Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Naples. Seaport in southern Italy in which Giovanni Boccaccio spent several years before writing The Elegy of Lady Fiammetta. His book paints a glowing civic portrait of Naples, which he describes as “joyful, peaceful, rich, magnificent and under a single ruler.” Beautiful people reside here, and life in the upper class is ornamented with luxuries and spectacles. The noblewoman Fiammetta’s own beauty is displayed in the unidentified church in which she first meets the young Panfilo, in an echo of Petrarch’s first glimpsing of his beloved (and also married) Laura. Ironically, in this place of divine worship the tinder of the adulterous affair is kindled. It is in a Neapolitan convent that Fiammetta first realizes that another woman—a young nun—has also fallen for Panfilo’s charms.

Fiammetta’s bedchamber

Fiammetta’s bedchamber. Room in Fiammetta’s husband’s house in which she dreams her dreams and watches her beauty blossom before ever meeting Panfilo. Here she suffers her nightmare about a field in which she is bitten by a venomous snake that presages her failed affair. After her initially flirtatious but innocent meetings with Panfilo become carnal, her bedchamber becomes the sexual playground that only they share, away from prying eyes or nosy servants. Even her nurse, apparently, does not know what her lover looks like. Here Fiammetta meets the Roman goddess Venus and the Fury Tisiphone, with whom she has imagined conversations about her love and eventual grief....

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The Elegy of Lady Fiammetta Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Boccaccio, Giovanni. The Elegy of Lady Fiammetta. Edited and translated by Mariangela Causa-Steindler and Thomas Mauch. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. The most elegant modern translation into American English. Introduction presents an overview of the author’s life, the elegy, and the various sources of its inspiration.

Boccaccio, Giovanni. The Elegy of Madonna Fiammetta Sent by Her to Women in Love. Translated by Roberta L. Payne and Alexandra Hennessey Olsen. New York: Peter Lang, 1992. Contains a fine, brief introduction to the work’s literary features. The translation is of a slightly different original text than Causa-Steindler and Mauch’s, and thus can serve for comparison.

Griffin, Robert. “Boccaccio’s Fiammetta: Pictures at an Exhibition.” Italian Quarterly 18, no. 72 (Spring, 1975): 75-111. An appraisal of the techniques by which Boccaccio uses Fiammetta to present a series of emotions. Discusses the elegy’s literary, linguistic, and classical features.

Iannucci, Amilcare A. “L’Elegia di Madonna Fiammetta and the First Book of the Asolani: The Eloquence of Unrequited Love.” Forum Italicum 10, no. 4 (1976): 345-359. Compares The Elegy of Lady Fiammetta with a later Italian Renaissance work. Highlights Boccaccio’s stylistic features.

Smarr, Janet Levarie. Boccaccio and Fiammetta: The Narrator as Lover. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1986. A chapter on The Elegy of Lady Fiammetta discusses the character of Fiammetta as she appears in other of Boccaccio’s works. Discusses the variety of perspectives found in the voices of reasoned narrators and impassioned characters, who often were the same person playing differing roles.