The Decameron's All-Encompassing Discourse: topoi of the poet, women, and critics.
Comincia il libro chiamato Decameron, cognominato prencipe Galeotto, nel quale si contengono cento novelle in dieci di dette da sette donne e da tre giovani uomini.
(Here begins the book called Decameron, surnamed prince Galahalt, in which are contained one hundred tales, narrated in ten days by seven ladies and three men.)
At the end of the book, after the last word of the Boccaccio persona, we find the explicit:
Qui finisce la decima e ultima giornata del libro chiamato Decameron cognominato prencipe Galeotto.
(Here ends the tenth and last day of the book called Decameron, surnamed Prince Galahalt.)
The Decameron's Incipit and Explicit, although standard per se for what they announce, show nevertheless a peculiarity. Whereas the title of Dante's Divine Comedy and Petrarch's songbook are in Latin--most likely in Dante's case, and certainly in Petrarch's case--the standard beginning and conclusion of the Decameron are in Italian. (2) While it is a fact that all three works are in Italian, Boccaccio's refusal of employing Latin for his work's title, as his two great masters did, might be interpreted as the first step of the youngest of the so-called three crowns toward subverting and parodying prevailing medieval practices. In the title, two are the elements contained in both Incipit and Explicit that need close examining: the word Decameron, which, through the centuries, has been used as the book's abbreviated title, and which means Ten Days; and the phrase Prencipe Galeotto, or Prince Galahalt. The word Decameron harkens back to books on the creation of the world in six days, or Hexameron, particularly the work by St. Ambrose, which was well known throughout the Middle Ages; the second phrase recalls the Arthurian matter, which was equally well known, and which had entered Dante's Divine Comedy, for instance through the words of Francesca in the famous episode of Inferno 5. At that moment of Dante the Pilgrim's journey, Francesca answers his question referring to the Arthurian book which she was reading together with her lover Paolo, and through which they discovered their mutual passion, with her famous words: "'Galeotto fu 'l libro e chi lo scrisse'" ("'Galahalt was the book and he who wrote it'" Inf. 5.137). Both references--the first to the Hexameron; the second, to the Arthurian matter focusing on the amorous passion leading to death, especially the one experienced by the Dantean character--should be kept in mind for the proper interpretation of the masterpiece. (3)
As to the Hexameron, I believe that Boccaccio intends to rewrite the biblical six days of creation by means of his ten days of storytelling. The Hexameron is an exegetical treatise of a Christian story describing the primordia of humankind before its fall, at times followed by a sequel, humankind's expulsion from the earthly paradise. (4) The Decameron, by contrast, is a story that picks up the narrative precisely where the biblical story of creation ends--namely, the catastrophe befalling the city of Florence through the plague, in many ways comparable to the fall of Adam and Eve (as well as Dante's Hell)--and brings the brigata (called "un piccolo popolo") not just to one, but rather to three earthly paradises, or even four loci amoeni, if one considers the "boschetto" visited by the group at the beginning of Day Nine (9.2). Then, at the end of the story, the ten young people return to the previous "pestilence," namely, Florence still ravaged by the plague: no longer a place of exile, as it was for Adam and Eve, but rather the historical (1348) and geographical place (Florence) inhabited by the ten storytellers as well as by Boccaccio the author. By rewriting in his Decameron humankind's fall from grace and its consequent punishment by God (Dec. 1. Intro. 1.8; 1.25), Boccaccio at the same time rewrites the medieval conception of the world that was prevalent at his time and that was rendered poetically by Dante primarily in his Divine Comedy. In the next essay, I will further develop some of these suggestions. Concerning the Arthurian matter, the role of the book as an intermediary can be understood in many ways, including through the function of the Boccaccio persona in his relationship with his ideal interlocutors, the ladies in love, through his gift of one hundred tales to them, through the subject matter of so many tales, and the ten evening ballads.
2. The Decameron's Essential Components
The Decameron consists of multiple narrative and poetic components, for which the proper terminology must be found. Let us begin by listing all these diverse components of the Decameron, keeping in mind that each of them leads to the following one in the structure of the work until we reach the core of the Decameron, the one hundred tales; at that point, each component travels again backwards, as it were, across the previous trajectory, returning to the point of departure, when the brigata returns to Florence, which is still devastated by the plague. Finally, the Boccaccio persona concludes the discourse, which he has initiated at the beginning of the work right after the title and which encompasses the whole work, whose end is marked by the Explicit.
This succinct summary can be further elucidated by the following schematic rendering of all the Decameron's components, which brings to light how each element leads to the subsequent one:
2. The Boccaccio persona in the Proem introduces himself and addresses ladies in love.>
3. The Boccaccio persona addresses the ladies in love and describes the plague. >
4. He describes the brigata, which goes from the city to the country. >
5. He describes each day's beginning and conclusion outside the city. >
6. The brigata narrates ten tales each day, and one of the ten young people sings a ballad at the end of each day.>5
7. After ten days of storytelling, Boccaccio describes the brigata"s return to Florence.>
8. The Boccaccio persona addresses his interlocutors, the ladies in love, responds to their objections, and allows them to think as they please. >
After the title, the Author's Proem precedes the description of Florence devastated by the plague, within whose context the ten young people meet, leave the city, and, over the span of ten days, narrate one hundred tales, at the end of which they return to Florence. Finally, at the end, after narrating the ten young people's return to Florence and dispersal throughout the city or back to their homes, the Boccaccio persona concludes the book addressing the ladies in love, whom he had first addressed before beginning the description of the plague and also before the stories of Day Four.
As this succinct description of the Decameron's components evinces, the Boccaccio persona plays a prominent role by means of his all-encompassing discourse, which is divided in four parts--Proem; Introduction to Day One (Dec. 1. Intro. 2-7); Introduction to Day Four; Conclusion of the Author--and which supports the overarching tale of the brigata's life, within which all their activities are contained, including their tales and ten ballads. (6)
3. The Boccaccio Persona within the Masterpiece
Immediately after the title, the Decameron begins with the voice of the Boccaccio persona, just as Dante's Vita nuova and also the Divine Comedy begin with the voice of the author speaking within the work. (7) In the very beginning of the Vita nuova, for instance, the reader comes across those famous words in which the poet within the text--who never calls himself by name: a narrative practice followed also by Boccaccio in the Decameron--presents himself as the amanuensis of his own book of memory. In a different, but not totally dissimilar manner, Boccaccio too fashions himself as an amanuensis, not of his book of memory, but rather of a story he claims he has heard from a trustworthy person. (8)
Boccaccio develops his presence within the text in many ways: he speaks in the first person, addressing indirectly ladies in love, in the Proem ("Proemio dell'Autore"); at the beginning of the Introduction to the first day, when he briefly addresses the women in love, and also throughout the description of the plague, which he presents with the authority of the eye witness; in the Introduction to the fourth day; and finally in the Conclusion ("Conclusione dell'Autore"). (9) The Boccaccio persona assumes another role, that of the Narrator, when he allegedly recounts what he has heard from a trustworthy person, who must necessarily be one of the ten young people, even though we are not told explicitly that this is the case. As Narrator, he speaks in the third person, narrating the life of the ten young people as they meet in Santa Maria Novella on a Tuesday, leave the city on the following day, organize their lives, narrate ten stories on ten days, sing in turn a ballad at the end of each of the ten days, and finally return to Santa Maria Novella after fourteen days, including the two Fridays and Saturdays during which they abstain from storytelling primarily for religious reasons and hygienic purposes.
Boccaccio scholars have paid some attention to the initial Proem, much attention to the Introductions to Day One and Day Four, and only scant attention to the Conclusion of the Author. And yet, the Decameron begins and concludes with the voice of the Boccaccio persona, who thus constitutes a major factor for the proper assessment of the masterpiece. In brief, it is essential for readers to bear in mind the purpose and function of this discourse, in four parts, by the Boccaccio persona, which supports all the other elements of the Decameron and without which no single part of the masterpiece can stand on its own. (10)
No longer employing the first person pronoun, which characterizes the Boccaccio persona in his all-encompassing discourse, and playing the role of the Narrator, Boccaccio describes the life of the brigata, which is organized according to the seven canonical hours, beginning with the first one (prime) and ending late at night with the last canonical hours (compline, matins, and lauds). (I will expound this temporal structure of the brigata"s life in the next essay.) The life of the ten young people consists of many activities: ambling through the gardens, eating and drinking, singing and dancing, as well as storytelling. The life of the brigata has been typically called cornice, in Italian, or frame or frame tale, in English, except for the young people's storytelling, which has always been considered the very core of the masterpiece. Regrettably, although the word cornice never occurs in the Decameron, it has become customary to designate with this word, at times the space in which Boccaccio speaks in the first person (Singleton 117; BUR Dec. Quondam 20), but also, or perhaps primarily for most critics, the space within which the brigata's activities unfold. The ambiguity itself in the use of the term frame or cornice makes the term and the concept unacceptable. By contrast--the same critics have argued--the true core of the masterpiece would consist of the one hundred tales. (11)
Let us establish a relationship with Dante's Vita nuova, arguably the work, among those of his predecessors, which shares many points in common with the Decameron. Now, in reference to the initial statement in the Vita nuova referenced above (VN 1), even though one may consider it a preamble to the story (in fact, it is called "proemio" in VN 28.2), no critic has ever suggested to call it "a frame," a term which, by definition, indicates that it is not part of the painting, that is, in this case, of the narrative. (12) And yet, contrary to this obvious evidence, Boccaccio scholars call cornice or frame--and thus exclude, sideline, or downgrade from the core of the work itself--such essential elements as the Author's Proem, perhaps the description of the plague; likely also the gathering of the brigata in Santa Maria Novella; the life of the brigata during those ten days, including the ten ballads they sing at day's end; the Boccaccio persona's intervention at the beginning of Day Four; and finally his conclusion after Day Ten. The fact is that without the Boccaccio persona who fashions himself as a forlorn, yet compassionate, lover, we would not have his gift to the ladies in love; and without his description of the plague, the ten young people would have no purpose in leaving the city of Florence; and without their tales, and a trustworthy person of the brigata referring everything to the Narrator, he would have no gift to offer to women in love, and so on and so forth. (13) Accordingly, one should always bear in mind that the Boccaccio persona's discourse encompasses all the elements of the masterpiece and constitutes, therefore, the sine qua non for each one of them to exist. In fact, the term and notion of frame should be set aside once and for all as too reductive and, as it were, discriminatory. By contrast, the Italian term and notion of novella portante, or overarching tale, describes eminently well, without any bias, all the elements indicated above which are outside the Boccaccio persona's discourse, including the life of the brigata, from the moment the young people get up until they return to their individual bedrooms, with its climactic moment in the singing and dancing of the evening and the solo ballad. (14) Midway, so to speak, between the moment they rise and the time they retire to their bedrooms, the ten young people narrate ten stories, which need to be interpreted, not only in themselves, but also in relation to the overarching tale, which justifies the brigata's existence, and also to the Boccaccio persona's discourse, without which--it is worth emphasizing--no other part of the masterpiece could stand on its own. If one were to look for a terminology fairly new in Boccaccio studies, one might consider adapting and applying to the Decameron the Bakhtinian concept of chronotope, indeed, of concentrical chronotopes, each one of them interconnected, and all of them supported by the voice of the Boccaccio persona. (15)
The Boccaccio scholar who has paid attention and offered adequate and appropriate answers to these issues is Carlo Muscetta. First of all, he endorses the idea that the title of Boccaccio's masterpiece, the Decameron, is patterned after the tradition of the Hexameron and Virgil's "titoli ellenizzanti" (156; 316). Second, while recognizing the many outside sources that might have influenced Boccaccio in creating the structure of his masterpiece, he emphasizes the author's inventiveness (157). Third, he distinguishes between the author's discourse and his narration ("e da distinguere discorso dell'autore e racconto dell'autore" 299). And, finally and most importantly for my present argument, he states categorically that there is no frame, but an overarching story, in which the pestilence and the Florentine people constitute what is historically true, while the ten young people and their servants (I would also like to add, the Boccaccio persona) form what is lifelike. (16)
In brief, in the Decameron there is no cornice, for the entire masterpiece is built on the all-encompassing discourse of the Boccaccio persona, who addresses women in love and assumes also the role of the Narrator of the overarching story (or tale) of the brigata (related to him by a trustworthy person), within which are contained all the other elements of the work, specific chronotopic narratives worth considering just as the tales are: the young people's activities, from ambling through the gardens to storytelling, dancing and singing, including, at the end of each day, the ten "canzonette" (Dec. Proem 13). (17) Also, and most importantly, all these chronotopes--held together by many interconnected human personae and their voices--constitute an aesthetic, poetic, historical, and ethical body; indeed, an organic body and, as it were, a living organism, which readers are called upon to interpret, discuss, and engage with.
