The Decameron

“Essere la natura de’ motti cotale, che essi come la pecora morde deono cosi mordere l’uditore, e non come ‘l cane: percio che, se come cane mordesse il motto, non sarebbe motto, ma villania” – The Decameron, Boccaccio
The nature of wit is such that its bite must be like that of a sheep rather than a dog, for if it were to bite the listener like a dog, it would no longer be wit but abuse. 

The Decameron is 600-years old collection of novellas by Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio. The book contains 100 tales told by a group of seven young women and three men who are sheltering in a villa outside Florence. Decameron apparently has something to do with number ten. Ten nights are spent telling stories. The book is quite humorous, the tales are full of wit and practical jokes and from time to time they offer some wisdom, although some of the tales are quite old-fashioned.

.There’s  a lot to The Decameron and that makes it hard to review it. There’s a lot of sex and many tales center priests and women. On the other hand, it’s always nice when church is mocked. There are many lies and lots of deceit in Decameron and those two are perhaps the core themes here.

“Io ho inteso che un gallo basta assai bene a diece galline, ma che diece uomini posson male o con fatica una femina sodisfare.” – The Decameron, Boccaccio
I have always been given to understand…that whereas a single cock is quite sufficient for ten hens, ten men are hard put to satisfy one woman.

I liked how they were well aware of these natural laws like there was Murphy’s Law Nature, Fate, Fortune No matter what you do in life, life is out of control. Characters in stories are prank each other yes, however there also seems to be a lot of bad luck.

I also liked this tragic backstory. Our storytellers have ended up in villa outside Florence because they are trying to escape the Black Death raging in Florence. Good sense of humor is vital survival skill. I’m rating this book 4/5 stars. It might seem quite high, however I wasn’t expecting anything much from this, in fact I don’t think I have ever even heard of this book so it was quite entertaining read.

How- To Read The Decameron
You should really chew on it. The Decameron has so many themes and many wise lines so just take your time with it.
2. Paperback has almost 900 pages… so definitely take your time. Maybe read one tale a day? Maybe ask fellow readers which tales they liked.
3. If you have to read this for college or for some literature class, just skip reading and wikipedia what happens in book. It will be painful to read this for a class :D
4. Tales about lustful monks might tire you but main theme of Decameron is lies and deceit so it’s quite entertaining even with sex factor. Reading this is like watching a soap opera.
5. If you’re really excited about this, I would recommend you this book called La Divina Commedia from fellow Italian for further reading.

“Leggiadre donne, infra molte bianche colombe aggiugne più di bellezza uno nero corvo, che non farebbe un candido cigno.” – The Decameron, Boccaccio
Charming ladies, the beauty of a flock of white doves is better enhanced by a black crow than by a pure white swan.

This book pretty much  wrecked my Goodreads ‘year published’ stats. There’s no fixing that huge century-long gap… is there. Have you read any books written centuries ago that you have liked? Have you read The Decameron?


All pictures very kindly borrowed from the internet & Wikipedia Commons.

6 thoughts on “The Decameron

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  1. Anastasia,

    I didn´t read all the Decameron, but some of the stories in a abridged collection of my grandfather.

    The Decameron is a portrait of a urban society becaming more humanistic at the end of the medieval age. People are beggining to question eternal truths of the church and noble people.

    I have to confess that when I read it I was in my teens, so the sex stories were awesome at that time. Of course I find them silly now, even naive!

    I don´t know if you have read the Canterbury Tales. Both texts are very alike. They have the same kind of structure and discuss the same issues.

    About old books, I have enjoyed a lot the The Iliad. La Divina Commedia is in the waitlist.
    I read some novels from Dostoievsky, Tolstoi, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas. I don´t know if these XIX books count in your definition of old, but I think they are all indispensable!

    I always enjoy your postings! Keep up with the good work!


    1. Thank you Eduardo!

      I did quite like the humanistic approach in this. I think maybe this helped create those awesome XIX century books you mentioned.Canterbury Tales… I believe I have read some of it at least, however, I think I was quite young then so I will definitely keep that one in mind…have to wait until I’m in a mood to read classics again.

      1. Canterbury Tales is Chaucer’s masterwork. A bunch of pilgrims are traveling to visit Thomas Beckett’s grave and decide that each one has to tell a tale. It’s a very nice portrait of England Late Middle ages.

    1. I’m mostly just a confused individual :) I think I like classics because they’re easily accessible so I don’t need to bother with pictures. Also, they make me appreciate my favorite genres (fantasy, scifi more…)

      Those are all wonderful authors <3

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