Boccaccio was a scholar whose voluminous works included romantic novels, epic poems, biographies, and collections of myths and legends. His most famous work—and the one most often censored—is the Decameron, a collection of one hundred tales that appeared from 1349 to 1351. Although Boccaccio had probably collected the tales over many years, his introduction to the work explains that seven young ladies and three young men entertained each other with the stories for ten days while the bubonic plague ravaged Florence in 1348. Both charming and humorous, the stories deal mostly with themes of love and sex—often in a lascivious fashion. Although Boccaccio appears to have been a practicing Roman Catholic, he used the stories to poke fun at the moral laxity of the priests and monks of his time.
From an early date, pious critics were shocked by the salacious and ostensibly anticlerical aspects of the Decameron. In 1497 Girolamo Savonarola, the prior of Florence’s St. Mark’s Cathedral, burned the work as a part of the “bonfire of the vanities.” In 1559 the Index Librorum Prohibitorum of Pope Paul IV condemned the book; however, in 1573 Pope Gregory XIII allowed publication of an expurgated edition that retained the licentious parts but removed portions considered disrespectful of the Church and tainted by heresy. Fourteen years later, Pope Sixtus V proscribed all editions of the work. Around 1600 Boccaccio’s book was...
(The entire section is 528 words.)