4. The Boccaccio Persona within the Decameron's Proem Just as Dante in the Vita nuova and even more so in the Divine Comedy, and just as Petrarch at the beginning of his Rerum vulgarium fragmenta, so too the Boccaccio persona addresses his readers in the Proem to the entire work. In fact, his fictional interlocutors, the women in love, from this moment onwards will belong in this all-encompassing time-space of the Decameron, which is, and thus should be called, the discourse of the Boccaccio persona, who will summon the ladies in three additional instances: at the beginning of Day One, Day Four, and at the very end of the work. At the same time, contrary to what occurs in the Dantean and Petrarchan beginnings, where the speaking voice begs for compassion and even forgiveness (Inf. 1.65; RVF 1), the Boccaccio-persona willingly offers afflicted readers compassion, support, comfort, assistance, refuge, pleasure, and useful advice (sostentamento, conforto, soccorso e rifugio, diletto, utile consiglio). Dante readers know that the entire Divine Comedy bears out the compassion and love that three ladies felt for the lost pilgrim, as we read in Inferno 2, and the extraordinary grace which they obtained for his sake. Even more self-serving is the "pieta nonche perdono" (RVF 1.14) that the Petrarchpersona begs of his readers in the first sonnet. Thus, the Boccaccio persona's willingness to feel compassion toward the afflicted others and help them is all the more surprising in that he claims that he has just overcome a very painful love experience that would have left him dead, had friends not succored him (Dec. Proem 3). In brief, the Boccaccio persona--going beyond the selfserving interests of the narrator at work in most of Boccaccio's youthful works--portrays himself as wholly other-oriented. Precisely because of these and additional, more or less explicit, references to Dante and, much more so to the Petrarchan context, Vittore Branca, commenting especially on the Proem's initial and concluding sentences, emphasizes Boccaccio's subversive narrative strategies. (18) Whereas in reference to the title of the Decameron, Branca, on the very first page of his critical edition (1n1), employs the term parody--albeit with some hesitation--he displays no hesitation in his commentary to the Proem. Going beyond Vittore Branca's implicit suggestions, as well as many other scholars' allusions to Boccaccio's parodie intents, I would like to propose a reading of Boccaccio's Decameron as a parody, in this term's polysemous meaning, namely, as a song--as it were--that Boccaccio seeks to sing along Dante's and Petrarch's masterpieces. Boccaccio's song seeks to subvert the medieval world view that Dante and Petrarch portray in their works, ultimately seeking to present a world view that is human while also remaining substantially Christian, compassionate rather than fire and brimstone a la Dante, and accepting of the other--even the other who contradicts the Boccaccio persona --much more so than Dante and Petrarch could do or even suggest.
a) The Topos of the Poet Falling in Love at an Early Age Immediately after the topos of the duty to feel compassion toward the afflicted, several other topoi are introduced at the very beginning of the Boccaccio persona's discourse: first, the topos of the poet who falls in love at an early age; second, the topos of the poet who cannot obtain the love of the lady he loves; third, that of the poet who suffers and verges on death because of his unattainable love; fourth, that of the poet rescued by friends ("alcuno amico" Dec. Proem 4; "benefici gia ricevuti, datimi da coloro a' quali per benivolenza da loro a me portata erano gravi le mie fatiche" Proem 6); and, finally, the topos of the grateful poet, who, having been rescued, comes to the assistance of others who are still in pain because of their amorous passion.
Speaking in the first person, the Boccaccio persona describes himself as someone who has been in love with a lady since his early youth:
Per cio che, dalla mia prima giovinezza infino a questo tempo oltre modo essendo acceso stato d'altissimo e nobile amore [...].
(In fact, from my early youth until this moment, I have been aflame with a very high and noble love [...].)
(Proem 3; my emph.)
The Boccaccio persona repeats the topos of an early love in his defense against his critics in the Introduction to Day Four ("dalla mia puerizia" 4. Intro. 32). The image of the poet who falls in love at an early age is present in earlier works by Boccaccio. (19) In fact, it predates him, for it occurs in Dante, who describes falling in love with Beatrice when he was toward the end of his ninth year of age while Beatrice was at the beginning of her ninth year (VN 2). Shortly after describing his first encounter with Beatrice, the poet summarizes that moment which pervaded and transformed his whole person:
Elli [Amore] mi comandava molte volte che io cercasse per vedere questa angiola giovanissima, onde io ne la mia puerizia molte volte l'andai cercando, e vedeala di si nobili e laudabili portamenti, che certo di lei si potea dire quella parola del poeta Omero: "Ella non parea figliuola d'uomo mortale, ma di deo."
(VN 2.8; my emph.)
(He [Love] commanded me many times that I should seek and see this very youthful angel; thus, in my childhood, I many times sought her and saw her to be of such noble and laudable a bearing that of her might certainly be said those words of the poet Homer: "She seemed not the daughter of a mortal man, but of god.")
Dante employs the topos of the poet falling in love at an early age in several other instances. (20) Furthermore, also for other poets it was common to write that they had fallen in love during their childhood. (21) In narrating their early falling in love, however, all such poets are less interested in recording their awakening to a real amorous passion than they are in emphasizing their early poetic vocation. (22) In fact, and most importantly, this topos signifies the poet's call to poetry since a very young age.
In Dante this call is followed by a fault, which the protagonist commits, such as his pursuit of the screen lady in an excessive manner and his interest in the lady at the window. These faults bring about his fall from grace, which in the Divine Comedy is described as a peculiar midlife crisis, which occurs at the age of thirty-five and which he can overcome through the assistance of three ladies (Inf. 2). At the beginning of the Decameron, the Boccaccio persona, too, at the age of thirty-five (the time of the plague) finds himself alone because of his inability to obtain the love of the noble lady whom he had courted since his early youth. It behooves us now to determine who this noble lady might be, whether she is a person, real or fictitious, or what she might stand for, if she represents something else under the guise of a woman.
b) The Passionate Lover and the Unattainable Woman (23)
Just as the Boccaccio persona informs the readers that he has been in love since his childhood, he also lets them know that he has never been able to attain the love of the lady he has always pursued, not because of any fault of hers, but because he was not worthy of her, in that her status was too high for him to attain. Let us hear the Boccaccio persona's voice:
Per cio che, dalla mia prima giovinezza infino a questo tempo oltre modo essendo acceso stato d'altissimo e nobile amore, forse piU assai che alla mia bassa condizione non parrebbe, narrandolo, si richiedesse, quantunque appo coloro che discreti erano e alla cui notizia pervenne io ne fossi lodato e da molto piU reputato, nondimeno mi fu egli di grandissima fatica a sofferire, certo non per crudelta della donna amata, ma per soverchio fuoco nella mente concetto da poco regolato appetito [...].
(Proem 3; my emph.)
(In fact, from my early youth to the present, I have been beyond measure aflame with a most high and noble love, perhaps more so than (were I to narrate it) would seem to suit my lowly condition; and yet, among people of discernment to whose knowledge it came, I had much praise and was held in greater esteem than I deserved; but, nevertheless, that love caused me extreme discomfort and suffering, not indeed because of the cruelty on the part of the beloved lady, but because of the excessive fire engendered in my mind by ill-bridled desire [...].)
Here are the key moments of this love: 1. He has been in love with a lady since his childhood; 2. His love was noble and aimed at a very high goal; 3. But it was also excessive ("oltre modo") and in fact it also exceeded his low condition; 4) The discerning people ("coloro che discreti erano") who heard about his love, praised him for it and thought very highly of him because of it; 5) He suffered because of this excessive love. In fact, while suffering, he even verged on death because of his inability to obtain this love until friends ("alcuno amico") came to his rescue and provided him comfort. Having finally recovered from his anguish, he now wishes to comfort others, women in love, who find themselves in a situation of distress similar to the one he has just experienced, and he intends to do so by narrating stories.
This discourse, which is resumed in its essence in the Introduction to Day One (Dec. 1. Intro. 2-7) and Day Four (4. Intro. 2-42), and is concluded at the end of the book, is striking for its metaliterary and intertextual nature. Most obviously, just as the speaking I in the Proem is a fictional character, so too is the lady he has been in love with from his earliest youth, so are his friends who have comforted him, and so are, finally, the ladies he seeks to comfort and advise. If we are willing to accept the fictional, literary, and metaliterary nature of these dramatis personae--the Boccaccio persona (the Poet within the text), the friends with their "piacevoli ragionamenti," and the ladies in love--we will be able to elucidate their roles in the overall development of the all-encompassing discourse of the Boccaccio persona.
Who could the lady possibly be with whom he has fallen in love and whom he has not been able to attain? The answer is implicit in the text, which indicates the time when he first fell in love, the nobility of this lady, and the arduousness of his goals--all elements present in the previous quotation (Proem 3). As we have seen above, the temporal indication of the beginning of this love--since his early youth--is patterned after the temporal marker signaling the Dante persona's beginning of his love with Beatrice, as we read at the beginning of the Vita nuova (2.2). Beatrice, obviously, is the object of Dante's poetry--the one about whom he writes in the Vita nuova and because of whom he will stop writing at the end of the libello in order to prepare himself to write more worthily about her (VN 42), as he does in the Divine Comedy. The Boccaccio persona, too, falls in love with a woman at a very early age; in fact, he employs the same two terms (puerizia and giovinezza) found in Dante's early encounter with Beatrice. Precisely because Beatrice is Dante's love, she is also the subject matter of his poetry, his inspiration, and his continuous aspiration, even when he falls out of Beatrice's grace more than once. Exactly at the age of thirty-five, when the Dante persona becomes lost in the dark forest--away not just from God but also from Beatrice--the Boccaccio persona also falls out of grace with his lady. Precisely because of this series of analogous circumstances, Boccaccio's lady, whose love he cannot attain, according to his own words, cannot but be the poetic genres, the kinds of poetry which he has pursued thus far, and in which he has not been able to achieve the perfection at which he aimed. Both poets at the age of thirty-five--Dante in the jubilee year of 1300, and Boccaccio in the year 1348 of the bubonic plague--face a crisis, which is poetic as well as ethical. Both face up to their mid-life crisis with their masterpiece--the Divine Comedy and the Decameron, respectively--each one in the attempt to re-interpret, rewrite, and influence the contemporay world, obviously each one according to his own world view. At the very beginning of his own story the Boccaccio persona narrates being unable to obtain the love of his beloved, whose refusal may certainly be viewed as a rewriting of the refusal undergone by Dante and also Petrarch. Petrarch never heals from the refusal of Laura, whom he ultimately must set aside in order to orient himself wholly to the Christian Godhead. Dante succeeds in obtaining again the love of Beatrice, but only through some supernatural gift and a voyage through the afterlife, ultimately shifting his love from Beatrice to God. Boccaccio does heal, and he does so without any supernatural assistance but rather only with the comfort of friends. In the Decameron, particularly in the initial Proem and Author's Conclusion, Boccaccio reverses by and large not only many of the conventions at work in Dante's and Petrarch's masterpieces; he also upends the way he sought to fashion himself in most of his previous works, where he primarily appears as a forlorn lover, abandoned or even deceived by his lady. In the Decameron, the Boccaccio persona no longer seeks to gain once again the love of his beloved, as he sought to do in most of his previous works; furthermore, he imputes no ill will to the lady who has refused his love, while recognizing the excessive nature of his own passion (Proem 3). (24)
This brief analysis of key statements in the Proem allows us to elucidate further my previous suggestion that his lady stands for the poetic inspiration and aspirations which he has nurtured until the present moment. In fact, in all the works prior to the Decameron, the poet within the work addresses, implicitly or explicitly, the lady with whom he is in love, with hardly any exceptions. (25) Thus, the "donna amata," for whom he has nurtured a very high and noble love, stands for the poetic inspiration and aspiration which "burned" him since his childhood and which (I would like to submit) has prompted him to produce all the works he has written up to the present moment. In other words, Boccaccio now recognizes, on the one hand, that the subject matter of his previous literary production, as well as the genres he has employed, were very high and noble, but, on the other hand, employing the topos of humility, that they also required a greater poetic genius than he possessed, perhaps alluding to his own, partial dissatisfaction with his previous oeuvre. In spite of his inadequacy, he was nevertheless praised for his accomplishments by discerning people ("coloro che discreti erano")--a positive and supporting category of readers and critics who must be compared to and contrasted with the negative category of harsh objectors to whom the Boccaccio persona will refer in his Introduction to Day Four.
