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Giovanni Boccaccio Essay

Im going to write an essay on Giovanni Bocccaccio and tell about him and his works and their affect to the middle-age literature and the literature today. As my sources Im going to use the illustrated history of Europe, wikipedia, http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/giovanni-boccaccio.htm and http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Giovanni_Boccaccio.aspx. Who was Giovanni Boccaccio? When did he live? What is he known of? How did he affect the late middle-age literature and the literature today?

Who was Giovanni Boccaccio?

Giovanni Boccaccio was an Italian Renaissance humanist, author and a poet. He lived during the years 1313-1375. Giovanni Boccaccio was born near Florence in Italy. His father was a successful banker, who wanted him to have a practical education and to follow his footsteps as a wealthy businessman. His father often took Giovanni with him to business trips, so he could see what his life will be like when he grows up. Giovanni Boccaccio studied banking and religious law, although he was not very interested in them. Later on he even said that he regretted the time that was lost in these studies. He was more interested in literature and classical learning. His father never supported or accepted his plans on literature. He always thought that Boccaccio should have been a respected businessman.

It is believed that Boccaccio was tutored by Giovanni Mazzuoli and received an early introduction to the works of Dante from him. When Boccaccio and his father moved to Naples in 1326, Boccaccio found many teachers at the university and at the court. He learned Italian poetry, ancient mythology, astronomy, and Greek. He also began to do what he really wanted to do, which was writing. Boccaccio and his father left Naples in 1341, because they escaped the plague and because Boccaccio`s father had to go work to Florence. Boccaccio did not want to leave Naples, because he didn’t like Florence that much. However, he spent the rest of his life in or near Florence.

There he composed his most famous works such as the Decameron and the Famous Woman which were revolutionary at the time. In the autumn of 1350 Boccaccio received Francesco Petrarch as his guest in Florence, whose biography he had written shortly (De vita et moribus, F. P.). It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. He supported and encouraged Boccaccio to go on with his passion for literature. Giovanni Boccaccio was also influenced by many others. In his lifetime he had three children, even though he was never married. Mario and Giulio were born in the 1330s. Violente was born in the 1340´s. Giovanni Boccaccio died in 1375 from the causes of various illnesses, obesity and finally heart failure. By the time he died he had made many works that even today affect our lives.

When did he live?

Giovanni Boccaccio lived during the late middle-age period to the very early renaissance. Boccaccio was ahead of his time. He was one of the first humanists with Patrarch. Renaissance was a cultural movement that was roughly in the 14th to the 17th century. As a cultural movement, it was all about literature, science, art, religion, and politics, and a resurgence of learning based on classical sources. Giovanni Boccaccio was one of the first writers of renaissance. This shows how revolutionary his work was already in the 1330´s.

What is he known of?

Giovanni Boccaccio was a very revolutionary figure of the time, because he used females in his works as main characters, which was a new idea. Later other authors copied this idea. His work are very precious to us, because they tell us a reliable picture of the life in the late middle-ages as it was. Giovanni Boccaccio’s most known work is the Decameron, that he made between the years 1348–1351. It tells about ten young men and women, that escaped the plague to a remote villa near Florence. The word Decameron is translated to ten-days, which refers to the fact that they spent ten days telling stories in the villa. During the ten days they share 100 tales about topics such as love, trickery, and fortune. These tales form a larger story which can also be read alone. The Decameron was very popular at the time. Readers enjoyed its lively speeches, wordplays and intense plots. Giovanni knew how to mix humor and romance into one working piece.

In this work Boccaccio gathered material from many sources: the French fabliau, Greek and Latin classics, folklore, and observations of contemporary Italian life. The prose of the Decameron, in its balanced, rhythmic cadences, became the model of Italian literary prose. Many other writers later used the Decameron in different ways in their own works. The church did not like the Decameron. On Famous Women he wrote about women who became learned, wrote, and even had battles and ruled kingdoms. Boccaccio’s moral approach to history suited both medieval and Renaissance readers. Which is also a reason that he was so famous and respected.

Later renaissance writers used the books as sources for their own works once again. His most famous poem is probably II Filostrato, published in 1335. It tells about Calcas, a Trojan prophet who had foreseen the fall of the city and joined the Greeks. Shakespeare got the inspiration for Troilus and Cressida from the II Filostrato. Troilus and Cressida is a tragedy that Shakespeare made in 1602. Boccaccio was also a very well educated man. Boccaccio shared his knowledge and love of the ancient world with others.

In Genealogy of the Pagan Gods that he wrote between the years (1350–1373), he created a complete catalog of pagan mythology. This book became a major reference work for much of the Renaissance. Giovanni Boccaccio also had a huge respect to the study of ancient Greek literature. He established a position for a professor of Greek at the University of Florence. He encouraged the new professor to translate the great Greek writers Homer and Euripides into Latin. Through his writings and his share to the study of the ancient world, Boccaccio had a lasting impact on the Renaissance and on the rest of the western history.

Some selected example´s from Giovanni Boccaccios works:

II Filostrato (1335), Filocolo (1337), Teseida (1341), Comedy of the Florentine Nymphs (1342), The Amorous Vision (1343), La Fiammeta (1344), Life of Dante (1355), Fates of Illustrious Men in Latin (1360), The Decameron (1348-1351), The Famous Women (1374)

How did he affect the late middle-age literature and the literature today?

Giovanni Boccaccio´s affect to the literature of that time and today is huge. He wrote about things that nobody else had the courage to write about at the time. For example about woman as the main characters that had power to decide about important decisions and had a high position in the community.

The Famous Women is a good example of his revolutionary way of thinking. It is a collection of biographies of 106 historical and mythological women, as well as some of Boccaccio’s Renaissance contemporaries. Giovanni Boccaccio had a big impact on other authors and poets, who used his work as source material. For example Geoffrey Chaucer´s, Shakespeare´s, and John Dryden´s works were influenced by Boccaccio´s works. He and Petrarch are said to be the founders of humanism.

Giovanni Boccaccio was a man that basically protested against the morals at that time by writing about woman and other revolutionary things. He was ahead his time and was respected by many fellow authors. His works were famous and are is still precious to us, because we can take a realistic view of the late middle-ages through his work. Many other authors also got inspired by Boccaccio´s work and still do.


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