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Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375)

Biographical Information

Main Works

Featured Works: The Decameron


Biographical Information

Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), Italian writer, humanist, one of the founders of the Renaissance

born in Paris, son of an Italian (Florentine) businessman and a French woman

studied business but abandoned it eventually to pursue his literary interests

in 1350 Boccaccio met Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch) (1304-1374), one the most important figures in the beginnings of the Renaissance and Humanism

interest in classical antiquity

influence of Petrarch and Dante

Main Works

Decameron (1350-1353), collection of prose tales in Italian

On the Genealogy of the Gods of the Gentiles (De genealogia deorum gentilium) (1350-1374), scholarly work on classical mythology and culture, written in Latin

The Corbaccio (Il Corbaccio) (1354-55), satirical work, in Italian, dealing with the problem of unreciprocated love

Biography of Dante (1355-1364)

On the Fates of Famous Men (De casibus virorum illustrium) (1355-1374), stories of the downfall of powerful men

Concerning Famous Women (De claris mulieribus)(1360-1374), biographies of famous women


Growing importance of European commercial activity and the economic contributions of middle classes of merchants, bankers, craftspeople, and other professionals. Changing values emphasizing notions of freedom, redistribution of wealth and honor, and more egalitarian social conditions. Questioning of the inherited and traditional rights and authority of aristocrats and the Church.

Development and growing influence of Humanism: Shift in focus from God and the afterlife to the here and now, the enjoyment of the present moment, the addressing and solving of the problems of the human condition.

Bubonic plague or Black Death: originated in Asia and spread throughout Europe between 1348-1351. It is speculated that the epidemic might have started in 1347 with the use of infected corpses catapulted by Asian tribesmen into the camps of Italian traders. The disease reached Sicily in 1347; North Africa, Italy, Spain, England, and France by 1348; Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, Germany, and the Low Countries by 1349; and Scandinavia and the Baltic countries by 1350. Outbreaks of the plague continued throughout the 14th century. It is estimated that the disease killed about 25 million Europeans (about a third of the population). Petrarch lost his beloved Laura to the plague and, likewise, Boccaccio lost Maria d'Aquino (who is said to have rejected his love and inspired the figure of Fiammetta in his works). General state of confusion, ignorance, and superstition throughout Europe. The wages of the working classes increased due to the scarcity of laborers and the numbers of ecclesiastics decreased due to the high mortality among those who dealt with the dying.


to come

Recommended Reading

to come

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