In brief, at the very beginning of his work, Boccaccio describes a very crucial moment in his poetic career. He realizes that he has been unable to treat the very high and noble subject matters and poetic genres which he had pursued thus far in the worthy manner they deserved. He thus decides to change subject matter and genre, pursuing a new poetic direction in this new work consisting of "cento novelle, o favole o parabole o istorie," as well as of "alcune canzonette," narrated and sung, respectively, in ten days by "una onesta brigata" of seven young ladies and three young men (Dec. Proem 13). (26) Thus, under the fiction of a love which made him suffer for a very long time and which he has now set aside, Boccaccio intends to describe a poetic crisis in the middle of his life, comparable to that of his much admired Dante, as well as to announce a new subject matter and a new poetics.
Boccaccio's decision to take a different and, in many respects, even new direction in his poetics can certainly be compared to the Dante persona's determination, at the end of the Vita nuova, to stop writing about Beatrice in the manner he had been doing until that time so that he could write more worthily about her in the future. All critics see some poetic continuity between the Vita nuova and the Divine Comedy. It is likely that scholars see more discontinuity than continuity between Boccaccio's previous works and the Decameron. And yet, many elements of the masterpiece recall previous works, such as (to name just a few such connections) the names of most characters of the brigata and the so-called "questioni d'amore" of the Filocolo, which announce some of the tales. But here, and even more so in the Introduction to Day Four, Boccaccio intends to emphasize especially the differences between the poetics of the Decameron and the poetics he enacted in his previous works.
5. The Topos of Friends within the Text
In the Proem the Boccaccio persona speaks of compassionate or benevolent friends ("alcun amico" Proem 4; "coloro a' quali per benivolenza da loro a me portata" Proem 6), who helped him overcome his anguish due to his excessive love. (27) In the Introduction to Day Four, by contrast, the Boccaccio persona defends his art against objectors, detractors, critics of his work. The two categories display topical motifs already present in previous works by Boccaccio, in Dante's Vita nuova, and, in general, in previous Romance literature. Let us elucidate the image of friends and critics.
Among Boccaccio's works, let us look once again at the Ninfale fiesolano, which displays (among many other topoi) also the category of friends, who are "the faithful of love" ("i fedeli d'amore," for which see Vita nuova 3.9) and also the category of women in love ("care mie donne tutte quante"):
Or priego qui ciascun fedele amante che siate in questo mia difesa e scudo contro a ogni invidioso e mal parlante e contro a chi e d'amorpovero e 'gnudo; e voi care mie donne tutte quante, che non avete il cor gelato e crudo, priego preghiate la mia donna altera che non sia contro a me servo si fera.
(Now I pray here all you faithful lovers/that you may be in this matter my defense and shield/against every envious person and ill speaker/and against every one who is poor in love or bereft of it; and I pray you, my dear ladies,/ who do not have a frozen and cruel heart/that you entreat my haughty lady/that she may not be so cruel against me, her servant.")
(Ninfale fiesolano 4; my emph.)
Thus, this work, close in time to the Decameron, displays many of the topoi which the mature Boccaccio elaborates more extensively in the fictional author's discourse of the masterpiece. These topoi are: the fictional Boccaccio persona, who needs and asks for help; friends who come to his assistance: every faithful of love and the ladies whose hearts are not frozen and cruel, namely, who are in love; his haughty lady, who does not accept his love; people who are envious of the Poet and speak against him.
The topos of friends within the poetic work in progress is present also in the Vita nuova, where the Dante persona speaks of several friends, while he also mentions people envious of his love, refers to imagined readers of his work, and answers the objections by critics of his poetics. As to the first category, that of friends, it is worth recalling the story of the friend who takes the Dante persona to a wedding festivity, his near-death experience due to his proximity to Beatrice, and his rescue by the friend:
Io dico che molte di queste donne, accorgendosi de la mia trasfigurazione, si cominciare a maravigliare, e ragionando si gabbavano di me con questa gentilissima; onde lo ingannato amico di buona fede mi prese per la mano, e traendomi fuori de la veduta di queste donne, si mi domando che io avesse. Allora io, riposato alquanto, e resurressiti li morti spiriti miei, e li discacciati rivenuti a le loro possessioni, dissi a questo mio amico queste parole: "Io tenni li piedi in quella parte de la vita di la da la quale non si puote ire piU per intendimento di ritornare."
(I say that many of these ladies, becoming aware of my transfiguration, began to wonder and, talking about it, mocked me with this most gentle one. Hence my friend--deceived, although in good faith--took me by the hand and, drawing me away from the view of these ladies, asked what the matter was with me. Then, after I had rested somewhat, my dead spirits had come back to life, and those previously expelled had returned to their possessions, I said these words to my friend: "I have set my feet in that part of life beyond which one cannot go with the intention of returning.")
The proximity to Beatrice causes the Dante persona to experience a very painful anguish, which is very similar to that described by the Boccaccio persona, who, in his pursuit of his lady, came close to death (Proem 4). Furthermore, in both cases it is a friend who pulls the anguished lover out of danger and to a safe place. Immediately after the event, the Dante persona writes a sonnet, in which he reflects over the event and which displays several topoi, primarily that of the mockery or gab. But one could go even further and suggest that the entire story is a pretext for the poet to narrate the effects which Beatrice exercises upon him. For, in fact, Beatrice--the subject matter of Dante's poetry and thus its true inspiration and raison d'etre--causes the poet to undergo such anguish that he verges on death: an experience, therefore, akin to that which the Boccaccio persona describes in the Proem.
One could also argue, then, that just as the friend in the Vita nuova is part of a much broader literary topos, the compassionate friends in the Decameron Proem might, too, stand for a poetic metaphor of much greater importance to Boccaccio. In fact, these compassionate and generous friends help the forlorn poet in very simple ways: he is comforted through their pleasant conversations ("i piacevoli ragionamenti") and through their praiseworthy consolations ("le sue laudevoli consolazioni" Proem 4), which are viewed as benefices ("benefici") proffered to him by their benevolence, which he cannot forget (Proem 6) and which prompts him to offer a gift to people most in need, women in love (Proem 9-10). Could not his friends' "piacevoli ragionamenti" and "laudevoli consolazioni" stand for another form of literature capable of consoling the despondent and suffering Poet as well as women in love? Could not these "piacevoli ragionamenti" and "laudevoli consolazioni" be the stories and canzonette which he claims were narrated by the ten young people and recounted to him by a trustworthy person?
A brief analysis of these two terms--ragionamenti and consolazioni--brings further support to my reading. The word ragionamenti occurs twice in the Proem, with the same meaning: the first describes the way in which the suffering Poet receives help from "alcuno amico" ("i piacevoli ragionamenti d'alcuno amico" Proem 4), while the second instance describes the way through which the Poet, now cured of his anguish, hopes to comfort the women in love and therefore also in pain. (28) Likewise, the term consolazioni is also used twice in the Proem, in conjunction with and for the same purpose as ragionamenti: first, the term indicates the comfort which the Poet receives, as we have seen above; second, the term denotes also the consolation which is denied to the ladies in love because of their condition as women--a consolation, however, which is easily accessible to men ("o consolazion sopravien o diventa la noia minore" Proem 12).
Both terms are employed also throughout the Decameron. Thus ragionamenti occurs in thirty-three additional instances, in most cases modified by adjectives (belli, crudeli, dilettevoli, molti, molti e vari, nuovi, piacevoli, piacevolissimi, sollazzevoli); the term is employed, as we have seen, by the Boccaccio persona in the Proem, by members of the brigata involved in speaking outside their tales, by the storytellers in the preambles of their tales, and by the characters of the tales. The word occurs for the last time in the conclusion of Day Ten, when the young people talk, by way of ragionamenti, about Panfilo's advice to return to Florence, a proposal which they all accept unanimously. In this context, the term under scrutiny occurs in close conjunction with two additional terms, utile and onesto, which are equally present in the Proem. (29) Furthermore, the other term, consolazione, which is used together with ragionamenti in the Proem, occurs also quite often for a total of thirty-four instances, punctuating (just as ragionamenti also does) all the various chronotopes of the Decameron, from the Proem to the Conclusion of Day Ten. Here, Panfilo, advising everybody to return to the city, mentions, among the other arguments, the danger of losing their consolatione if other people were to join them. (30) The same term consolazione, finally, occurs at the beginning of the Author's Conclusion, when he addresses the very noble ladies for whose consolation he has undertaken this long labor ("'Nobilissime giovani, a consolazion delle quali io a cosi lunga fatica messo mi sono [...]'" Author's Concl. 1). (31) Therefore, the two terms ragionamenti and consolazioni (together with utile, onesto, consiglio)--used by the Poet, friends, brigata, and the tales' characters--punctuate all the various moments of the masterpiece, from the Proem to the Conclusion of Day Ten and the Author's Conclusion, and thus bookend the entire Decameron. Moreover, they could very well stand for the entire Decameron and its purpose, which is to comfort and advise, usefully and honestly, the women in love, the Poet, and the readers. (32) By accepting these suggestions, readers will find within the complex, fourfold, and all-encompassing discourse of the Poet and the masterpiece itself all the answers which this discourse raises, including, as I will propose momentarily, the function of the male attackers in the Introduction to Day Four. (33) After all, Boccaccio employs the same metaliterary strategy in virtually all his previous works, where his fictional persona claims to write a book and to send it to the distant lady, oftentimes by means of Love, in order to ingratiate himself to the lady. (34) Thus, in his earlier works, too, the book becomes the fictional intermediary--Galahalt, in a way, according to the Decameron's title--through which the Poet hopes, with the assistance of Love, to please his absent lady. In brief, the Decameron itself, with its stories, conversations, songs, and ballads, is the literary means through which he is able to overcome a critical moment in his poetic career. Thus, in this respect, the Decameron becomes another De consolatione philosophiae, namely, a book which comforts the writer in the act of writing as well as those who read it. At the same time, it is also the Poet's fictional and poetic gift which he intends to offer to all those who suffer the most, women in love. (35)
In brief, the Boccaccio persona's discourse contains, and develops within itself, a self-contained system of signs: the Poet, the very noble lady, friends, and women in love, the ten members of the brigata and their tales and canzonette. (36) This highly complex, self-contained system of signs harks back to fundamental topoi already present in Boccaccio's oeuvre, all of which are deeply indebted to the already very rich tradition in the Italian vernacular, other Romance literatures, and classical antiquity, making it thus unnecessary to resort to literatures outside the western world, such as the very distant and complex oriental literatures, in order to explain the formation of the Decameron--an issue to which I will shortly return.
6. Detractors, Lauzengiers, "Maldicenti"
The topos of the detractors and harsh critics against whom the Boccaccio persona defends himself in the Introduction to Day Four further strengthens my previous suggestions. To begin with, I am convinced that one must dismiss the traditional, unfounded reading according to which those detractors are real people who rose up against Boccaccio's new poetics as a consequence of the circulation of some or all the stories of the first three days of the masterpiece. My reading is grounded on two converging lines of reasoning: first, the well-documented manuscript tradition of the Decameron, and, second, the well-known topos of the lauzengiers, detractors, maldicenti, who, prompted by their envy and jealousy of the lover's condition, attack the lover and/or author.
Here is a succinct survey of the critical literature on this issue. The foremost promoter and defender of the historicity of the attackers mentioned in the Day Four Introduction is Branca, who presents his reasoning primarily in the first of the two essays on the Decameron manuscript tradition ("Per il testo del Decameron" 29-68) and refers to these two essays in his annotated edition of the Decameron. (37) But Branca is not at all concerned with the function of the attackers in the Introduction to Day Four or in the Boccaccio persona's discourse. His exclusive purpose is twofold: to demonstrate that the Decameron is the crowning accomplishment of Boccaccio's "esperienza giovanile" ("Per il testo del Decameron' 34) and to prove the early circulation of tales of the Decameron, as Boccaccio's words in the Day Four Introduction would in Branca's view signify, in order to defend his thesis that the masterpiece was completed certainly before 1353 (against his opponents' thesis) and most likely by 1351. (38) In Branca's view, the early circulation of tales would support his thesis. Most of the critics dealing with this issue align themselves with Branca. (39)
And yet, very eminent critics wrote on this subject before Branca did and they stated that the study of the Decameron manuscript tradition bears no evidence of a partial or piece meal circulation of the tales of the masterpiece: Lipari (60) in 1943, Singleton (120) in 1944, and Billanovich in 1947.39 39 40 While these critics wrote before Branca gained the prominence he enjoyed throughout his career, hardly anyone objected to him after his studies on the circulation of the Decameron. (41) To be sure, Branca's own counterarguments are not at all definitive, and in fact, in my opinion, they display weaknesses. (42) Regrettably, in the critical literature I was able to consult, I have come across neither a treatment nor even a mention of the lauzengiers or maldicenti in reference to the Poet's attackers in the Day Four Introduction.
