Europe And The Black Death Essay

1827 words - 7 pages

Chaos struck all-over Europe in the 14th century; no social class or individual was immune from this mysterious disaster. Historians estimated that this unidentifiable disease killed “more than 20 million people in Europe–almost one-third of the continent’s population,” by the 1350’s (Black Death). Now in today’s society scientists classify the unidentifiable disease as the bubonic plague, also referred to as the Black Death. During fourteenth century European-society, there was no logical medical knowledge; instead, people resorted to supplementary explanations, such as God punishing misbehaving religious groups and sinners (Black Death). In this time period, oral tradition was still common among the illiterate. Luckily, for the upper class, there was a slight advantage: several people were literate and documented the event of the Black Death by letters, poems, or even stories. The Decameron, by Giovanni Boccaccio, is a fictional medieval allegory. Within this frame narrative, 100 fictional tales were told by among the characters, describing the life in Italy the same years as the bubonic plague. In the text, Boccaccio depicts a story about ten wealthy Italians fleeing to the countryside after news of this mysterious deadly disease. Through interpretations of the story, Boccaccio gives insight about the Black Death’s effects, believed causation of the time, moral and religious standard, and response of the people in Florence, Italy. In addition, the texts include information unrelated to the Black Death, such as insight about the effects the Decameron had on society, Boccaccio’s reason for creating the story, and the intended audience (Boccaccio).
For understanding the Decameron, it is essential to acknowledge the contemporary events occurring during Boccaccio’s lifetime. The Black Death was already precedent throughout Egypt, Asia and northern Africa, prior to its arrival via boats in 1346 Sicily Italy, which later spread throughout almost all of Europe (Benedictow). Boccaccio’s resident resided in Florence Italy, where he wrote the Decameron from the years 1348-1353 A.D.. Uncoincidentally, the composure date overlaps with the prime infecting period of the bubonic plague. Boccaccio was a wealthy merchant who produced other literature prior to the Decameron, reflecting moral attributes of Italian society (Encyclopedia Britannica). Also occurring in this time was the transition away from everyday use of the Catholic Church’s official language: Latin. The Decameron begins to follow the new trend from other renaissance writers by composing literature in vernacular form. By composing in colloquial literature, or the “everyday spoken language of the common people”, this reveals Boccaccio’s potential audience – the commoners, or the whole society, not the specified group of the clergy or Latin readers (Judge and Langdon 359-6).
The language of the allegory’s composure and publication reveals more than just the intended audience; the Decameron also...

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