patient Griselda) that provide a sense of the early reception history of the work; and a variety of illustrations from early manuscripts of the Decameron. Like the Boccaccio tales themselves, the texts in this selection of “In Context’ materials have been newly translated for this edition.




from The Decameron

    • The Author’s Preface

    •       Introduction to the First Day

    •       The First Day [on open topics]

        • I. Story 1: Cepparello’s False Confession

        •         I. Story 2: The Jew who Sees Rome and Converts

        •         I. Story 3: Melchisedech and the Tale of the Three Rings

        •         I. Story 5: The King of France and the Banquet of Hens

        •         I. Story 10: Master Alberto Shames the Woman who Refuses his Love

    • Conclusion to the First Day

    • The Second Day [about those who, after enduring many misfortunes, find happiness]

        • II. Story 5: Andreuccio’s Three Misadventures in Naples

        •         II. Story 7: The Sultan’s Daughter Sleeps with Nine Men and Returns a Virgin

    • The Third Day [about those who, through clever thinking, achieve their goals or recover things lost]

        • III. Story 1: Masetto becomes Gardener to a Convent

        •         III. Story 6: Ricciardo sends a Jealous Wife to the Baths to catch her Husband

        •         III. Story 8: Ferondo visits Purgatory

        •         III. Story 9: Giletta of Narbonne

        •         III. Story 10: Alibech and Rustico put the Devil back into Hell

    • The Fourth Day [about lovers who come to misery]

        • Introduction

        •         IV. Story 1: Tancredi, Ghismunda, and her Lover’s Heart

        •         IV. Story 2: Frate Alberto as the Angel Gabriel

        •         IV. Story 5: Lisabetta and the Pot of Basil

        •         IV. Story 8: The Broken Hearts of Girolamo and Salvestra

    • The Fifth Day [about lovers who, after great trials and misfortunes, at last find happiness]

        • V. Story 1: Cimone and Lisimaco Abduct their Brides

        •         V. Story 4: The Lovers, the Balcony, and the Nightingale

    • The Sixth Day [about those who, through a quick retort or witty quip, escape danger, loss, or shame]

        • VI. Story 1: Madonna Oretta and the Story Ride

        •         VI. Story 4: Chichibio and the One-legged Bird

        •         VI. Story 7: Donna Filippa Confronts the Adultery Laws

        •         VI. Story 9: Guido Cavalcanti’s Witty Escape

    • The Seventh Day [about the tricks women play on their husbands whether for love or self-protection and escape]

        • VII. Story 2: Peronella’s Lover and the Barrel

        •         VII. Story 6: A Quick-Thinking Adulteress

    • The Eighth Day [about tricks that women play on men, men play on women, or men play on other men]

        • VIII. Story 3: Calendrino and the Heliotrope Stone

        •         VIII. Story 7: The Scholar Frozen and the Lady Burned

    • The Ninth Day [on open topics]

        • IX. Story 5: Calandrino in Love

        •         IX. Story 6: Three Beds and a Cradle

        •         IX. Story 10: The Spell that Turns Women to Mares

    • The Tenth Day [about those who have acted with generosity or magnanimity in any capacity]

        • X. Story 3: Nathan Offers his Life

        •         X. Story 5: A Lady’s Honour for a Garden in Winter

        •         X. Story 8: The Perfect Friendship of Tito and Gisippus

        •         X. Story 10: Griselda’s Remarkable Patience

    • The Author’s Epilogue

In Context

The Black Death

    • from Marchione di Coppo Stefani, The Florentine Chronicle (ca. 1389), “Concerning the Black Death in the City of Florence, Mortal to Many People,”

    •       The Black Death: fourteenth century images

Accounts of Boccaccio’s Life

    • Giannozzo Manetti, “The Life of Giovanni Boccaccio”

    •       Ludovico Dolce, “A Description of the Life of Messer Giovanni Boccaccio” (1552)

Sources and Antecedents

    • from Apuleius, The Golden Ass: from Book Nine, “The Lover in the Barrel” (c. 160 CE)

    •       from Petrus Alphonsus, Disciplina Clericalis, “The Two Perfect Friends,” (12th century)

    •       from Andreas Capellanus, The Art of Courtly Love (c. 1180)

    •       Anonymous, “Concerning a Priest and a Lady” (13th century)

    •       from Anonymous, Il novellino (1281-1300)

        • “How a king raised his son in darkness, then revealed to him all there was in the world, and how the boy found women above all things the most pleasing.”

        •         “How the Sultan in search of money tried to snare a Jew through litigation.”

        •         “The never-ending story.”

from Giovanni Boccaccio, The Questions of Love: “The Fourth Question, as proposed by Menedon” (1335-36)

The Tale of Patient Griselda

    • from Francesco Petrarch, Letter to Boccaccio on “The Tale of Patient Griselda” (1373)

    •       Anonymous, “A Most Pleasant Ballad of Patient Grissell” (ca. 1600)

Patterns of Influence

    • from Sir Thomas Elyot, The Book Named the Governour: from Bk. II, Chap. 12, “The Wonderful History of Titus and Gisippus, whereby is fully declared the figure of perfect amity.” (1531)

    •       from Giovan Francesco Straparola, The Pleasant Nights (Piacevoli notti) (1550, 1553)

        • from the Proem

        •         Rodolino and Violante, or The Broken Hearts

Illustrations to the Decameron



“Furnished with an engaging selection of tales, a formidable apparatus of primary texts and reproductions [from the] visual arts, this is an ideal text for a course in English on Boccaccio’s Decameron. The translators have struck an enviable balance between the colloquial valences of the dialogue and the more formal moments of its register, all while untangling the complex syntax that can be daunting to the non-specialist….This is a Decameron that is accessible and comprehensible, inviting the general reader into its rich narrative world.” —Kristina M. Olson, George Mason University

Donald Beecher, Professor of English at Carleton University, is the editor and/or translator of more than twenty editions and anthologies, including a two volume edition of Giovan Francesco Straparola’s The Pleasant Nights (University of Toronto Press, 2014).

Massimo Ciavolella holds the positions of Franklin D. Murphy Chair in Italian Renaissance Studies and Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles; he is author or editor of more than a dozen books and many articles on medieval and Renaissance Italian literature.