In fact, even if, all of a sudden, manuscripts of tales being circulated piecemeal emerged; and even if historical evidence of criticism of the tales surfaced, the fact is that Boccaccio's Introduction to Day Four finds its justification in itself in that it is based on several converging rhetorical strategies. First, Boccaccio seeks to justify to himself, in writing, the validity of his art as well as, at the same time, to preempt all possible criticisms; and, second, he also intends to deploy several topoi, primarily that of the lauzengiers and maldicenti, which he had already employed in several of his previous works, and which he found also in Dante's Vita nuova. (43)
In creating the fictional scene of his detractors in the Day Four Introduction, Boccaccio elaborates more extensively on a topos found in the first pages of the Vita nuova, where the Dante persona cannot disguise his being in love, a condition which causes many people to become envious and to wonder about his new, transformed, different condition:
Da questa visione innanzi comincio lo mio spirito naturale ad essere impedito ne la sua operazione, pero che l'anima era tutta data nel pensare di questa gentilissima; [...] e molti pieni d'invidia gia si procacciavano di sapere di me quello che io volea del tutto celare ad altrui. Ed io, accorgendomi del malvagio domandare che mi faceano, per la volontade d'Amore, lo quale mi comandava secondo lo consiglio de la ragione, rispondea loro che Amore era quelli che cosi m'avea governato. Dicea d'Amore, pero che io portava nel viso tante de le sue insegne, che questo non si potea ricovrire. E quando mi domandavano "Per cui t'ha cosi distrutto questo Amore?", ed io sorridendo li guardava, e nulla dicea loro.
(From this vision onwards my natural spirit began to be impeded in its operation, for my soul was wholly given to thinking of this most gentle lady. [...] and many, filled with envy, sought already to learn about me what I wanted wholly to conceal from others. And, perceiving the malicious questioning that they addressed to me, I, by the will of Love who commanded me according to the counsel of reason, answered them that it was Love who had reduced me to such a state. I spoke of Love because I bore on my face so many of his signs that this much could not be hidden. And when they asked, "For whom has this Love so ravaged you?", I regarded them smiling and said nothing.)
This category of "many [...] filled with envy" in Dante's Vita nuova, according to all Dante critics, needs to be associated with the lauzengiers of Provencal literature, who play slightly different roles according to the literary genre in which they appear. (44) The lauzengier seeks, in epic literature, to defame a fellow knight in front of the feudal lord, while in lyric poetry the lauzengier is always intent on slandering and calumniating the lover in order to break his relationship with the lady. Typically men, the lauzengiers are always anonymous (Cropp 237-45). Associated, although not coterminous, with the lauzengiers are the gelos (or gilos) and the envejos ("jealous," "envious": Cropp 246-50). In Italian, they are typically referred to as maldicenti, i.e., evil speakers. (45) And this is precisely the topos from which Boccaccio draws the fundamental image of the malicious attackers, transforming this topos into a dramatic discourse on literary and poetic criticism, which he delivers to defend the Decameron poetics in the third act of his fourfold discourse, which, as I have already pointed out, consists of the Proem by the Author, Introduction to Day One (in part), Introduction to Day Four, and Conclusion by the Author. (46)
Dante has fallen in love with one lady; Boccaccio, with many--that is his claim in the Day Four Introduction (Dec. 4. Intro. 30-31). Dante keeps secret the object of his love but cannot conceal his being in love; (47) Boccaccio tells everybody about it. The love-stricken Dante suffers because of his love disease caused by one lady; the harshly criticized Boccaccio rejoices in his love, not for one, but for many ladies, but he, too, suffers because of the envy of so many men. (Let us bear in mind that, by and large, lauzengiers and maldicenti are males.) Dante is very serious about the whole matter; Boccaccio is also serious, while deploying a captivating sense of levity, which even provokes the readers' laughter at the conclusion of his tale of the goslings. And yet, the two authors share a common experience: they are the object of many people's envy and malicious questioning. (48)
Addressing directly women in love once again in the Day Four Introduction, after his first direct address to them in the Introduction to Day One (Dec. 1. Intro. 2-7), he portrays his attackers employing various epithets, deploying therefore the rhetorical figures of accumulatio and variatio. In so doing, he also describes their malicious efforts through a series of pertinent images. At the same time, he relates also those malicious attacks' effects upon himself. (49) And, finally, he further develops his relationship with his ideal addressees, the ladies in love, who become co-defenders of the poet's new art and part and parcel of his poetic strategies. (50) Assuming at times stronger tones, the whole discourse is permeated by a sense of levity and lightheartedness, which is enhanced by the goslings tale, and which spills over and affects the last part of his discourse, in the so-called Conclusion of the Author, at the very end of the masterpiece. (51)
Boccaccio is not new to the topos of the lauzengiers. He had already employed it in the Ninfale fiesolano, which I have quoted above. (52) At the end of the Filocolo, he instructs his little book ("picciolo mio libretto") not to pay attention to the "chirping" of fools, to avoid the biting of envy, and to offer those who contradict the ultimate testimony, that of Ilarius. (53) He refers to possible enemies in the Filostrato, when Troiolo, in a monologue, imagines people making fun of him, were they to find out about his love ("Parte prima" stanzas 51-52, p. 34), and also later in the emphasis placed on secrecy ("Parte terza" stanzas 8-9, pp. 84-85; stanza 60, p. 100). (54) He employs the same topos in Elegia di Madonna Fiammetta, where, at the end of the book, Fiammetta, addressing her own book, instructs it to go to its intended recipient without fear, for, given its humble appearance, no envy could possibly bite it with sharp teeth. (55) Here, in fact, readers come across, not only the term invidia, common in this topos, but also the metaphor of being bitten with sharp teeth, which recurs in the Day Four Introduction. Furthermore, in reference to works which Boccaccio wrote after the Decameron, one should also recall to mind books 14 and 15 of the Genealogie deorum gentilium, where he develops a very systematic defense of his poetry, and where his arguments against the enemies of poetry (not just his own, but of all poets) are deployed through reasoning, images, and metaphors harkening back to his Day Four Introduction. (56)
In brief, the topos of the lauzengiers, the jealous, and the envious, which Boccaccio draws from previous literature, and which is present in Dante's Vita nuova, becomes one of the fundamental motifs at the basis of Boccaccio's Introduction to Day Four and consequently also of what the author believes to be--and in reality also is--a new poetics and literary genre.
In addition to the links I have established above between the lauzengiers in Dante's Vita nuova and his own works, Boccaccio may owe to his much admired Florentine predecessor the idea of inserting theoretical considerations into his masterpiece, as Dante does in the Vita nuova. In fact, both Dante in Vita nuova 25, and Boccaccio at this juncture of his masterpiece, share the specific intention (albeit with radically diverse purposes) of defending their poetics somewhat in medias res, namely, at a very strategic and critical juncture of the unfolding of the libello and the Decameron, respectively.
Let us briefly recall the Vita nuova passage to which I am referring. The Dante persona has just described Love appearing to him in his imagination and announcing the coming of madonna Giovanna and Beatrice, as in fact will soon afterward take place. Immediately after the two ladies' arrival, after the poet's sonnet describing the event, and the subsequent division of the poem, the Dante persona feels obliged to explain his rhetorical strategies, primarily his personification of Love. The beginning of the theoretical passage, often referred to as a digression, but in reality an essential aspect of the poetics Dante enacts in his youthful book, is worth quoting:
Potrebbe qui dubitare persona degna da dichiararle onne dubitazione, e dubitare potrebbe di cio, che io dico d'Amore come se fosse una cosa per se, e non solamente sustanzia intelligente, ma si come fosse sustanzia corporale: la quale cosa, secondo la veritade, e falsa; che Amore non e per se si come sustanzia, ma e uno accidente in sustanzia.
(Here a person worthy of having every doubt explained might doubt, being doubtful of this, that I speak of Love as a thing in itself, and not only as an intelligent substance but also as if it were a corporeal substance: which thing, according to truth, is false, for Love is not in himself a substance, but is an accident in a substance.)
What Dante introduces almost with some hesitation, referring cautiously to persons worthy of having their doubts clarified, is being transformed by Boccaccio, in his Introduction to Day Four, into a straightforward critique of possible detractors of his poetics--a critique which coalesces with the topos of the lauzengiers, as I have proposed above. The relationships between the two texts could be developed more extensively, but a few suggestions might suffice here. Dante claims that poets began writing in the Italian vernacular in order to address their ladies; Boccaccio, in fact, addresses ladies in love. Dante insists that poets should treat only the amorous subject matters--an advice which Boccaccio has taken to heart, even though he must now defend his poetic decision against malicious, albeit fictional, accusers. To defend his employment of rhetorical figures vis-a-vis possible, but not real, objectors, Dante quotes passages of several ancient authors, including Virgil, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan. Boccaccio, by contrast, mentions the names of Guido Cavalcanti, Dante, and Cino da Pistoia (Dec. 4. Intro. 33), but he does not quote any of their works, for Boccaccio here intends to present those three great poets as examples, not of agape--an essential component of their poetic oeuvre--but rather of eros--an aspect of their lives as real people, for they, too, in their youth as well old age, desired women and had physical rapport with them. (57)
Just as Dante's possible questioners of his art are fictitious, so are also Boccaccio's detractors. In fact, insofar as these attackers are imaginary, one is certainly justified in interpreting them as a personification of the poet who, in the process of writing, questions his own art and also, anticipating criticisms, seeks to preempt them. As he writes and also, finally, brings his work to an end, the historical Boccaccio has his persona within the text raise and answer the critical issues he had to confront in the process of writing; and he does so, not in the didactic manner which Dante employs in Vita nuova 25, but in a dynamic fashion, addressing women and engaging them in his personal defense against malicious attackers of his art. As readers, we, too, are asked to become involved in this living organism, which is the Poet's all-encompassing discourse and interpret it appropriately. During the course of the twentieth century, Boccaccio criticism has ceased viewing the Poet within the text as the historical Boccaccio and has begun appreciating the many ways in which he has shaped his poetic persona, the intradiegetic poet. Consequently, critics no longer seek to identify with an historical person the lady (Filomena, Fiammetta, or an unnamed woman) with whom the Boccaccio persona claims to have been in love. Thus, if the author within the text and his lady are fictitious, so, too, are the friends who help him overcome the anguish due to an impossible love, as he writes in the Decameron Proem; fictitious are also, consequently, the ladies in love whom he intends to comfort and advise, as well as the detractors against whom he defends his poetics in the Introduction to Day Four. Transforming poetic practices he had previously employed, while also rewriting previous rhetorical strategies, Boccaccio's all-encompassing discourse, on the one had, supports the entire structure of the Decameron, and, on the other, bears out the Boccaccio persona's personal engagement with the subject matter and his attitude toward all the other dramatis personae, whether they are friends or critics, men or women. (58)
7. The Ideal Interlocutors: The Ladies in Love
A major feature of Boccaccio's new poetics consists of his decision to (1) address women in love, (2) to offer them his stories as a gift (3), in order to delight, comfort, and advise them. All of these elements, as I have shown above, may be found here and there in Boccaccio's previous works, but nowhere are they found all together, as they are in the Decameron, in order to outline a new poetics, which is announced in the Proem and is further expounded in the following three parts of his overarching discourse. By proposing this fourfold manifesto of his poetics, Boccaccio changes the poetics he had enacted, by and large, in his previous works, modifying it considerably and, in certain aspects, even substantially. To begin with, in some of his previous works he addresses a woman. (59) He addresses ladies in love in Elegia di Madonna Fiammetta. (60) In the Ninfale fiesolano, he addresses the faithful of love and his dear ladies at the work's beginning, and Love at the work's end, where he also refers to people in love and people who reject love. (61) In at least one work, he excludes men explicitly. (62) Then, again, he excludes those who are not in love. (63) Obviously, all such rhetorical strategies must be properly understood: the author seeks to fashion his ideal reader, just as Dante does in the Vita nuova and much more so in the Divine Comedy.
In opting for a practice of addressing many women, instead of a single woman (he followed both practices in previous works), Boccaccio may have had in mind what Dante does in his Vita nuova, where he ceases addressing Beatrice and directs his first canzone to ladies who have understanding of love ("Donne ch'avete intelletto d'amore" VN 19). At the same time, while addressing ladies in love--only apparently the same interlocutors whom Dante also addresses--Boccaccio turns on its head Dante's view of love as a spiritual, ennobling, utterly transformative force. From angel-like women who pursue an idealized form of love, as is the case in Dante, to women who love men: this is Boccaccio's transformation of Dante's address to ladies who understand love. In fact, Boccaccio's ladies are interested in true love, in all its variations and possibilities: from madonna Filippa, in Decameron 6.7, intent on pursuing erotic satisfaction outside marriage, to Griselda's sacrifice of herself and her children in the masterpiece's final tale.
