GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO (/boʊˈkɑːtʃiˌoʊ, -tʃoʊ, bə-/ ; Italian:
; 1313 – 21 December 1375) was an Italian writer, poet,
Petrarch , and an important
Renaissance humanist .
Boccaccio wrote a number of notable works, including
The Decameron and
On Famous Women . He wrote his imaginative literature mostly in the
Italian vernacular , as well as other works in Latin, and is
particularly noted for his realistic dialogue which differed from that
of his contemporaries, medieval writers who usually followed formulaic
models for character and plot.
* 1 Biography
* 1.1 Early life
* 1.2 Adult years
* 2 Works
* 3 See also
* 4 Citations
* 5 Sources
* 6 Further reading
* 7 External links
The details of Boccaccio's birth are uncertain. He was born in
Florence or in a village near
Certaldo where his family was from. He
was the son of Florentine merchant Boccaccino di Chellino and an
unknown woman; he was likely born out of wedlock. Boccaccio's
stepmother was called Margherita de' Mardoli.
Boccaccio grew up in Florence. His father worked for the Compagnia
dei Bardi and, in the 1320s, married Margherita dei Mardoli, who was
of a well-to-do family. Boccaccio may have been tutored by Giovanni
Mazzuoli and received from him an early introduction to the works of
Dante . In 1326, his father was appointed head of a bank and moved
with his family to
Naples . Boccaccio was an apprentice at the bank
but disliked the banking profession. He persuaded his father to let
him study law at the Studium (the present-day University of Naples
), where he studied canon law for the next six years. He also pursued
his interest in scientific and literary studies.
His father introduced him to the Neapolitan nobility and the
French-influenced court of Robert the Wise (the king of Naples) in the
1330s. At this time, he fell in love with a married daughter of the
king, who is portrayed as "
Fiammetta " in many of Boccaccio's prose
romances, including Il
Filocolo (1338). Boccaccio became a friend of
Niccolò Acciaioli , and benefited from his
influence as the administrator, and perhaps the lover, of Catherine of
Valois-Courtenay , widow of Philip I of Taranto . Acciaioli later
became counselor to Queen Joanna I of
Naples and, eventually, her
It seems that Boccaccio enjoyed law no more than banking, but his
studies allowed him the opportunity to study widely and make good
contacts with fellow scholars. His early influences included Paolo da
Perugia (a curator and author of a collection of myths called the
Collectiones), humanists Barbato da Sulmona and Giovanni Barrili, and
Dionigi di Borgo San Sepolcro .
Boccaccio's statue in
In Naples, Boccaccio began what he considered his true vocation of
poetry. Works produced in this period include
Il Filostrato and
Teseida (the sources for Chaucer 's
Troilus and Criseyde and The
Knight\'s Tale , respectively),
The Filocolo (a prose version of an
existing French romance), and La caccia di Diana (a poem in terza rima
listing Neapolitan women). The period featured considerable formal
innovation, including possibly the introduction of the Sicilian octave
, where it influenced
Boccaccio returned to
Florence in early 1341, avoiding the plague of
1340 in that city, but also missing the visit of
1341. He had left
Naples due to tensions between the Angevin king and
Florence. His father had returned to
Florence in 1338, where he had
gone bankrupt. His mother died shortly afterward (possibly, as she was
unknown — see above). Boccaccio continued to work, although
dissatisfied with his return to Florence, producing Comedia delle
ninfe fiorentine in 1341 (also known as Ameto), a mix of prose and
poems, completing the fifty-canto allegorical poem
Amorosa visione in
Fiammetta in 1343. The pastoral piece "Ninfale fiesolano"
probably dates from this time, also. In 1343, Boccaccio's father
remarried to Bice del Bostichi. His children by his first marriage had
all died, but he had another son named Iacopo in 1344. Giovanni
Boccaccio and Florentines who have fled from the plague
In Florence, the overthrow of Walter of Brienne brought about the
government of popolo minuto ("small people", workers). It diminished
the influence of the nobility and the wealthier merchant classes and
assisted in the relative decline of Florence. The city was hurt
further in 1348 by the
Black Death , which killed some three-quarters
of the city's population, later represented in the Decameron.
From 1347, Boccaccio spent much time in Ravenna, seeking new
patronage and, despite his claims, it is not certain whether he was
present in plague-ravaged Florence. His stepmother died during the
epidemic and his father was closely associated with the government
efforts as Minister of Supply in the city. His father died in 1349 and
Boccaccio was forced into a more active role as head of the family.
