Giovanni Boccaccio

(redirected from Boccacio)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.

Boccaccio, Giovanni

(jōvän`nē), 1313–75, Italian poet and storyteller, author of the Decameron. Born in Paris, the illegitimate son of a Tuscan merchant and a French woman, he was educated at Certaldo and Naples by his father, who wanted him to take up commerce and law. In Naples he met (1336) the woman (dubiously identified as Maria d'Aquino, illegitimate daughter of King Robert) whom he was to immortalize in prose and verse as Fiammetta. She is reputed to have introduced him at court and to have urged him to write (c.1340) his early Filocolo, a long vernacular prose romance. Other early works include the poem Filostrato, which infused the legendary story of Troilus and CressidaTroilus and Cressida
, a medieval romance distantly related to characters in Greek legend. Troilus, a Trojan prince (son of Priam and Hecuba), fell in love with Cressida (Chryseis), daughter of Calchas.
..... Click the link for more information.
 with the atmosphere of Neapolitan court life; the Teseide, a poem in the style of the Aeneid; the psychological romance La Fiammetta (written c.1344); the pastoral Ninfale d'Ameto; and the allegorical Amorosa visione, imitative of Dante.

Boccaccio was recalled to Florence in 1341, and there he met (1350) the great poet PetrarchPetrarch
or Francesco Petrarca
, 1304–74, Italian poet and humanist, one of the great figures of Italian literature. He spent his youth in Tuscany and Avignon and at Bologna.
..... Click the link for more information.
, who became a lifelong friend. Emulating Petrarch, he became a Latin and Greek scholar and worked vigorously to reintroduce Greek works. In his middle years Boccaccio wrote (1348–53) his great secular classic, the Decameron, a collection of 100 witty and occasionally licentious tales set against the somber background of the Black Death. The tales treat a wide variety of characters and events and brilliantly reveal humanity as sensual, tender, cruel, weak, self-seeking, and ludicrous. With the Decameron the courtly themes of medieval literature, while still much in evidence, began to give way to the voice and mores of early modern society. Writing in Italian rather than Latin and in prose rather than poetry, Boccaccio achieved stylistic mastery in the Decameron, which became a model for later efforts toward a distinctively Italian literary style. After completing the tales, Boccaccio experienced a severe emotional crisis, during which he wrote the satire Corbaccio, a savage attack on women.

In the next years there followed several works in Latin, the language of high culture. These included Bucolicum carmen [pastoral songs], the huge De casibus virorem illustrium and De mulieribus claris (the first biographies of famous men, the second of famous women), the mythological treatise De genealogiis, and the geographical dictionary De montibus. Boccaccio's old age was troubled by poverty and ill health, but his activity continued. He was commissioned (1371) by the commune of Certaldo to read daily from his beloved Dante, and in 1373 in Florence he began the lectures which became his famous Commento on the Inferno. There are several translations of the Decameron and also many anthologies and collections of particular stories in translation.


See biography by T. C. Chubb (1969); studies by V. Branca (1976), T. G. Bergin (1981), and J. Sauli (1982).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Boccaccio, Giovanni


Born 1313 in Paris; died Dec. 21, 1375, in Certaldo, near Florence. Italian writer.

Boccaccio was one of the first humanistic writers of the Renaissance. He began writing in the tradition of chivalric literature, which attracted him because of its secular motifs and its use of themes from classical literature, a literature close to Boccaccio in its earthly humanistic spirit. The narrative poem Filostrato (1338, published in 1498), the novel Filocolo (begun in 1336, published in 1472), and the narrative poem Teseida (1339, published in 1475) deal with episodes from classical mythology, but their most important characteristic is the description of psychological experiences. Boccaccio’s closeness to Dante became apparent in the pastoral L’Ameto (1341, published in 1478) and especially in the narrative poem Vision of Love (1342, published in 1521). In the narrative poem The Nymphs of Fiesole (1345, published in 1477), which was inspired by The Metamorphoses of Ovid, contemporary reality shines through the images of classical mythology. The idea of the narrative poem is a defense of man’s right to earthly love. In the novella Fiammetta (1343, published in 1472), Boccaccio describes real people, his contemporaries. In this novella he reveals a woman’s inner world and in so doing anticipates the European psychological novel.

