What is the central meaning of Boccaccio's The Decameron?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The stories in The Decameron range from stories about bawdy intrigues to stories about bourgeois merchants to stories about the pains and tragedies of love to stories of religious capers with monks with farce, comedy, and tragedy all included. Therefore finding a "central meaning" to Boccaccio's The Decameron depends on understanding Boccaccio's thematic purpose.

Boccaccio had witnessed in Florence the plague of the Black Death begun in 1347. With an estimated 30 to 40 percent of the population lost to the horrible illness and death of the Black Death, personal lives and society were rocked to the core. Boccaccio's 100 stories are highly structured and may be metaphorically viewed as his gift of order on a disordered world. In these structured stories, Boccaccio celebrates two thematic ideas.

The first theme is, as he writes in his dedication, is womanhood and love. The second theme is the intelligence of humankind. The 100 stories, told by 10 people over 10 days, shed light on the multiple aspects of these themes: woman and love; intelligence. This thematic central meaning, exploring and celebrating woman and love along with intelligence, may suggest that Boccaccio's vision was a world repaired by the combined effects of womanhood, love, and intelligence.

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