“The Decameron is a collection of one hundred short stories, written in Italian (and not it Latin) by Boccaccio, between 1349 and 1353. Giving birth to Italian prose.
It is quite famous for his stories of amorous gallantry, from erotic to tragic ones.
The word Decameron comes from the ancient Greek δέκα / deka (“ten”), and ἡμέρα / hêméra (“day”); it is therefore the “book of the ten days”.
It opens with a brief preamble in which the author speaks in his own name. Mysteriously cured of an obsessive love, he decided to devote a little of his time to the pleasures of a readership mainly feminine.
Boccaccio describes the ravages of the Black Death which reached Florence in 1348 and the impact of the epidemic on the whole social life of the city.
While Florence is decimated, seven young women (friends, relatives or neighbors) of the Florentine high society happen to be gathered together in the almost deserted Sainte Marie Nouvelle church. Borrowing names: Pampinea, 28 years old, the oldest of the group; Fiametta; Filomena; Emilia; Lauretta; Neifile; Elissa, 18 years old, the youngest.
Referring to the sanitary situation, Pampinea launched the idea of retiring out of the city to protect both their health and reputation. Three young men enter the church: Panfilo; Filostrato and Dioneo, and accept to join this project of “journey”.
Pampinée is designated “queen” of the day, organizing the departure. All the servants are to ensure the stewardship (kitchen, valets, etc.)
The next day, leaving Florence at daybreak they take refuge in an idyllic countryside, an heaven on earth.
Every new day begins with a poetic and colorful sunrise. This peaceful universe forms a marked contrast with the infectious atmosphere of the city contaminated by epidemics.
The confrontation of these two opposing aspects, which are the carelessness of a few young people in a flower garden and a population decimated by the Black Death, is an example of the style figure called antithesis. It is, moreover, one of the major twists of the Decameron.
To entertain themselves, they set up a rule according to which each must tell a daily story illustrating the theme chosen by the king or queen of the day. The first and the ninth day, to vary, have a free theme. Thus ten young men, each telling one news for ten days, produced a total of one hundred new ones. The title of the work indicates this pre-eminence of number 10 since deca means 10. They meet every day except Friday and Saturday to tell a story in turn about the theme chosen the day before.
The stay lasts more than ten days, because some time is devoted to other pleasures (banquets, dance, music…).”