Boccaccio’s best work was the Decameron (1350–53, published in 1471), a collection of realistic short stories united by their common humanistic and Renaissance spirit and constituting an artistic whole. Boccaccio tells of seven young women and three young men who have retreated to a villa in the country during the plague which raged in Florence in 1348. For ten days they tell each other stories, and it is this which gives the work its name. (“Decameron” is Greek for a ten-day diary.) One of the book’s major themes is criticism of the Catholic Church and satiric mockery of the clergy—the monks and the papal court. Boccaccio rejects the asceticism of the Middle Ages and defends the right of human beings to enjoy life on earth. He glorifies sensual love and man’s natural drives. The Decameron gives a broad and realistic picture of life in Italy during the period of the trecento. In coming out against feudal privileges and class inequality Boccaccio developed the idea that human nobility should be measured by deeds, not by birth. The book is imbued with the spirit of freethinking and cheerful humor. As the successor to Dante and Petrarch, he continued the development of a national Italian literature written in the vernacular. He himself used the Florentine dialect.

Boccaccio later experienced a crisis concerning his humanistic ideals, a crisis which was reflected in The Raven (1354–55, published in 1487), a narrative poem written in the form of a vision, in which he satirized women. He wrote commentaries on 17 songs from Dante’s Divine Comedy and was the first to write his biography, The Life of Dante Alighieri (c. 1360, published 1477). Boccaccio was also the author of the treatises in Latin The Genealogy of the Gentile Gods, About Famous Women, and The Lives of Great People.


Opere, a cura di Cesare Segre. Milan, 1963.
Tutte le opere, a cura di V. Branca, vols. 1, 2, 6. [Milan-Verona] 1964–67. (Publication continues.)
Opere, [vols.] 1–8. Bad, 1937–40.
In Russian translation:
F’iammetta. F’esolanskie nimfy. Moscow, 1968.
Dekameron. Moscow, 1970. (Translated from Italian by N. Liubimov, with an introduction by R. Khlodovskii.)


Veselovskii, A. Bokkachcho, ego sreda i sverstniki, vols. 1–2. St. Petersburg, 1893–94.
Dzhivelegov, A. K. Nachalo ital’ianskogo Vozrozhdeniia, 2nd ed. Moscow [1925].
Istoriia zarubezhnoi literatury: Rannee srednevekov’e i Vosrozhdenie, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1959.
De Sanktis,F’. Istoriia ital’ianskoi literatury, vol. 1. Moscow, 1963.
Mokul’skii, S. S. Ital’ianskaia literature: Vozrozhdenie i Prosveshchenie. Moscow, 1966.
Dzh. Bokkachcho: Biobibliograficheskii ukazatel’. Moscow, 1961. [Compiled with an introduction by T. V. Dziuba.]
Gustarelli, A. Giovanni Boccaccio. Milan, 1946.
Gustarelli, A. Ipersonaggi del Decameron boccaccesco. [Milan, 1955.]
Wright, H. G. Boccaccio in England. [London] 1957.
Branca, V. Bibliografia boccaccesca completamente aggiornata. Milan, 1939.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Ismail, a former Member of Shura Council, then fled to London despite an investigation being conducted into the sinking of his 36-year-old ship Al-Salam Boccacio 98.
Una quete amorosa sulle sponde del Mediterraneo", Claude Cazale Berard studia le valenze poetiche ed ideologiche del giardino nel Filocolo e in opere successive del Boccacio. Nel romanzo giovanile, le tappe del viaggio di Florio, nelle quali hanno luogo successive prove iniziatiche, sono tutte localita famose per i loro giardini.
(It is an irony of history that Ockham died of the plague in the first year of the European pandemic.) As images of the Totentanz (death dance) and stories from Boccacio's Decameron suggest, the reasonableness and epistemological certainty of scholastic rationalism seemed hopelessly passe in a world whose social and cultural sureties had been leveled by the pandemic.
Captain offers the first-person narrative of Robert Contreras's personal struggle with tuberculosis interspersed with tales that draw upon the work of Albert Camus' The Plague, Boccacio's The Decameron, and other well-known texts while simultaneously emphasizing the contrast and the social and economic ruptures between what appears to be an undisturbed world and the anguish of reality for the Chicana/o subject who must live in this contradictory world.
The name of the author makes its first appearance in this edition, albeit in a partly Anglicized form: 'Preserved to Posterity by the Renowned Iohn Boccacio, the first Refiner of Italian prose: And now translated into English'.
The mean [[sigma].sub.T] from 10 to 150 kHz was measured from boccacio with a mean length of 468 mm.
The essay by Ursula Kocher on the use of illustrations in Boccacio's Decameron as influential paratext and that by Manuel Braun, which tells a story of illustrations disappearing from novels as a means of guiding reader reception, are notable.
The piece is a reworking of the famous story from Boccacio's Decameron, in which King Gualtiero tests the loyalty and commitment of his low-born wife, Griselda, through a series of increasingly cruel deceptions.