In his fourfold discourse in the Decameron, Boccaccio refers to, or addresses, these women in love using mostly the term "donne" and once "giovani," accompanied by many adjectives. Thus, in the Proem, as he decides to offer his stories, for delight and counsel, to those who are in the greatest need, he addresses them indirectly as "vaghe donne" and "dilicate donne." At the beginning of Day One, before describing the plague, Boccaccio addresses them as "graziosissime donne." In the Introduction to Day Four, Boccaccio addresses them directly as "carissime donne," "discrete donne," "valorose donne," "giovani donne," "dolcissime donne," "gentilissime donne," "belle donne." Finally, in the Conclusion of the Author, he calls them "nobilissime giovani" and "valorose donne." These adjectives emphasize several characteristics, which the Boccaccio persona views as essential in these characters whom he creates and construes as his ideal interlocutors in his all-comprehensive discourse: their beauty and graciousness; their weakness and worth; their sweetness, youth, and nobility. That these women are construed differently from those whom dolcestilnuovo poets and also Dante imagine, becomes clear from the terminology which Boccaccio employs in referring to them. In fact, several of the adjectives used by Boccaccio never appear in dolcestilnuovo poetry or in the Vita nuova. Furthermore, the two adjectives employed by Boccaccio in the superlative--nobilissime and gentilissime--in Dante's Vita nuova are applied exclusively to Beatrice or in reference to Beatrice. Hence derives the major difference distinguishing these women from those of dolcestilnuovo poetry, including Beatrice: the women whom the Boccaccio persona addresses in his discourse are "very noble" and "very gentle," even though their nobility is substantially different from that of Beatrice or of the ladies surrounding her. (64)
In brief, in virtually all of his previous works Boccaccio has felt the need to create an interlocutor within the text; this interlocutor has been cast as someone in love, a person or several persons, viewed at times as the intended recipients of the work and even as women and as readers. All these interlocutors are fictitious characters. (65) In his overarching discourse in the Decameron, Boccaccio transforms substantially his previous illocutionary strategies, setting aside the previous practice of addressing one woman only as well of addressing directly Love personified, who, nevertheless, enters his overarching discourse in several instances. (66) Instead he brings to the forefront a rhetorical strategy of addressing women who experience some form of real love; at the same time, he gives these ideal interlocutors a rhetorical function never granted to his ideal interlocutors in previous works, namely, the power to object to his art, as the women in love do in the Conclusion of the Author.
Additional elements characterize the Boccaccio persona's role in the Decameron: his near-death condition, attributed to an impossible experience of love, from which he has recovered through the comfort of many friends; his claim no longer to be in love with a woman and his determination to please women who are in love; his gift of one hundred tales and ten canzonette to these women--who too are, by necessity, in pain--to delight, comfort, and advise them. In brief, Boccaccio no longer casts his literary persona as someone interested exclusively in himself, in a self-serving pursuit of the love of a woman, as he does by and large in his previous works, but rather as someone concerned with the welfare of others, indeed, with the other who is most in need of assistance: those who suffer the most, women who love. Ultimately, these same women, to whom he claims to offer his work in his Proem, and whom he addresses directly in the Introduction to Day Four to aid him against male detractors, will ultimately, in the Conclusion of the Author, be allowed to express their objections to their own creator's art, not in the harsh manner of the male detractors but, rather, in a gentle and subdued fashion.
The sum of all these rhetorical elements renders the discourse of the Author within the text into a highly dynamic, all-encompassing chronotope, a literary time-space which supports the overarching tale of the brigata, within which are situated all the activities of the group, including their tales and the singing of the ballad at the end of each of the ten days. Not only has it become clear by now--I hope--that the Boccaccio persona's discourse constitutes the sine qua for the proper understanding of the masterpiece; this all-encompassing discourse foregrounds also several aspects of the Boccaccio persona which expound equally important elements in the tales, and which in fact may help understand the Decameron in its entirety, shedding light on the one hundred tales and on the life of the brigata, including the group's return to the plague-ridden city of Florence at the end of the work.
8. The Poet as a Suffering Lover, a Determined Author, a Compassionate Giver At the very beginning of the Decameron Boccaccio portrays his poetic self within the masterpiece--his fictional persona--as a suffering person: someone who has very recently experienced "noia," because of his lady's unattainability, to such an extent that he would have died, had some friends not assisted and comforted him. (67) Several are the terms in the Proem which describe the sufferings of the Boccaccio persona as he pursued his love and as he later decided to cease pursuing it because of its unattainability. First, in order of occurrence, in the Proem, is "fatica" ("grandissima fatica a sofferire" Proem 3), namely, the intensity of the pain inflicted upon him and the difficulty in bearing it. Second is "noia" (Proem 3): the pain and suffering caused to him by that love. Third is "affanno" (Proem 5), a synonym of noia, which is dissipated, just as is also the "pena" (Proem 6), by means of the friends' comfort and by the passing of time. (68) He attributes this personal experience that brought him close to death to his excessive love for the very noble lady. One needs to emphasize this initial suffering condition of the Boccaccio persona: a painful, midlife crisis which is akin, in certain respects, to that of Dante the Pilgrim at the beginning of his infernal journey. And yet, contrary to the Dantean Pilgrim, who must undertake the infernal and purgatorial journey to obtain comfort and salvation, the Boccaccio persona appears to have received compassion, assistance, and comfort almost at the same time that he announces having been on the verge of death. Until that moment, however, he had to go through a perilous, trying, and painful journey, which began in his early youth, when he fell in love with a very noble lady, until a later, unspecified time, when, verging on death, friends came to his rescue. In brief, trials and tribulations have marked the Boccaccio persona's life's journey from his early youth until recent time.
And yet, his trials and tribulations decreased and gradually vanished, except for their remembrance, because of the compassion and comfort he received from friends. Thus, the initial maxim of the masterpiece--"Umana cosa e aver compassione degli afflitti" "It is a human thing to feel compassion for the afflicted" Dec. Proem 2--looms large, not only over this initial moment's of the Boccaccio persona's life in the Decameron, but also over his entire discourse and the whole masterpiece. In brief, people ought to feel compassion for other people--Boccaccio tells his readers--because all humans suffer.
Human suffering comes to an end because of the compassion which we receive from others, but also because of the immutable laws which God has placed in all human things, for everything pertaining to humans is situated within time, which unfolds and passes, and which therefore helps alleviate the human spirit's suffering. (69) In making this statement, Boccaccio recognizes that even the nature of things harbors within itself an element of compassion. For, just as the nature of things, created by God, does not permit human joys to last forever, the same nature does not allow human sufferings to continue beyond a certain limit either. Thus human agency--the support and comfort of friends--and the nature of things, created by God, can work together toward diminishing, lessening, and finally dissipating human pain. In fact, Boccaccio adds, nature, while abating his own sufferings, has left in his memory some lingering "pleasure."
As suffering subsides, pleasure arrives. One cannot resist asking whether pleasure eventually yields to suffering once again, just as suffering, by coming to an end, paves the way to joy. But this is precisely Boccaccio's view, as he will soon state to justify the description of the plague to the young women in love to whom he had promised comfort and counsel. Pain occupies the space which marks the border of happiness, just as human sufferings are chased away by the arrival of happiness. (70) Joy's proximity with pain and pain's closeness to pleasure make human life precarious, for humans experiencing pleasure should bear in mind that suffering can put an end to it any time, insofar as precariousness is part and parcel of human nature. Having experienced it all--pleasure and suffering--the Boccaccio persona sides with the most afflicted people, women in love, and decides to offer them comfort as well as useful advice. (71) Reflections on pleasure and suffering, in fact, accompany Boccaccio throughout his fourfold discourse as he carries out his undertaking of offering comfort and useful advice to the women in love. (72) As a person who experienced directly the devastation of the plague, he now relives that frightening event by narrating it, in the introduction to Day One (Dec. 1. Intro. 2-48), as he prepares to offer the ladies comfort and advice through the brigata's tales and canzonette.
In fact, the Boccaccio persona bears out that suffering, at least as much as pleasure, has accompanied him in his past life, has stood at his side in composing the first part of his work, and thus it is also expected to be with him throughout his work until its end. Thus, before the middle of his work, in the Introduction to Day Four, Boccaccio reflects on the labor he has already carried out up to the moment he writes, the sufferings which have accompanied his writing until the present, and the travail ahead of him before the work's completion. Thus, the Boccaccio persona's discourse in the Day Four Introduction, with its emphasis on his poetics but also on his suffering while implementing it, is structured according to the movement of time: past, present, and future. He has been attacked in the past, likely referring to the maldicenti of his previous works; he is still attacked now by envious, jealous, and malicious people; and so will he be also in the future, as we shall see in analyzing the Author's Conclusion and as he writes in the last two books of Genealogie, which deal with the same poetic issues that Boccaccio brings to the fore right now.
His attackers are called "assaulters" ("assalitori" 4. Intro. 11), "reprehenders" ("riprensori" 4. Intro. 30) and "biters" ("morditori" 4. Intro. 42). Their assaults are compared to an impetuous and burning wind ("lo 'mpetuoso vento e ardente della 'nvidia" 4. Intro. 2), and a fierce burst of a raging storm ("il fiero 'mpeto di questo rabbioso spirito" 4. Intro. 3). But he is ready to turn his back to this wind and let it blow in vain (4. Intro. 40). At the same time, he is fiercely shaken ("fieramente scrollato") and almost uprooted ("presso che diradicato"), lacerated and bitten ("da' morsi della 'nvidia lacerato" Dec. 4. Intro. 4), pushed around, disturbed, and transfixed in his own flesh ("sospinto, molestato e infino nel vivo trafitto" 4. Intro 8); in danger of shipwrecking like a ship ("mi metterebbero in fondo" 4. Intro. 10). The attacks of these fictitious harsh critics will continue, for they in fact will blame, bite, and tear apart the Poet also in the future ("Riprenderannomi, morderannomi, lacerannomi" 4. Intro. 32).
As far as he is concerned, he views his writing as a hard work ("mia fatica" 4. Intro. 8), and he places his defense in the hands and strength of his addressees, women in love ("a voi in cio tutta appartenga la mia difesa" 4. Intro. 9; "forze vostre" 4. Intro. 10). At the same time, he intends to please them with all his strength ("se io di piacervi m'ingegno" 4. Intro. 32), even more so now that he is aware of these assaults upon him and his art ("con tutta la mia forza" 4. Intro. 41).
His last address to his attackers is indeed a farewell: Let these biting attackers keep quiet and let them remain in their reprehensible defects ("Per che tacciansi i morditori [...] e ne' lor diletti, anzi appetiti corrotti standosi"), and may he be allowed to keep working as he pleases for the remainder of this brief life ("[...] me nel mio, questa brieve vita che posta n'e, lascino stare" Dec. 4. Intro. 41). However, this last wish--to be left in peace to continue and complete his work without criticism--will come true only in part, for, in the Conclusion of the Author, he will allow his ideal interlocutors, women in love, to raise questions about his art and tales--an issue which I will consider in the very last essay of this volume.
These attacks by envious, jealous, and malicious people in the Day Four Introduction, as well as the much less forceful criticisms by the women in the Author's Conclusion, represent also the critical concerns, questions, and doubts which poets must face in the process of writing their own works: poets, just as all humans, must face and overcome all kinds of obstacles during the course of their lives. In the middle of his life, in 1348, when Boccaccio is thirty-five years of age, he feels the need to confront himself as well as his own artistic qualities, ultimately asking himself whether he is capable of carrying out his undertaking and whether his vocation to poetry, a call he heard in his youth, is worth pursuing. In so doing, he does not resort to the typical invocation to the muses, as he had previously done in other works (e.g., in the Teseida 1.1, "O sorelle castalie") and as also Dante does in his masterpiece. (73) On the contrary, as if repudiating the previous works in which he had invoked the Muses, Boccaccio here denies that the Muses ever assisted him in composing verses. (74) But, most importantly for my argument, he also claims to be facing trials and tribulations.