Boccaccio began work on
The Decameron around 1349. It is probable
that the structures of many of the tales date from earlier in his
career, but the choice of a hundred tales and the frame-story lieta
brigata of three men and seven women dates from this time. The work
was largely complete by 1352. It was Boccaccio's final effort in
literature and one of his last works in Italian; the only other
substantial work was
Corbaccio (dated to either 1355 or 1365).
Boccaccio revised and rewrote the Decameron in 1370–1371. This
manuscript has survived to the present day.
From 1350, Boccaccio became closely involved with Italian humanism
(although less of a scholar) and also with the Florentine government.
His first official mission was to
Romagna in late 1350. He revisited
that city-state twice and also was sent to
Avignon . He also pushed for the study of Greek, housing Barlaam of
Calabria, and encouraging his tentative translations of works by Homer
Euripides , and
Aristotle . In these years, he also took minor
In October 1350, he was delegated to greet Francesco
Petrarch as he
Florence and also to have
Petrarch as a guest at Boccaccio's
home, during his stay. The meeting between the two was extremely
fruitful and they were friends from then on, Boccaccio calling
Petrarch his teacher and magister.
Petrarch at that time encouraged
Boccaccio to study classical Greek and Latin literature. They met
Padua in 1351, Boccaccio on an official mission to invite
Petrarch to take a chair at the university in Florence. Although
unsuccessful, the discussions between the two were instrumental in
Boccaccio writing the
Genealogia deorum gentilium ; the first edition
was completed in 1360 and this remained one of the key reference works
on classical mythology for over 400 years. It served as an extended
defense for the studies of ancient literature and thought. Despite the
Pagan beliefs at its core, Boccaccio believed that much could be
learned from antiquity. Thus, he challenged the arguments of clerical
intellectuals who wanted to limit access to classical sources to
prevent any moral harm to Christian readers. The revival of classical
antiquity became a foundation of the Renaissance, and his defense of
the importance of ancient literature was an essential requirement for
its development. The discussions also formalized Boccaccio's poetic
ideas. Certain sources also see a conversion of Boccaccio by Petrarch
from the open humanist of the Decameron to a more ascetic style,
closer to the dominant fourteenth century ethos. For example, he
Petrarch (and Dante) in the unsuccessful championing of an
archaic and deeply allusive form of Latin poetry. In 1359, following a
Pope Innocent VI and further meetings with Petrarch, it
is probable that Boccaccio took some kind of religious mantle. There
is a persistent (but unsupported) tale that he repudiated his earlier
works as profane in 1362, including the Decameron. Circes :
illustration of one of the women featured the 1374 biographies of 106
famous women, De Claris Mulieribus, by Boccaccio – from a German
translation of 1541
In 1360, Boccaccio began work on
De mulieribus claris , a book
offering biographies of one hundred and six famous women, that he
completed in 1374.
A number of Boccaccio's close friends and other acquaintances were
executed or exiled in the purge following the failed coup of 1361. It
was in this year that Boccaccio left
Florence to reside in Certaldo,
although not directly linked to the conspiracy, where he became less
involved in government affairs. He did not undertake further missions
Florence until 1365, and traveled to
Naples and then on to Padua
Venice , where he met up with
Petrarch in grand style at Palazzo
Molina , Petrarch's residence as well as the place of Petrarch\'s
library . He later returned to
Certaldo . He met
Petrarch only once
Padua in 1368. Upon hearing of the death of
Petrarch (19 July
1374), Boccaccio wrote a commemorative poem, including it in his
collection of lyric poems, the Rime.
He returned to work for the Florentine government in 1365,
undertaking a mission to
Pope Urban V . The papacy returned to Rome
Avignon in 1367, and Boccaccio was again sent to Urban, offering
congratulations. He also undertook diplomatic missions to
Of his later works, the moralistic biographies gathered as De casibus
virorum illustrium (1355–74) and
De mulieribus claris (1361–1375)
were most significant. Other works include a dictionary of
geographical allusions in classical literature, De montibus, silvis,
fontibus, lacubus, fluminibus, stagnis seu paludibus, et de nominibus
maris liber. He gave a series of lectures on Dante at the Santo
Stefano church in 1373 and these resulted in his final major work, the
detailed Esposizioni sopra la Commedia di Dante. Boccaccio and
Petrarch were also two of the most educated people in early
Renaissance in the field of archaeology .
