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The Decameron (Signet Classics) Mass Market Paperback – December 3, 2002


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Signet Classics (December 3, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451528662
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451528667
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.2 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #949,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.


Mark Musa is a professor at the Center for Italian Studies at Indiana University. A former Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellow, Musa is the author of a highly acclaimed translation of Dante's Divine Comedy.

Mark Musa and Peter Bondanella are professors at the Center for Italian Studies at Indiana University. Mark Musa, a former Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellow, is the author of a highly acclaimed translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Peter Bondanella, a former Younger Humanist and Senior Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, has published, among other works, Machiavelli and the Art of Renaissance History and Federico Fellini: Essays in Criticism. He is coeditor of The Dictionary of Italian Literature and The Portable Machiavelli.


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Customer Reviews

Between format and translation, I am flying through this book.
Frank Modica
It is actually just a collection of very loosely related short stories, most of which are rather comical.
Philip Greenspun
I've read this book 3 times since originally reading it as part of a college class.
Happy Parents

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Ellis Bell VINE VOICE on November 1, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Unlike a lot of the writers who sprung out of the medieval period, the Decameron is extremely readable. 100 stories organized into 10-day chunks makes this book a classic piece of literature... and unlike Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, you don't have to wade through the language to get at the meaning (part of this has to do with the translation of Italian into modern English).

During the Plague of the mid-14th century, ten people (7 women and 3 men) escape the city of Florence to the then-countryside of Fiesole. Each day they elect a king or queen, who dictates the theme of the day's stories. Centering around love, lust, sex, and relationships between people, the stories in the Decameron transcend stereotypes of the middle ages and created a scintillating and fresh approach to the art of storytelling. The Decameron is one of my favorite novels; this is the second time I've read it, and it never ceases to amaze me by the depth of human life represented.

In addition, this is an excellent translation of the original; the translators manage to get at Boccaccio's meaning without destroying his prose.
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63 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Philip Greenspun on July 17, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Don't be intimidated by this medieval masterpiece. It is actually just a collection of very loosely related short stories, most of which are rather comical. You need not read them in one sitting and you need not read them all. In fact, the editors provide a list of their favorite stories (an alternative view is that they are telling you which ones to skip).
Great modern translation.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By I ain't no porn writer on April 5, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This mammoth collection of short stories was written in the wake of the Bubonic Plague which killed a third of the population of Europe back in the 14th century. The stories are for the most part really good narratives, and they're told through ten young noblemen who are trying to hide out from the plague to save themselves and tell these stories to pass the time. Written in a clear, classical, controlled, strongly plotted style, these are tales about sex, violence, intrigue... but nothing gratuitous of course. Good, easy-to-read translation!
David Rehak
author of "Love and Madness"
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By B. Hartzler on January 3, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I've tried to read these stories several times before but this is by far the best translation I've found yet. Very adult reading but passes for educational and is a great summer read!
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Anyechka on July 9, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is an awesome collection of a hundred stories told over ten days, by the young people Fiammetta, Dioneo, Filostrato, Neifile, Emilia, Elisa (or Elissa), Filomena, Panfilo, Pampinea, and Lauretta, who have temporarily left Florence because of the scariness of the Plague. Each of them also brings also a servant. The introductory chapter is really gripping, told from the pov of someone who actually lived through that devastating and frightening time when this mysterious deadly disease was sweeping through Europe, killing nearly everyone, devastating families and churches, destroying morality, and generally creating a very terrifying atmosphere. The young people spend more than ten days on hiatus from Florence, taking some of the days off for religious purposes, but most of the time is spent telling stories. Most of the days have a theme to be followed, like love stories that began sadly but ended happily, though Dioneo gets to tell a story on whatever topic he likes. Because of this privilege, he always must tell his story last.
This came before the Canterbury Tales, and I consider it a lot better. Chaucer seems to have been greatly influenced by it in that a number of his own tales are suspiciously similar to stories in here; one is admittedly even a practically word-by-word retelling of the final Decameron story. There are all sorts of people in these stories, from all walks of life, doing all kinds of things, things which many people would never think of people of this time period doing.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By khw on December 5, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
100 stories to read time and again.

The Decameron contains many references to the church and its influence. The first story of Ser Cepparello pokes fun at the church, but the storyteller, Panfilo, precedes his tale with a pious preamble: "It is fitting that everything done by man should begin with the marvelous and holy name of Him...I intend to start with one of His marvelous deeds, so that when we have heard about it, out faith in Him will remain as firm as ever" (25). Panfilo goes on to tell the story of the worst sinner in Europe who becomes a saint merely by duping his confessor. At the end of the tale, Christians worship the false saint, and Panfilo concludes with another tribute to God. The effect is hilarious. The tale makes religion a farce, but the opening and closing take religion very seriously. This disguises the biting satire of the story. By framing stories with prayers, the contents within the frame seem less irreverent. The second story fits in the same framework, as Neifile tells a story to promote "His infallible truth so that with firmer conviction we may practice what we believe" (38). She goes on to tell the story of a Jew named Abraham, who converts to Christianity after he observes the wickedness of the clergy in Rome. Abraham finds Rome to be "a forge for the Devil's work" and is amazed that "in spite of all this...your religion grows and becomes brighter and more illustrious" (42). The incredible corruption of the church, coupled with its success, baffles Abraham enough that he has to conclude that God must favor the Christians if they are allowed to be so evil. Like Panfilo, Neifile concludes her tale by praising God.

The third story also focuses on religion, but this time the main characters are a Saracen and a Jew.
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