In fact, every human being in the Boccaccio persona's overarching discourse has either inflicted pain on someone in the past, or inflicts pain on somebody right now, or has been in the past or is right now in pain. He has suffered throughout his youth while pursuing an impossible ideal, and he suffers even now as he seeks to bring comfort to people in need. His own attackers must necessarily suffer because of their envy and misplaced concerns, whether true or false, about the welfare of the Poet. Furthermore, as soon as the Boccaccio persona assumes the role as Narrator, he will describe an entire city in the throes of death because of the plague. The ten young people, who decide to leave the city in the hopes of finding refuge elsewhere, are by and large experiencing some kind of pain, and, ultimately, they will return to the city after fourteen days, when the plague is still ravaging it. Nor are the myriads of people inhabiting the one hundred tales capable of avoiding all sufferings.
The issue for Boccaccio, the author of the Decameron, therefore, is not only how all these people--his own fictionalized persona in the Decameron, women in love, the members of the brigata, and the protagonists of the tales--face these trials and tribulations: whether they can do so only through sollazzo ridere cantare--the threefold manifesto proposed by Dioneo and accepted by all upon arriving at the first villa--but also through other ways. In fact, Boccaccio has already given some examples of how to overcome one's personal pain: by giving comfort to others because he has already received comfort from friends, by being compassionate toward all those who are afflcted ("Umana cosa e aver compassione degli afflitti [...]" Proem 2), by showing determination vis-a-vis his virulent attackers, and by displaying tolerance toward all those who disagree with him, even if these critics are his own creatures, women in love.
The figure of the author--the one who creates a work and, in so doing, patterns himself after God, the Author par excellence--that emerges from these pages is quite new and modern indeed.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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(1) In all my essays, all references from the Decameron are from Branca's edition; all translations are mine and are based on the translation by James McMullen Rigg (18551926), which is available in print and also online on many sites.
(2) As to Dante's Vita nuova, a) a few manuscripts have no Incipit but have an Explicit; b) only a few manuscripts' Incipit and Explicit are in Latin; c) several manuscripts have Incipit and Explicit wholly in Italian; c) several manuscripts, instead of the standard Incipit, have Vita nova di, Vita nuova, or La vita nova; d) some have a unique Incipit in the VN manuscript tradition. The most likely title would seem to be: Incipit vita nova. Furthermore, just as in the case of the title of the Decameron, which does not contain the author's name, also in the Vita nuova only a few manuscripts contain Dante's name in the
Annali d'Italianistica 31 (2013). Boccaccio's Decameron. Re-writing the Christian Middle Ages standard Latin formula marking the beginning of a book.
(3) For an essential treatment of the Arthurian reference and its rewriting in the Decameron, see Picone's introduction to his volume Boccaccio e la codificazione della novella 11-25, to which I will refer, at times in agreement, while at other times in disagreement. Regrettably, Picone dismisses quickly the importance of St. Ambrose's Hexameron, to which he refers only once (78), while denying any connection between it and the Decameron--a connection which I believe, in contrast, that Boccaccio kept in mind for reasons and purposes different from those which Picone sees in the relationship beteen the Decameron and A Thousand and One Night.
(4) St. Ambrose's Hexameron's sequel consists of two works: Paradise and Cain and Abel.
(5) As we shall see, at the beginning of Day Four, the Boccaccio persona enters the scene in a way similar to his presence at the work's beginning and conclusion.
(6) Picone has written extensively on the function and meaning of what he calls, using the traditional and standard terminology, the cornice, or frame. Already in 1992 he had announced some of his ideas on the cornice, which he further develops for the remainder of his career (he died in 2009). These ideas are: the cornice is not just the narration of the life of the ten young people who gather outside the city, but primarily "il racconto della vita della narrazione"; namely, the cornice has first and foremost an aesthetic value and creates a new literary genre (Picone, 1992, 173-74); Boccaccio's cornice transforms literary traditions that go back to the "Oriente islamico e ebraico" (174-75); the dialogue which he engages with ladies in love is viewed as a "secondo tipo di incorniciamento, quello dialogico, esemplificato con la Disciplina clericalis di Pietro Alfonso o con il Barlaam e Josaphat' (175-76); Boccaccio utilizes also narrations in itinere (176); and finally Boccaccio does not intend to teach the absolute doctrine of "verita trascendente, ma quella relativa della verita immanente, linguistica diremmo, delle persone [...]. La quete del Decameron e insomma di tipo retorico e stilistico, e approda al piacere estetico di raccontare con arte" (177). Picone returns to these issues in "Il Decamerone come manoscritto: il problema della cornice" (Introduzione al Decameron). Obviously, all critics who have dealt with the Decameron have also discussed the issue of the cornice. My analysis will gradually elucidate the extent to which I agree with, or differ from, these views on the cornice.
(7) For all references to the Vita nuova--including its title and its division into chapters--I follow Barbi's critical edition. For the Divine Comedy, I follow Petrocchi's critical text.
(8) Dec. 1. Intro. 49; Dec. 4. Intro. 11 ; Dec. 10, Author's Conclusion.
(9) In his introduction to the 2013 edition of the Decameron (henceforth referred to as BUR Decameron), Quondam expounds appropriately the term and function of the author (auctor) in the Middle Ages (10-11). A fundamental point of reference on authorship is Ascoli's extensive study of Dante qua author.
(10) Very appropriately and unambiguously, Muscetta distinguishes between discorso and racconto as he emphasizes the "complessita strutturale del Decameron, dove e da distinguere discorso e racconto dell'autore, discorsi, racconti e azioni dei novellatori. Se i racconti sono il massiccio corpo narrativo dell'opera, non bisogna dimenticare il racconto e il discorso (morale, estetico, polemico) dell'autore" (299). He also emphasizes the "struttura dialogica generale dell'opera" (301).
(11) The bias present in most critical literature concerning the so-called cornice is brought to light by the following statement--among the many one could choose from--by Natalino Sapegno: "L'interesse profondo del Decameron e tuttavia, non nella cornice, si nelle novelle singole, ciascuna delle quali e tuttavia un'opera d'arte autonoma e nel suo breve circolo compiuta" (Compendio 1, 204). The last part of the quotation is critically pernicious in that--after dismissing uncritically everything in the masterpiece except the tales--eminent critics felt and feel justified in writing collections of essays devoted to the single tales, paying scant or no attention to the overall context in which the tales are situated, and outside of which they cannot and do not exist. More recently, an even more insidious interpretive threat has emerged, namely, that of calling paratesto everything in the Decameron with the exception of the one hundred tales, as if they alone constituted the text! (Cerisola provides a very useful analysis of the so-called cornice up to the time of publication of his extensive essay. In a very elaborate footnote, Potter also surveys the critical literature on this topic, pp. 158-61).
(12) Definitions of the term cornice in Italian dictionaries are by and large reductive when applied to the Decameron, which is often quoted. Thus, for instance, in Vocabolario della lingua italiana, vol. 1, under Cornice, 2: "[...] Con altro senso fig., parte accessoria [my emph.] di una narrazione, di un discorso, che serve a collegare e inquadrare le varie parti: la cornice del Decameron [...]."
(13) One should obviously distinguish those moments where Boccaccio speaks in the first person (the initial Proem; the Introduction to Day One up to the encounter of the seven ladies in church; the Introduction to Day Four; the Author's Conclusion) from the moments when he becomes the Narrator (description of the plague, of the encounter of the brigata and their sojourn in the two villas, including the beginning and conclusion of each day). The tales are narrated by the ten young people, and thus the voice belongs to the individual storyteller, and not to Boccaccio the Narrator. Accordingly, I consider all those instances within the individual tales in which the text displays a first-person narrator to be attributed, not to Boccaccio the Narrator, but rather to the individual storyteller.
(14) In his introduction to the BUR Decameron, Quondam displays hesitation and/or concern about the employment of the term cornice, which he always places within quotes ("cornice") from page 11 until page 56 of his introductory essay. On page 56, finally and wisely, he tells his readers that the term is not appropriate, wishes that another term were found, but offers no suggestion. In the second introductory essay to the same BUR Dec., Alfano, while at times using the same term cornice, employs also a different phraseology: "racconto della vita di una brigata di sette giovani donne e tre giovani uomini" (71) and "racconto portante" (74), without referencing any previous uses of the same or similar phraseologies, for instance, Muscetta.
(15) This suggestion provides another perspective for the interpretation of the most fundamental and yet most neglected aspects of Boccaccio's Decameron, such as the Boccaccio persona's all-encompassing discourse and the brigata's overarching tale, the latter to be analyzed in the next essay. Additional concepts developed by Bakhtin that could be applied to the Decameron are those of dialogism and heteroglossia, focusing on the various voices and their meanings, of the masterpiece: those of the Boccaccio persona, of the Narrator, the ladies in love, the ten characters, and the hundreds, perhaps thousands of voices, being heard within the one hundred tales. A few references to Bakhtin are found in Muscetta's study on Boccaccio, e.g., 301, and other scholars as well.
(16) "Riepilogando, non dobbiamo dunque parlare piU di una cornice [...]. Si tratta di una grande, dilatata novella-portante, una 'istoria', dove la peste e il popolo di Firenze sono il vero, e la brigata e i famigli costituiscono il verosimile: una 'istoria' che ha solenni riferimenti, ma e anche realisticamente motivata (come e tipico di una novella) e coglie un momento particolare, eccezionale della vita dei dieci giovani" (302).
(17) The ten "canzonette"--one sung at the end of each day by a different member of the brigata--constitute the most overlooked aspect of the entire Decameron--a critical neglect which I will seek to remedy, at least in part, in this volume and comprehensively in a forthcoming study.
(18) In the first sentence of the Proem Branca sees "un ribaltamento [my emph.] psicologico ed espressivo analogo a quello che campeggia nelle quartine del sonetto introduttivo alle rime del Petrarca [...]" (Proemio 2n2); likewise, Branca sees in the proem's end a "rovesciamento" and "capovolgimento" (Proem 15n1) between the two poets, on which he elaborates somewhat extensively.
(19) In the Filostrato, the poet, at the beginning of the Proem, writes that he has been in love almost since his childhood ("Molte fiate gia, nobilissima donna, avvenne che io, il quale quasi dalla mia puerizia infino a questo tempo ne' servigi d'Amore sono stato [...]" (Proem, p. 9). In the Comedia delle ninfe fiorentine, the poet, in the Proem in verse, addresses Venus ("Citerea") and declares that he has always been hers: "la potenzia del tuo santo foco,/ nel quale acceso sono e sempre fui" (II, vv. 17-18). In the initial stanza of the Ninfale fiesolano, the poet claims that he has been in love "gran tempo" (1, v. 2). At the end of the poem, he writes that he has always been in love ("dico ad Amor, di cui son sempre stato") and wants to remain always in love ("ed esser voglio" 466, vv. 5-6). In quoting Boccaccio's works prior to the Decameron, I will always use the Opere minori in volgare edited by Marti, unless otherwise indicated.
(20) Vita nuova 12.7; Purg. 30.40-42; Par. 30.28-29. In a poem to his friend and fellow poet Cino of Pistoia, Dante once again refers to his ninth birthday as the time he first fell under Love's rule (Dante's Rime 50a.1-2). In doing so, however, Dante rewrites what he says in the canzone "E' m'incresce di me," which places his love on the day Beatrice was born (Dante's Rime 20.57-60). The same topos occurs also in a poem by Boccaccio, where he imitates even Dante's practice of the screen lady: "Negli anni primi di mia giovinezza,/ come Amor volle, donna, vostro fui" (Rime 33*, vv. 4-5).
(21) I refer to Foster-Boyde's commentary to Dante's Lyric Poetry 2.93n57 for references on such practice by troubadours.
(22) In fact, Capellanus's sixth rule of love states that boys do not love until they arrive at the age of full puberty: "Masculus non solet nisi plena ubertate amare" (Trojel, Bk 3, ch. 8, rule 6, p. 310), a norm that also applies to women: "Similiter ante duodecim annos femina, et ante decimum quartum annum masculus non solet in amoris exercitu militare" (Bk 1, ch. 5, p. 12).
(23) Among the many and excellent studies devoted to these issues, I would like to refer to those by Hollander and by Smarr. After his Boccaccio's Two Venuses, in 1977, Hollander has devoted much of his research on Boccaccio to further exploring the Florentine poet's ironic attack on love. In her Boccaccio and Fiammetta: The Narrator as Lover, Smarr focuses on the presence of the author-narrator, as well as ladies in love and readers, within Boccaccio's works, from his early to the late writings.
(24) The condition which the Narrator claims to have left behind recalls that of the Vita nuova protagonist after the death of Beatrice, in his relationship with the gentle lady at the window (VN 34-39), as well as the Dantean Pilgrim in the dark forest, also for such terms and phrases as "grandissima fatica a sofferire," "noia," and others as well, which I will soon explore.
