Giovanni was an important Renaissance humanist, poet, Italian writer, and correspondent of Petrarch. According to Wikipedia, “Some scholars (including Vittore Branca) define him as the greatest European prose writer of his time, a versatile writer who amalgamated different literary trends and genres, making them converge in original works, thanks to a creative activity exercised under the banner of experimentalism.” He was born on June 16, 1313 in the city of Certaldo, Italy, and died on December 21, 1375 in the same city in which he was born. Among his works was a collection of short stories called The Decameron. The Decameron will be the story in the title “Why did Boccaccio have the first story teller invoke God?”
The Decameron, according to Wikipedia, is “subtitled Prince Galehaut and sometimes nicknamed l’Umana commedia, is a collection of short stories by the 14th-century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio. The book is structured as a frame story containing 100 tales told by a group of seven young women and three young men; they shelter in a secluded villa just outside Florence in order to escape the Black Death, which was afflicting the city.” This book was written in 1353. Is was a piece of Renaissance literature, and it was very popular at the time.
The Black Death was a plague that ravaged Europe from 1347 to 1351. One-third of Europe’s population died from the plague. According to Wikipedia, “It is the most fatal pandemic recorded in human history, causing the death of 75–200 million people, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351.”
Boccaccio tells a story of seven noble ladies in a church. They are having a conversation. The oldest of them, a woman named Pampinea, declares that they should leave the city and find a place of solitude where they can live apart from the world. The other six agree. They find three men willing to go with them. Together, the ten of them, plus their servants, leave the city and try to find a suitable place to live. Two miles out of town, they find an abandoned castle, in fairly good condition. It is there that they decided to live. In order to entertain themselves, they each tell stories. The first story teller, Pamfilo, is the one whose story I will be talking about.
Pamfilo says that God’s grace visited them because God is a good God and they were faithful to him. However, sometimes good people have error in judgement and they make someone their advocate who is actually just evil. Pamfilo’s story tells of a merchant who hires a wicked person to bring back money that is rightfully the merchants, so the criminal sets out on his mission. While on his mission and was staying with two money lenders when he became deathly ill. One day, while he was sick, the criminal heard his hosts talking about what to do with him. They could not kick him out lest they be criticized, they could not bring in a priest to hear his confession because he probably would not confess, but they could not not bring in a priest because if word gets around that they let an evil person into their house they might still be criticized. So the criminal told them to bring him the most holy man they could find, and they did. The criminal told the holy man that he was also very holy. When the criminal died, the people made him a saint.
The true message of Boccaccio’s stories was a rebellion against Christianity and a thought structure completely against the moral order enforced by God and Christian institutions.