Boccaccio's change in writing style in the 1350s was due in part to
meeting with Petrarch, but it was mostly due to poor health and a
premature weakening of his physical strength. It also was due to
disappointments in love. Some such disappointment could explain why
Boccaccio came suddenly to write in a bitter
Corbaccio style, having
previously written always in praise of women and love. Petrarch
describes how Pietro Petrone (a
Carthusian monk) on his death bed in
1362 sent another
Carthusian (Gioacchino Ciani) to urge him to
renounce his worldly studies.
Petrarch then dissuaded Boccaccio from
burning his own works and selling off his personal library, letters,
books, and manuscripts.
Petrarch even offered to purchase Boccaccio's
library, so that it would become part of Petrarch\'s library .
However, upon Boccaccio's death, his entire collection was given to
the monastery of Santo Spirito, in
Florence , where it still resides.
His final years were troubled by illnesses, some relating to obesity
and what often is described as dropsy , severe edema that would be
described today as congestive heart failure . He died on 21 December
1375 in Certaldo, where he is buried.
Alphabetical listing of selected works
Amorosa visione (1342)
Buccolicum carmen (1367–1369)
* Caccia di Diana (1334–1337)
* Comedia delle ninfe fiorentine (Ninfale d'Ameto, 1341–1342)
Corbaccio (around 1365, this date is disputed)
* De Canaria (within 1341–1345)
De Casibus Virorum Illustrium (c. 1360). Facsimile of 1620 Paris
ed., 1962, Scholars' Facsimiles border:solid #aaa 1px">
* Italy portal
* Literature portal
Influence of Italian humanism on Chaucer
* ^ Bartlett, Kenneth R. (1992). The Civilization of the Italian
Renaissance. Toronto: D.C. Heath and Company. ISBN 0-669-20900-7
(Paperback). Page 43–44.
* ^ Giovanni Boccaccio; Mariangela Causa-Steindler; Thomas Mauch.
The elegy of Lady Fiammetta. p. XI.
* ^ James Patrick.
Renaissance and Reformation.
* ^ A B Bartlett, Kenneth R. (1992). The Civilization of the
Italian Renaissance. Toronto: D.C. Heath and Company. ISBN
0-669-20900-7 (Paperback). Page 43.
* ^ Prudence Allen. The Concept of Woman: The Early Humanist
Reformation, 1250-1500, Part 1, page 277.
* ^ New Standard Encyclopedia, 1992. "Boccaccio, Giovanni"; Volume
B, p. 316. Chicago: Standard Educational Corporation
* ^ "Complete list of Boccaccio works at Decameron". Retrieved 5
* ^ "Boccaccio, Giovanni \'\'La Fiammetta\'\' (1342), Project
Gutenburg". Gutenberg.org. 2003-11-01. Retrieved 2010-02-17.
* ^ "Boccaccio, Giovanni \'\'The Decameron\'\', Volume I, Project
Gutenburg". Gutenberg.org. 2003-02-01. Retrieved 2010-02-17.
* ^ "Boccaccio, Giovanni \'\'The Decameron\'\', Volume II, Project
Gutenburg". Gutenberg.org. 2004-08-03. Retrieved 2010-02-17.
* ^ "Encyclopedia of medieval literature – Boccaccio, Giovanni".
Retrieved 4 December 2013.
* ^ King, Margaret L. "The
Renaissance in Europe". Laurence King
Publishing, 2003, p.54.
* ^ "The chronological archives of his complete works".
Digilander.libero.it. Retrieved 2010-02-17.
* ^ Works of
Giovanni Boccaccio text, concordances and frequency
* ^ "Boccaccio's Archaeological Knowledge".
JSTOR 498505 .
* ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica 2007, \'\'
Petrarch and Boccaccio\'s
mature years.\'\'". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2010-02-17.
* ^ "Library of Liberty". Oll.libertyfund.org. Retrieved
* Consoli, Joseph P. (1992) Giovanni Boccaccio: an Annotated
Bibliography. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8240-3147-4 .
* Patrick, James A.(2007).
Renaissance And Reformation. Marshall
Cavendish Corp. ISBN 9780761476504 .
* On Famous Women, edited and translated by Virginia Brown.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001 ISBN 0-674-00347-0
(Latin text and English translation)
* The Decameron, ISBN 0-451-52866-2
* The Life of Dante, translated by Vincenzo Zin Bollettino. New
York: Garland, 1990 ISBN 1-84391-006-3
* The Elegy of Lady Fiammetta, edited and translated by Mariangela
Causa-Steindler and Thomas Mauch; with an introduction by Mariangela
Causa-Steindler. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990 ISBN