(25) Thus, for instance, in the Ninfale fiesolano, the lady with whom the Poet has been in love forever makes him cry and sigh day and night (1, vv. 7-8); she "sopra ogni altra e bella e gentile" (6, v. 6); but she is not "pietosa" (6, v. 8). Furthermore, in concluding the poem and addressing Love, he also claims that he has written the book while being subjected to this lady: "con il tuo [of Love] aiuto ho il libro fatto" (469, v. 6).
(26) In reality, the text refers to "alcune canzonette" sung by the women, without any mention of the three men ("e alcune canzonette dalle predette donne cantate a lor diletto"). Insofar as Boccaccio refers only to "alcune canzonette," that is, to some of the songs sung by the women, but not to all the songs sung by all the ten young people during the ten days, it may not be necessary to conjecture other explanations. For further comments on this issue, I refer to Branca's commentary (Dec. Proem 13n3). A related issue derives from the readers' realization that the Narrator relates the reaction to the tales by the seven young women but hardly at all that of the three young men.
(27) That the phrase "alcuno amico" should be understood as "some friends" becomes clear from the context; in fact, shortly below, the forlorn lover writes: "Ma quantunque cessata sia la pena, non per cio e la memoria fuggita de' benefici gia ricevuti, datimi da coloro a' quali per benivolenza da loro a me portata erano gravi le mie fatiche [...]" (Proem 6; my emph.). And it is also interpreted in the same way by the BUR Dec. commentators: "[...] i piacevoli ragionamenti di qualche amico [...] solo grazie a loro e avvenuto che [...]" (BUR Dec. Proem 4n4). Additional evidence that "alcuno amico" means "friends" comes from its grammatical function in Old Italian: the Vocabolario degli Accademici della Crusca explains alcuno as: "nome partitivo di quantita indeterminata, e vale qualcuno, qualcheduno, o qualche. Lat. Aliquis." The same can be found in Grande dizionario della lingua italiana. See also Rohlfs's Grammatica (vol. 2, paragr. 497).
(28) "E se per quegli [pensieri amorosi] alcuna malinconia, mossa da focoso disio, sopravviene nelle lor menti, in quelle conviene che con grave noia si dimori, se da nuovi ragionamenti non e rimossa" (Proem 11; my emph.).
(29) "I ragionamenti furon molti tralle donne e tra' giovani, ma ultimamente presero per utile e per onesto il consiglio del re, e cosi di fare diliberarono come egli aveva ragionato [...]" (Dec. 10. Concl. 8).
(30) "'Senza che, se voi ben riguardate, la nostra brigata, gia da piU altre saputa da torno, per maniera potrebbe multiplicare che ogni nostra consolazion ci torrebbe [...]'" (Dec. 10. Concl. 7; my emph.).
(31) The term consolazione occurs 20 times; consolazioni, 3; consolazion, 11. The sum of all the terms formed from the root consol- consists of 58 occurrences.
(32) In the singular, ragionamento occurs nineteen times. The sum of all the terms formed from the root ragion- consists of 296 occurrences.
(33) Seeking outside the Decameron the explanation of "alcuno amico," Hollander interprets that phrase and the entire masterpiece "as a remedium amoris"--in the root sense of the Ovidian title," that is, De remediis amoris ("The Decameron Proem" 16). Hollander's interpretation is in line with his 1977 work on Boccaccio's two Venuses and with his reading of the tenth day of the Decameron as a satire of order. By contrast, I propose a reading of the Decameron according to which the tales of Day Two through Nine constitute the pars destruens of medieval society (parodied, ridiculed, and laughed at, mostly with some benevolence), while the tales of Day Ten develop a new view of the medieval world, based on some form of secular "suffering and sacrifice" leading the characters to practice liberality and magnificence, the fruits of which, as the Poet states in the Proem, he has received from friends and which he also decides to share with those in need.
(34) Boccaccio employs the poetic practice of claiming to write a book and sending it out in all his previous works, except Caccia di Diana: explicitly at the beginning of Amorosa visione (sonnet 2, vv. 12-14) and somewhat implicitly at its end (Canto 50, vv. 52-54); implicitly in the beginning of the Comedia delle ninfe fiorentine (1, pp. 9-12) and somewhat explicitly in the first poem (2, pp. 12-15) and also in the work's conclusion (50, pp. 204-05); explicitly in the Proem of Elegia di Madonna Fiammetta (421-22) and its last chapter (632-36); in Filocolo (bk. 1.1, p. 78; bk. 50.97, p. 804 of Marti ed.); in Filostrato (Proem, pp. 9-18; Part 9, pp. 243-45); explicitly in Ninfale fiesolano (2, p. 639) and at the end of the work (465-73, pp. 782-85); it is implicit in the Poet's initial address to Fiammetta in the Teseida (pp. 249-54) and explicit in the work's conclusion ("Parole dell'autore al libro suo" pp. 654-55), in the sonnet to the Muses and their response to the author (pp. 657-58). Later in this essay, under the subtitle "The Ideal Interlocutors: The Ladies in Love," I will list the instances where the Boccaccio persona, in his previous works, addresses a lady or several ladies at the beginning and conclusion of the work.
(35) This same strategy is most obvious in the Poet's prologue to the Filostrato. Here, in fact, the Boccaccio persona addresses Filomena, whose distance causes him much distress beyond all terms ("la quale tanto fuori d'ogni dovuto termine m'ha l'anima contristata" Proem, p. 11) and brings him close to death ("assai vicino a disperata morte"), and to whom he claims to have written some letters (Proem, p. 14). Finally, in order to describe his anguish, he decides to narrate the sufferings of Troiolo, who loses his much beloved Criseida ("E il modo fu questo: di dovere in persona d'alcuno passionato si come io era e sono, cantando narrare li miei martiri" Proem, p. 15). The rhymes he writes and sends to Filomena (i.e., the Filostrato) constitute "un picciolissimo dono" (Proem, p. 16). Two are the major differences between this proem and that of the Decameron: whereas in the Filostrato the Poet addresses one woman and he seeks compassion, in the masterpiece he has received compassion and comfort and wants to help others in need through his book. (The Filostrato Proem contains additional other terms which occur also in the Decameron Proem.)
(36) In his study entitled Versi a un destinatario, devoted to medieval Italian poetry, Giunta makes valid and insightful comments which, in my opinion, apply also to the Decameronian topoi I am analyzing: "Le donne e gli amici dai cuori gentili sono i due nuovi interlocutori che gli stilnovisti introducono nel sistema retorico della lirica amorosa: essi rappresentano gli alleati del poeta nel suo tentativo di conquistare la donna amata [...]" (118). I will quote below what Giunta writes about the enemies of the poet, the so-called lauzengiers.
(37) Branca writes: "Le critiche, cui alludono queste pagine, erano state sollevate dalle varie novelle del D. divulgate avanti il compimento dell'opera, come e naturale e come e evidente non solo da questa difesa, ma anche da tutta una serie di argomenti" (Dec. 4. Intro. 2n1).
(38) In addition to what he views as evidence in support of his thesis in the Introduction to Day Four, Branca claims the following words in the Author's Conclusion as further proof: "Confesso nondimeno le cose di questo mondo non avere stabilita alcuna, ma sempre essere in mutamento, e cosi potrebbe della mia lingua essere intervenuto; la quale, non credendo io al mio giudicio (il quale a mio potere io fuggo nelle mie cose) non ha guari mi disse una mia vicina che io l'aveva la migliore e la piU dolce del mondo; e in verita, quando questo fu, egli erano poche a scrivere delle soprascritte novelle" (Author's Concl. 27; my emph.). Most obviously, Boccaccio here plays with his readers, writing seriously and jokingly at the same time, employing the term lingua ambiguously, and quoting, of all people, "una vicina," "a neighnor woman," whose words contemporary critics, falling once again into a realistic trap, take not only literarally but even historically. This neighbor lady would thus become the historical proof of the circulation of the tales before the completion of the Decameron--a thesis which can be demonstrated only through verifiable documentation. If critics believe in the historical existence of the Boccaccio's vicina, then they must also accept the historicity of the women in love, of the noble woman Boccaccio claims to have been in love with in the Proem, of the friends who came to his aid, and of all the "attackers and biters" of the Introduction to Day Four. In brief, a work of poetry--all critics view the Decameron as such--would thus become a historical work. After all, Boccaccio's neighbor woman is there to prove it...
(39) Among the followers of Branca, I can quote Di Pino and Cerisola. In 1955 Di Pino (209-20) echoes Branca, but adds no documentation and makes no reference to Boccaccio's previous poetic practice of the lauzengiers. In 1975 Cerisola quotes Billanovich but accepts Branca's defense of the reality of the critics without adding any arguments to Branca's thesis (149-50).
(40) Thus, without quoting Lipari or Singleton, who hold the same opinion he does, Billanovich dismisses categorically the suggestion that the authorial intrusion in Day Four was prompted by the circulation of some or all the tales of the first three days and their consequent critique by Boccaccio's contemporaries: "Postponendo queste giustificazioni introduttive e generali, dalla prima alla quarta giornata, si componeva pure una forma di 'ordo artificiosus' cara al retore medioevale. Mentre tardi lettori da secoli ci beffiamo sottoponendovi invece il meschino commento di una polemica connessione a un presunto divulgarsi isolato delle tre prime giornate: con secca recisione smentito anche dall'assenza di qualsiasi strascico nei codici superstiti, altrimenti inevitabile in una tradizione cosi estesa e disforme" (153n1).
(41) After Branca's two essays ("Per il testo"), I have hardly come across any dissenting voices. Without referring to any of the critics I quote above, in 1987 Fedi points out in passing (45) that there is no external evidence of tales being circulated, and he appositely refers to book 10, chapter 15 of Boccaccio's Genealogie deorum gentilium, where the author defends his poetics against fictional "blateratores" (45n7). Recently, on page 85 of his "Scheda dell'opera" in the BUR Decameron, in which he is responsible for the critical text, Alfano refers to Fedi's essay but passes no jugdment on this issue, on which he does not dwell. In the same volume, the BUR Decameron, the "Scheda introduttiva" (657-61) by Fiorilla does not mention this issue. The BUR Decameron footnotes on the Day Four Introduction do not mention that those harsh critics could be related to the topos of the lauzengiers; but the notes point out that the criticisms presented by the Author himself are intended to defeat now, after writing one third of the work, all possible critical attacks ("un altola ai critici di ogni tipo") rather than documenting a piecemeal circulation of the tales ("piU che dare riscontro di una circolazione alla spicciolata di singole novelle" Dec. 4. Intro. 10n10). In reference to the so-called "neighbor lady" of Boccaccio I have just mentioned above in a note, the BUR Decameron footnote seems ambiguous ("a parte la validita documentaria di questa battuta per la storia testuale del Decameron" Author's Concl. 27n27), because I do not want to believe that the commentators intend to give credence to Boccaccio's neighbor lady on behalf of some unspecified textual validity of the masterpiece.
(42) Here are Branca's counterarguments: he refers to three manuscripts, which "possono riflettere una tradizione manoscritta limitata alle tre prime giornate" (36n10), but he cannot state categorically that they do; he refers to the four tales (31-32), which are rewritten in the Decameron, and which preceded, totally or in part, its formal composition (Dec. 10.4; 10.5; 2.10; 5.6); and yet, only one of these tales belongs to the first three decades of the tales of the masterpiece. Furthermore, in analyzing the early circulation of the Decameron, Branca emphasizes time and again its diffusion among merchants, for Branca its most fervent admirers, and these merchants certainly cannot be counted among Boccaccio's detractors.
(43) Might it be possible to add a third, more fundamental, even intrinsic reason, according to which we humans cannot do without enemies to identify ourselves? Such would in fact be the opinion of Eco: "Pare che del nemico non si possa fare a meno" (31).
(44) The term derives from the noun lauzenga (< Old French lausinga < Anglo-Saxon leasung, leasing, "lie, falsity, hypocrisy," related to the Italian lusinga).
(45) For examples of the thematics focused on lauzengiers in the poetry of the so-called Sicilian school, see Pagani 390-404 ("Maldicenti"). The term maldicenti occurs in Cino da Pistoia (9, v. 6). A term with the same meaning is malparlanti, for which see also Cino 26, v. 08.
(46) Dealing with the topos of lauzengiers in lyric poetry, Giunta remarks that they represent the poet's rivals in love, the sowers of discord, in brief, the counterpart of the poet's friends and the women in love. Originally reflecting possible tensions and conflicts in the French courts, where the motif was born, the troubadours transformed this motif into a literary topos and as such it reached the poets of the Sicilian school and later Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna (118-19).
