Giovanni Boccaccio Poetry: European Poets Analysis
Although Giovanni Boccaccio is a foundational figure in Renaissance Humanism and literature, his life and work are, nevertheless, an outgrowth of the literary and cultural sensibilities of the late medieval period. Like Dante, whose works he admired tremendously, he chose to write in the vernacular and employ the dolce stil nuovo, “the sweet new style,” which emphasized personal introspection on matters of love and relied on a vocabulary of accepted metaphors and symbols to express the fruit of that introspection. In addition, his devotion to his muse, Fiammetta, and the poetry and prose she inspired reflect the tendency of contemporary poets to spiritualize the older courtly love traditions that originated in the writings of the twelfth century writer Andreas Cappellanus and the poetry of the troubadours and medieval romance poets. To this late medieval tradition, however, Boccaccio brought a burgeoning Renaissance way of thinking, as seen in his passion for the ideals, literary models, and narrative texts of the classical world. Specifically, his long narrative poems reflect a conscious imitation of epic and have for their subject matter classical myth and heroic tradition; he also wrote eclogues, Boccaccio’s Olympia, in Latin in imitation of Vergil.
In his narrative poetry, Boccaccio frequently explores the conflict between love and fortune and how each tests the lovers involved. Two of the most important in this genre are The Filostrato and The Book of Theseus.
Boccaccio based The Filostrato on the twelfth century Le Roman de Troie (the romance of Troy) by Benoît de Sainte-Maure. In this work, Boccaccio creates a complex poem of love, passion, and intrigue divided into eight cantos. The poem is set against the famed Trojan War, and the main character Troilo, a prince in the house of King Priam of Troy and a great warrior in the ongoing battle with the Greeks, is smitten with love for Criseida, a young widow whose father, Calchas, has defected to the Greek side. Her cousin Pandaro, a friend of Troilo, discovers his friend’s love and orchestrates a meeting and later romantic trysts. The vicissitudes of war interrupt their love, however, as Calchas arranges to have his daughter returned to him. Though Troilo and Criseida swear fidelity and plan for a swift reunion, Criseida is soon courted by the Greek Diomede and...
(The entire section is 995 words.)