Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron (1348) recasts the storytelling heritage of the ancient and medieval worlds into perennial forms that inspired writers from Chaucer and Shakespeare down to our own day. Boccaccio makes the incredible believable, with detail so sharp we can look straight into the lives of people who lived six hundred years ago. His Decameron hovers between the fading glories of an aristocratic past – the Crusades, the Angevins, the courts of France, the legendary East – and the colourful squalor of contemporary life, where wives deceive husbands, friars and monks pursue fleshly ends, and natural instincts fight for satisfaction. Here are love and jealousy, passion and pride – and a shrewd calculation of profit and loss which heralds the rise of a dynamic merchant class. These stories show us early capitalism during a moment of crisis and revelation.
The following example is Boccaccio’s romantic short tale Cymon and Iphigenia.