(47) Dante, in fact adheres to Capellanus's rule no. 13: "Amor raro consuevit durare vulgatus" ('When made public, love rarely lasts' 2:8; Batt. 358). In troubadours' poetry (but also in later traditions), keeping love a secret (celar, that is, "to conceal") is an essential characteristic of the lover's fidelity (Cropp 203-04). Just as in troubadour poetry, however, also in the Vita nuova, insofar as the protagonist can hide his love's object but not his condition of being in love, his external aspect moves his passion into the public sphere.
(48) The Vita nuova has already mentioned several interlocutors in varying degrees of importance ("famous poets," "faithful of love" 3:9; "first among my friends" 3:14; "the most simple people" 3:15), who, however, always remain along the boundaries of the narrative and never enter the story as characters. The narrator then adds two categories of active participants in the protagonist's life, namely, "many friends," who are worried about his physical aspect, and "many" others, "who were filled with envy." Toward all of them, according to the courtly tradition, the protagonist must observe the rule of concealing his love.
(49) See further below for the description of the attackers, their efforts, and their effects upon the Poet.
(50) The ladies are called upon to help him defend his art also in the Ninfale fiesolano, which I have quoted above.
(51) The Boccaccio persona clarifies his new art, with the so-called tale with no title, the tale of the goslings ("papere"). Scholars have analyzed extensively this aspect of Boccaccio's new poetics, based on the acceptance of nature in its broadest sense and on the employment of words appropriate to describe things as they are, but also--a key element left underemphasized--the practice and respect of the order present in nature and human civilization as they were understood at that time. In fact, while saying that the naive and inexperienced young man takes liking to the beautiful and well-dressed young ladies as soon as he sees them, the Narrator also remarks that they were returning from a wedding feast, a detail of no small consequence: "E cosi domandando il figliuolo e il padre rispondendo, per avventura si scontrarono in una brigata di belle giovani donne e ornate, che da un paio di nozze venieno [...]" ("And thus, as the son was asking questions, and as the father was answering them, they came across a group of beautiful and well-dressed young ladies, who were returning from a wedding feast [...]" Dec. 4. Intro. 20; my emph.). In brief, Boccaccio respects nature (the son's natural desire for the opposite sex) but he situates this natural tendency within a form of civilization indicated by the provenance of these young ladies: they were returning from a wedding feast, from the legal and religious union of a man and a woman.
(52) Ninfale fiesolano: "'Or priego qui ciascun fedele amante/che siate in questo mia difesa e scudo/contro a ogni invidioso e mal parlante, e contro a chi e d'amor povero e 'gnudo'" (sonnet 4, vv. 1-4; my emph.). At the end the Poet refers to "ignoranti e villane persone" (sonnet 470).
(53) "Al cinguettare de' folli non porgere orecchi, ch'e bassa voglia; [...] e i morsi dell'invidia quanto puoi schifa, ne' denti della quale se pure incappi, resisti. [...] E a' contradicenti le tue piacevoli cose, da la lunga fatica di Ilario per veridico testimonio [...]" (Filocolo 5.97, pp. 805-06).
(54) "'Che si dira di te intra gli amanti/se questo tuo amor fia mai saputo?/ di te si gabberebbon tutti quanti [...]'" (part 1, st. 51, p. 34).
(55) "Tu puoi da ogni agguato andar sicuro, si come io credo, pero che nulla invidia te mordera con aguto dente; ma se pure piU misero di te si trovasse [...] lasciati mordere" (ch. 9, p. 635).
(56) On books 14 and 15 of the Genealogie, the standard reference in English is that by Osgood, and, in the original, with Italian translation, by Zaccaria, the editor of the Genealogie (vols. 7-8) in the Mondadori edition of Tutte le opere di Giovanni Boccaccio.
(57) In his commentary Branca makes explicit what might appear implicit in the text by quoting Boccaccio's life of Dante, in which Dante's "lussuria" is mentioned even in his old age (Dec. 4. Intro. 33n5).
(58) I believe that the fourfold structure of the Author's discourse, which supports the entire masterpiece--a feature which exists, in nuce, in most previous works by Boccaccio--renders unnecessary the search for an oriental origin of the Decameron. One issue is to trace the origin of some Decameronian tales to a culture outside the western world, which no scholar questions. But a totally different issue is to state that the complex structure of the Decameron owes its origin to collections of stories from the east, essentially outside the western world, a thesis defended strenuously by Picone. Briefly, here are the points in Picone's analysis to which I take exception. He considers the Decameron essentially a collection of one hundred tales, calling it, more often than any other critic, the Centonovelle. He views the life of the brigata as the cornice, which supports the collection of the one hundred tales. He is concerned with the structure of the Decameron, in the acceptation proposed by structuralism. Furthermore, he does not analyze the Boccaccio persona's all-encompassing discourse, in its fourfold parts, which has nothing comparable in the oriental literature he quotes and nothing as complex in the vernacular literature of Boccaccio's time. Nor does he consider, in dealing with these issues, the socalled questioni d'amore discussed in the Filocolo as a collection of tales in miniature and an anticipation of the Decameron.
(59) Boccaccio addresses directly a woman at the beginning and at the end of the following works: Filostrato, "bellissima donna" (Proem, p. 10); at the end of the Filostrato, he commands his book to go to the lady with Love (bk. 9, pp. 243-45). He addresses a woman, Fiammetta, at the beginning of the Teseida ("o crudel donna" Proem, p. 249); at the end of it, he addresses the Muses ("O sacre Muse"), asking them to bring the book to his lady, which they do, bringing back to him the comments of the lady (bk. 12, p. 65758). Boccaccio addresses "donna gentile" at the beginning of the Amorosa visione (1, v. 2, p. 209) as well as throughout the last canto (50, pp. 414-17); at the beginning he addresses also noble and virtuous spirits ("O chi che voi siate, o gratiosi/animi virtuosi" 3, vv. 1-2) as well as readers ("a vo' lector" 3, v. 14; "E perche voi costei me' conosciate" 3, v. 17). He addresses a lady at the beginning of the Comedia delle ninfe fiorentine ("E tu, piU ch'altra bella criatura,/ onesta, vaga, lieta e graziosa" 2, vv. 43-44, p. 13); he refers to her again at the end of the book, together with the "la santa dea" ("Riceva dunque la santa dea, me a queste cose aiutante, i suoi incensi; e le meritate ghirlande coronino la bella donna della faticata penna movente cagione" (50, p. 204).
(60) At the beginning of Elegia di Madonna Fiammetta, the Poet addresses "nobili donne" (Prologue, p. 421). Boccaccio addresses women at the beginning of the Filocolo ("e voi giovinette amorose" 1.2, p. 79); he addresses his own book at the end ("O picciolo mio libretto"), which will be welcomed and addressed by his lady (bk. 5.97, p. 804). He addresses "giovinetti" (young men) at the end of the Filostrato, warning them about the fickleness of women (bk. 8.29, v. 1, p. 241).
(61) "Or priego qui ciascun fedele amante/che siate in questo mia difesa e scudo/[...]/e voi care mie donne tutte quante" (Ninfale fiesolano 5, vv. 1-2; 5). At the end of the poem, the Poet addresses Love ("Altissimo signore, Amor sovrano") in stanzas 467-71, recognizes that Love had enjoined him to write the poem (stanza 469), asks him not to allow people who are not in love to read the poem (st. 470), but to make it available only to "animi gentili," who are in love and who are "costumati, angelichi ed umili" (st. 471). In the last two stanzas of the poem (472-73), Love answers the Poet, welcoming the poem as "il mio libretto" (st. 472, v. 4) and accepting all the requests of the Poet (st. 473).
(62) "Ne m'e cura perche il mio parlare agli uomini non pervenga: anzi, in quanto io posso, del tutto il niego loro, pero che si miseramente in me l'acerbita d'alcuno si discuopre, che gli altri simili immaginando, piuttosto schernevole riso che pietose lagrime ne vedrei" (Elegia di Madonna Fiammetta, Prologue, p. 421). At the end of the same work, the Poet, addressing his book, instructs it to stay away from men ("Gli occhi degli uomini fuggi" ch. 9, p. 634). But he also instructs the book to address harshly the man, Panfilo, who has caused her so much pain (ch. 9, 635).
(63) "E pero chi ama, ascolti; degli altri non curo: la loro sollecitudine gli abbia tutti" (Comedia delle ninfe fiorentine 1, p. 12).
(64) The novelty of Boccaccio's addresses to the women appear also from the selection of the adjectives he employs and which never appear in dolcestilnuovo poetry, such as: carissime, dilicate, discrete, dolcissime, gentilissime, giovani, graziosissime, nobilissime, vaghe, valorose. Here are, by contrast, the terms used in dolcestilnuovo poetry: belle donne; donne gentili; gentil ' donne valenti.
(65) Unless I am mistaken, in all works prior the Decameron, he addresses only once (at the end of the Comedia delle ninfe fiorentine) a historical person, "Niccolo di Bartolo del Buono di Firenze," whom he also calls directly as "solo amico, e di vera amista veracissimo essemplo" (50, pp. 204-05).
(66) Love is referred to indirectly in the Proem ("[...] a Amore ne rendano grazie [...]" Proem 15).
(67) The text suggests Boccaccio's inability to arrive at this very noble lady rather than her refusal of him; that is, outside the metaphor, the poet's inability to attain the excellence required by the poetic genres he had pursued before undertaking the writing of the Decameron. But, in spite of everything, "discerning people" ("coloro che discreti erano" Proem 3) commend his attempts at attaining those very demanding goals. Obviously, the topos of humility plays a role in the development of these motifs and images.
(68) The term noia occurs five times in the Proem (but none in the Introduction to Day Four and Conclusion of the Author), and it characterizes the Boccaccio persona (in two instances, before he is comforted by his friends), and the ladies in love in the other three instances. The ladies' noia is due to their condition of being in love, for everyone in love is bound to experience pain. The ladies' noia prompts the Boccaccio persona to offer them his gift with the purpose of comforting them. The term noia is common in lyric poetry, and it occurs often in Dante's Vita nuova, in the poems and also in the prose. It always conveys much distress, thus remaining close to its etymological meaning (noia, via the Prov. enoi, from the Lat. in odium habere ["to hold in hatred"] > inodiare > annoiare, noun noia: Cortelazzo-Zolli) rather than to its modern meaning.
(69) "Ma si come a Colui piacque il quale, essendo Egli infinito, diede per legge incommutabile a tutte le cose mondane aver fine, il mio amore, oltre a ogn'altro fervente e il quale niuna forza di proponimento o di consiglio o di vergogna evidente, o pericolo che seguir ne potesse, aveva potuto ne rompere ne piegare, per se medesimo in processo di tempo si diminui in guisa, che sol di se nella mente m'ha al presente lasciato quel piacere che egli e usato di porgere a chi troppo non si mette ne' suoi piU cupi pelaghi navigando; per che, dove faticoso esser solea, ogni affanno togliendo via, dilettevole il sento esser rimaso" (Proem 5).
(70) After explaining his intention with the metaphor of the climbing of the arduous mountain beyond which lies a beautiful meadow, Boccaccio writes: "E si come la estremita della allegrezza il dolore occupa, cosi le miserie da sopravegnente letizia sono terminate" (Dec. 1. Intro. 5).
(71) In offering his gift to the women in love, Boccaccio employs a varied terminology, calling it: alleggiamento, sostentamento, soccorso e rifugio, diletto, as well as "utile consiglio" so that they might learn what to avoid and what to follow ("[...] diletto delle sollazzevoli cose in quelle mostrate e utile consiglio potranno pigliare, in quanto potranno cognoscere quello che sia da fuggire e che sia similmente da seguitare [...]" Dec. Proem 14).
(72) "[...] intendo di raccontare cento novelle, o favole o parabole o istorie che dire le vogliamo, raccontate in diece giorni da una onesta brigata di sette donne e di tre giovani nel pistelenzioso, tempo della passata mortalita fatta, e alcune canzonette dalle predette donne cantate al lor diletto" (Dec. Proem 13). The relationships between these four forms of narration and the four species offabula which Boccaccio discusses in Genealogie (bk. 14.9.3-11; Zaccaria ed.) deserve a close scrutiny.
(73) Dealing with the topic of war, as classical epic poems did, Boccaccio expands the invocation to the Muses in the Teseida, addressing them also at the end of the work, when he also has them answer him (bk. 12). And, at the beginning of the Comedia delle ninfe fiorentine, he invokes Venus.
(74) Branca (Dec. 4. Intro. 36n9) refers to Curtius and to works composed after the Decameron, where Boccaccio further develops this new attitude toward the Muses.