Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Decameron

The year is 1348. The Black Death has begun to ravage Europe. Ten young Florentines—seven women and three men—escape the plague-infested city and retreat to the countryside around Fiesole. At their leisure in this isolated and bucolic setting, they spend ten days telling each other stories—tales of romance, tragedy, comedy, and farce—one hundred in all. The result, called by one critic "the greatest short story collection of all time" (Leonard Barkan, Princeton University) is a rich and entertaining celebration of the medley of medieval life.

Witty, earthy, and filled with bawdy irreverence, the one hundred stories of The Decameron offer more than simple escapism; they are also a life-affirming balm for trying times. The Decameron is a joyously comic book that has earned its place in world literature not just because it makes us laugh, but more importantly because it shows us how essential laughter is to the human condition.

The excuse that we do not have time to read the the thousand plus pages of Giovanni Boccaccio's masterpiece is starting to look a bit threadbare considering that we are all likely to be confined to barracks for weeks on end. Come on, escape the plague-infested city and retreat.

Film and Television Adaptations
  • Decameron Nights (1924) was based on three of the tales.
  • Decameron Nights (1953) was based on three of the tales and starred Louis Jourdan as Boccaccio.
  • Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Decameron (1971) is an anthology film which includes nine of the stories.
  • The 2007 film Virgin Territory is a romantic comedy based on the framing story of The Decameron.
  • The 2015 film Wondrous Boccaccio is loosely based on four of the tales.
  • The 2017 comedy The Little Hours adapted tales III, 1 and III, 2.

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