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The Decameron (Penguin Classics) Paperback – April 29, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0140449303 ISBN-10: 0140449302 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 1072 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 2nd edition (April 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449302
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449303
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Italian (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Giovanni Boccaccio was born in Florence, Italy, in 1313, and he died there in 1375. His life thus coincided with the flowering of the early Renaissance and indeed his closest friend was Petrarch, the other towering literary figure of the period. During his lifetime, Boccaccio was a diplomat, businessman, and international traveler, as well as the creator of numerous works of prose and poetry. Of his achievements, The Decameron, completed sometime between 1350 and 1352, remains his lasting contribution—immensely popular from its original appearance to the present day—to world literature.

Customer Reviews

This particular edition is an excellent translation.
Monika
This framework combined with the beautifully described rural setting makes the reader, too, feel warm, welcome, and one of the party.
oh_pete
I discovered this work in college literature class, and have since bought a copy to keep and read again.
J. Beman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

154 of 159 people found the following review helpful By Judge Knott on March 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
This fascinating fourteenth-century text is as complex as it is misunderstood. The premise is simple enough: the author creates a fictional set-up where, over ten days, seven female and three male characters who are cooped up in a country estate tell one another a total of 100 stories. The title, "The Decameron," literally means "ten day's work."
But this framing technique of ten narrators is hardly the point. The star of this work are the tales told by these sequestered characters. These 100 stories are chillingly sneaky in how they will mess with your mind. At first the tales will appear shocking, overtly sexual, or even knee-slappingly funny. (Think "Monty Python.") But in fact, like Aesop, the great Italian prose author Boccaccio tucks an ambiguous, gnawing moral into each tale. You will laugh at first, and then the bittersweet truth of each story's lesson will zap you.
The true brillance of "The Decameron" is that it is kaleidoscopic in nature: while all the tales are somewhat similar to one another, each story is truly unique in how it aligns its characters, its structure, its action, and its moral. The basic ingredients are similar in dozens of stories, and yet their outcomes prove to be wholly different. So instead of getting "re-runs," you the reader wind up in a quicksand-like universe where some good-hearted characters are punished, others rewarded, and some scoundrely characters are quashed while other soar.
It is Boccaccio's humorous (yet ultimately grim) portrait of our herky-jerky, you-never-know world, where a person can never be sure of his destiny despite his conduct, that makes this work brilliant. Behind the ribaldry and the chuckles, this late-medieval author proves that our world (sometimes benevolent, sometimes cruel, but always inscrutable) is, indeed, nothing but a human comedy.
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57 of 57 people found the following review helpful By oh_pete on May 16, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Giovanni Boccaccio is one of the three supreme literary masters of the Italian Renaissance--sharing those laurels with Dante and Petrarch--and he is also the most accessible. Written in the 1350s, in the wake of the worst part of the Black Plague (which would kill off one-third of Europe's population), THE DECAMERON is a collection of one hundred surprisingly light, hilariously funny and frequently bawdy short stories. In his preface, Boccaccio claims to have intended them to entertain Italian women who spent most of their lives indoors. Seven young Florentine ladies and three young gentlemen sojourn together to a Tuscan villa to escape the contagion-filled city. They pass each of their ten days in the picturesque countryside with long walks, good food and wine, jovial games, and oh yes, telling stories. Each of them is crowned queen or king for a day and gets to choose the order of the telling. This framework combined with the beautifully described rural setting makes the reader, too, feel warm, welcome, and one of the party.
Boccaccio indulges in a popular form of satire against the foul and corrupt members of the fourteenth century clergy--one of the ten actually admits that it's "too easy" to pick on such scoundrels. With humor and the power of shame he attacks both the hypocrisy of the clergy and the hypocrisy toward which the Catholic Church's sexually repressive laws drove people. Here we find a group of nuns fighting over the sexual favors of the convent gardener; there a wily cleric indulges his prurient urges by convincing a foolish woman that he is the Angel Gabriel; still another adulteress cows her angry husband by claiming he is not enough to satisfy her lust--is it fair that she throw the surplus to the dogs?
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99 of 109 people found the following review helpful By Diego Banducci on April 18, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The translation that you choose will have an impact upon your enjoyment of any work written in a foreign language. In the case of The Decameron, the translations recommended by "The Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation" are those by (1) G.H. McWilliams and (2) Bondanella and Musa.

I purchased the McWilliams translation and found it to be enjoyable, although slightly wooden. There were also several howlers (e.g., addressing the women in the group as "Delectable Ladies.")

There's a 100+ page introduction, which I found to be overly academic and tedious. This is, as far as most readers are concerned, a fun book to read; the introduction should not detract from that experience.

This volume has extensive endnotes at the end of the book. Most of them are of little interest to the general reader and add nothing to one's enjoyment of the stories. Since they are short, and given modern editing technology, they could just as easily been included as footnotes at the bottom of the page on which they appear, which would have been more convenient. (Inexplicably, the notes to the Introduction are footnotes.)

The book is bawdy, but not obscene. McWilliams, justifiably I think, is of the opinion that certain passages are misogynistic and homophobic, which seemed to me to be correct. The latter is odd, because Florence during the Renaissance was notorious throughout Europe for its large homosexual population (most of its great artists reputedly were gay). Forewarned is forearmed.

I have not read the Bondanella and Musa translation, but McWilliams (who appears to be remarkably fair) speaks well of it in his Second Preface. Based upon the foregoing, I would choose it instead.
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