Analysis Of Giovanni Boccaccio´S Decameron

2516 words - 10 pages

Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron is a series of tales written during the Late Middle Ages that is meant to entertain the reader. While the entertainment value of Boccaccio’s work in undeniable, the Decameron also provides the reader with information about society at the time, and Boccaccio’s own worldview. One of the most prevalent themes throughout the Decameron is the portrayal of clergymen and members of religious communities as negative influences on those around them, constantly behaving in a manner unfit for those who are supposed to be moral and spiritual exemplars. Throughout the tales told by the lieta brigada, many priests, and friars are portrayed as being extremely lustful and greedy, frequently indulging in sex (often with the wives of other men), and living lives more befitting of a minor lord than a monk. Those clergymen who are not portrayed as out rightly immoral are usually stupid, and are unable to stop others from acting immorally because of their ignorance. Despite this, a few of the clergymen in the story are shown as ultimately having good intentions, or improving in morality through the actions of another. To understand all of these criticisms of the clergy, we must look at them through a historical lens, and observe the behavior of members of the Church in the Late Middle Ages. Finally, these analyses of the Decameron’s portrayal of clergymen may give us insight into Boccaccio’s own faith, and allow us to understand the motives of the author. In this essay, I will analyze the portrayal of clergymen and members of religious communities in Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron. I will focus on the licentiousness, greed, and stupidity of these members of the Church, while also evaluating the few portrayals of good men of the cloth. I will attempt to compare Boccaccio’s portrayal of priests, monks, and friars with the history of the Church in the Late Middle Ages, and attempt to synthesize this into an analysis of Boccaccio’s own faith, and view of the Church.
One of the worst qualities Boccaccio frequently portrays in the men who are meant to serve the Church is their licentiousness, and frequent sexual escapades. This quality that many of the priests and religious men possess is especially bad because of the perception of these men as chaste and celibate, which are laudable qualities that few, if any, of the men of the cloth in Boccaccio’s tales possess. It also is especially heinous because of the promises or vow of celibacy that these men have taken. Even worse, the men of the Church often do not sin on their own, but acts as accomplices to another person’s sin as well. One of the worst portrayals in this category is the affair between Friar Rinaldo and Madonna Agnesa, told by Elissa on the seventh day. When Friar Rinaldo reveals his desire for a sexual relationship with Madonna Agnesa, she responds, “Heaven help me, you are my child’s godfather; how could you suggest such a thing? It would be awfully wicked; in fact I was...

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