The Decameron | Study Guide

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron | Conclusion | Summary

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Summary

In his author's conclusion, Boccaccio wishes to address some of the criticism he already sees coming his way. He did this once already in the Introduction to the Fourth Day, but he intends to address more specific admonishments now that the tales are complete. First he addresses those who think the tales told are too licentious for women to hear and tell. His response is anything can and should be said if phrased properly, which he thinks he did in The Decameron.

He first confronts those who might have a problem with the language in his tales. He counters their arguments by first saying he had to stay true to the tale itself otherwise he risked distorting the meaning, then continues on to say if someone reading has problems with the word choices used, they should have the same problems with everyday speech and words like wiener, fat sausage, hole, and any other words that might have sexual connotations. He argues his stories should be given the same consideration and freedom as the art of the time period. He then goes on to argue the stories were told not in a church, but in a garden. A garden is meant for pleasurable pursuits, just as his stories were meant to bring pleasure. He also manages to get another dig in at the clergy by saying there are a number of scandalous tales in the Bible.

Next, Boccaccio argues his stories can be good or bad depending on the listener. It is not the tales themselves that are to blame, but the way the person listening perceives and interprets them. A sword is neither good nor bad: it is the person wielding it that determines its actions. If people want to attach base meaning to Boccaccio's stories, that is their prerogative. He is not forcing anyone to read them.

To those who say some of the stories are not as good as others, Boccaccio simply counters with what field doesn't have a few weeds in it? And for those who say some of the stories are too long, he again mentions he created The Decameron with ladies in mind who have little to fill their time with and require distraction, so length is not an issue for them.

Finally, Boccaccio leaves it up to the reader to make the decision about his skill, intent, and disposition of the tales provided in The Decameron. He can only thank God for his help in reaching the end of his work. He hopes the women reading this enjoy the tales, and, if they did, they think of him fondly.

Analysis

As with the preface, Boccaccio again uses the authorial persona here in the epilogue. He offers a response to the stock complaints of medieval critics of the period. He's already arguing for the narrative prose form in earlier instances of narrative interludes, and here he continues. While his persona is dismissive of the tales as being meant only for those ladies needing distraction, this attitude is not to be believed. Boccaccio had already elevated the prose narrative in earlier works; it doesn't make sense he would belittle his accomplishments here. He challenges those critics who still say a narrative novel is not worthy of consideration.

Boccaccio's conclusion is as timely today as it was in medieval times. He mentions words and items (like swords) have no meaning beyond what the reader or user applies to them. A sword is not good or bad, but the hand that holds it determines whether its actions are good or bad. There is a level of relativity in this statement that was not typically present in literature of the time; it is a subject we still struggle with today with regards to gun use and what constitutes pornography. The idea judgment was personal and relative was unique to Boccaccio, making The Decameron something that can be read and debated even in modern times.

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