Giovanni Boccaccio, a Biographical Study

Giovanni Boccaccio, a Biographical Study

by Edward Hutton

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Of the three great writers who open the literature of the modern world, Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, it is perhaps the last who has the greatest significance in the history of culture, of civilization. Without the profound mysticism of Dante or the extraordinary sweetness and perfection of Petrarch, he was more complete than either of them, full at once of laughter and humility and love�that humanism which in him alone in his day was really a part of life. For him the center of things was not to be found in the next world but in this. To the Divine Comedy he seems to oppose the Human Comedy, the Decameron, in which he not only created for Italy a classic prose, but gave the world an ever-living book full of men and women and the courtesy, generosity, and humanity of life, which was to be one of the greater literary influences in Europe during some three hundred years.

In England certainly, and indeed almost everywhere to-day, the name of Boccaccio stands for this book, the Decameron. Yet the volumes he wrote during a laborious and really uneventful life are very numerous both in verse and prose, in Latin and in Tuscan. He began to write before he was twenty years old, and he scarcely stayed his hand till he lay dying alone in Certaldo in 1375. That the Decameron, his greatest and most various work, should be that by which he is most widely known, is not remarkable; it is strange, however, that of all his works it should be the only one that is quite impersonal.[xii] His earlier romances are without exception romans � clef; under a transparent veil of allegory he tells us eagerly, even passionately, of himself, his love, his sufferings, his agony and delight. He too has confessed himself with the same intensity as St. Augustine; but we refuse to hear him. Over and over again he tells his story. One may follow it exactly from point to point, divide it into periods, name the beginning and the ending of his love, his enthusiasms, his youth and ripeness; yet we mark him not, but perhaps wisely reach down the Decameron from our shelves and silence him with his own words; for in the Decameron he is almost as completely hidden from us as is Shakespeare in his plays. And yet for all this, there is a profound unity in his work, which, if we can but see it, makes of all his books just the acts of a drama, the drama of his life. The Decameron is already to be found in essence in the Filocolo, as is the bitter melancholy of the Corbaccio, its mad folly too, and the sweetness of the songs. For the truth about Boccaccio can be summed up in one statement almost, he was a poet before all things, not only because he could express himself in perfect verse, nor even because of the grace and beauty of all his writing, his gifts of sentiment and sensibility, but because he is an interpreter of nature and of man, who knows that poetry is holy and sacred, and that one must accept it thankfully in fear and humility.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940150650947
Publisher: Bronson Tweed Publishing
Publication date: 08/30/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 884,673
File size: 5 MB

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