Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Contemporary Florence, during the terrible Black Plague, is the setting chosen by Boccaccio for The Decameron, which historians generally agree was written between 1349 and 1351. A desire to escape the horrors of the city prompts a group of ten young people (seven women and three men) to retreat to a country villa. There, they amuse themselves by telling each other stories.
The structure of The Decameron begins with a frame. The author addresses his readers, whom he presumes to be women, in his prologue, declaring his intent. He offers The Decameron as a pleasant distraction to those tormented lovers whose woes are more difficult to endure. He then apologizes to the “charming ladies” for the book’s unpleasant but necessary beginning. A graphic description in realistic detail of the devastation of the plague in the city of Florence follows. The device of the frame was used by Boccaccio in earlier works, but on a smaller scale, as in Labor of Love. The frame in The Decameron provides a specific location and date to the story, while offering a realistic and reasonable explanation for such a collection of unchaperoned young people in a remote place. It further serves to unify what would otherwise be a loose collection of seemingly unrelated tales. The frame characters are the ten narrators, each endowed with intelligence, breeding, charm, and some distinguishing feature. Once settled in their country villa,...
(The entire section is 948 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
A terrible plague is ravaging Florence, Italy. To flee from it, a group of seven young women and three young men, who meet by chance in a church, decide to go to a villa out of town. There they set up a working arrangement whereby each will be king or queen for a day. During the ten days they stay in the country, each tells a story, following certain stipulations laid down by the daily ruler. The stories range from romance to farce, from comedy to tragedy.
Pampinea’s Tale About the Three Tedaldo Young Men. When Messer Tedaldo dies, he leaves all of his goods and chattels to his three sons. With no thought for the future, they live so extravagantly that they soon have little left. The oldest son suggests that they sell what they can, leave Florence, and go to London, where they are unknown.
In London, they lend money at a high rate of interest, and in a few years, they have a small fortune. Then they return to Florence. There they marry and begin to live extravagantly again, while depending on the moneys still coming to them from England.
A nephew named Alessandro takes care of their business in England. At that time, there are such differences between the king and a son that Alessandro’s business is ruined. He stays in England, however, in the hope that peace will come and his business will recover. Finally, he returns to Italy with a group of monks who are taking their young abbot to the pope to get a dispensation for...
(The entire section is 2734 words.)