Boccaccio’s Decameron is a fascinating 14th century literature, and most readers of the text find it to be complex. This notion of complexity has led to wide misunderstanding of the literature works. The Decameron’s setting is fictional with events spreading over a ten-day period. In this duration, the characters, seven females and three males, narrate close to 100 tales to each other while cooped in a country estate. The author gets the title of the book The Decameron, which in literal terms means ten days of work displayed satire. In this study paper, we analyze the aspect of The Decameron as a satire of the 14th century society.
Readers of this literature focus on the technique of ten narrators although this is not the greatest source of satire. The main emphasis is one hundred stories narrated by the characters. At first, for the readers, the tales are chillingly sneaky, overtly sexual, and even knee slapping comical. The author has substantial input in each tale starting with a humorous aspect and ending with a moral lesson of each story (Hollander 45). In each narration, the reader will experience laughter followed by bittersweet truth, which is the lesson. The 14th century was a period in which people were never sure of their destinies irrespective of their conduct. People of this century believed in one way or another, in the power of magic spells, rituals, incantations, and other traditions. However, these notions did not apply to the members of the merchant classes. Reading the book, one realizes that even the merchant classes still had the belief in the supernatural powers which was not what the society portrayed (Boccaccio, 102). The reason behind this traditional thinking in a society considered modern is the high dependency on measured calculations and prudence. The Decameron applies magical elements to attain a number of effects, several of which are satirical in nature.
The characters of Beffato and Beffatore clearly bring out Boccaccio’s social criticism in relation to the conviction people have in magic powers. In most cases, individuals who believe in magic’s effectiveness in their lives is the prime source of jokes revolving around money, sexuality, and revenge. Through the characters, it is evident that these criticisms are not based on the person’s social class. The book’s satire in the society has focus on the individual characters who seem vulnerable to harmful superstition (Boccaccio, 89). In addition, the so-called enlightened society mainly was comprised of foolish people, males and females, who lack intelligence. According to the tales, the characters easily believed whatever tantalizingly concealed rubbish someone directs their way. This is evident from the phrase that ‘intelligence can liberate the shrewd man from risks and reinstate him to his safe and sound state,” (Boccaccio, 32)
The Decameron explores love stories, which end happily after overcoming several difficulties. In addition, the book expresses the victory of human intelligence and the subject of wives tricking their husbands, which the 14th century society claimed to be non-existent. The exploration of these themes in The Decameron assaults ethics of the era with supercharged erotic narrations. Boccaccio’s satire exposed significant problems in the society and the church, which still exist even in the present 21st century (Hollander pg 78 1997). The great belief in magic power and the presence of churches during the era explains the irony of the society. In most cases, the plot of the tales is a religious setting because the church has always played a significant role in medieval times. However, there is much immorality and misconception of God’s power by the society that makes the book a perfect scandal of the past times (Boccaccio, 34).
Reading the entire The Decameron reveals several instances of satire. The main focus seems to be on the church as there are less than dozen stories in which the church is not mentioned. Almost every tale in the book has a priest, who is extremely corrupt. He engages in ungodly acts and claims to still be a man of God (Boccaccio, 24). The satire is in the people who seem to overlook the corrupt and immoral nature, which is quite disrespectful to the church.