Giovanni Boccaccio was one of the most important figures who paved the way for Renaissance in Italy. Boccaccio lived during the 14th century and is noted for having written in many genres, styles, languages and on many themes.
Giovanni’s style was closer to the Renaissance authors than the medieval authors, which made him a forerunner of the European Renaissance. His works in Italian vernacular contributed to the compilation of a significant body of literature in the language, making it possible for modern Italian language to eventually evolve from it.
Giovanni Boccaccio was born in 1313. At an early age, he was introduced to the works of Dante which profoundly influenced his literary undertaking later in life. He initially sought a career as a lawyer while pursuing his literary interests at the same time.
Although he took little interest in law, his career took him to different courts of Europe and helped him come into contact with many scholars and statesmen of the age. He became associated with the court of Naples in the 1330s and while being at Naples, he began penning down works of poetry.
He arrived in Florence in 1341 and spent many subsequent years in the city. He began work on his magnum opus, the Decameron, in 1349 and completed it by 1352. In 1350 and 1351, Boccaccio also had two detailed meetings with the famed Francesco Petrarch, taking him as his mentor and guide. He continued writing on various topics including classic mythology, history, humanistic themes and other subjects until his death in 1375.
During the early phase of his literary career, the most famous works Giovanni completed were poetry. These include Teseida, Filostrato, La caccia di Diana and Filocolo. ‘Amorosa Visione’ is another notable work of Giovanni which is a fifty-canto poem meant to serve as an allegorical work.
‘The Decameron’ is the most famous work of Giovvanni and the most notable work of literature he produced. He also penned down many non-literary works such as the ‘Genealogia deorum gentilium’ which refers to the classic Greek and Roman mythologies.
Through his works, Giovanni sought to bring the humanistic ideals of classic antiquity to contemporary Europe while also contributing to the body of Italian vernacular literature. In literary works, Giovanni’s style is marked by a realism which made him a forerunner of the Renaissance ideas.
‘The Decameron’ is the work for which Giovanni is best known. This work comprises of a hundred tales shared by ten characters and is styled in the form of novellas. Giovanni wrote this work in vernacular Florentine language and made a rich use of different themes in the tales. The background of the tales is set in the period when Florence was being ravaged by ‘The Black Death’. Seven young women and three young men seek refuge in a remote villa to be away from the plague and it is here that they shared the hundred tales with each other.
The Decameron is noted for embodying the mercantile ideals of contemporary Europe at a time when the merchant class had effectively overtaken the traditional feudal class in many parts of Europe, including Florence.