Decameron 2 Essay

Submitted By Lstheroberto52
Words: 1772
Pages: 8

The Story’s within stories
Giovanni Boccaccio uses his literary masterpiece, The Decameron, to demonstrate the effects of the black plague on not only Florentine society, but also the downfall of the church and how people dealt with death. He uses the introduction, the tales themselves, and the reasoning behind the stories, to convey these themes. Boccaccio uses his firsthand account of the plague to give the reader a descriptive look into the horrors that it caused. He said it “killed an infinite number of people as it spread relentlessly”, the actual number killed was 50 million, or 60% of Europe’s population (Boccaccio 7). He goes into detail describing the symptoms of the illness; bleeding from the nose, swelling of groin/armpits, and black/livid spots found all over the body. Once these symptoms appeared, the victim only had three days to live.
While Boccaccio uses the 100 stories to tell of life before the plague, he uses the introduction to put the reader right in the middle of the plague and to show the effects that it had on society. What caused the plague? This was one of the biggest and most pondered questions of the time. People thought it was “because of the influence of heavenly bodies” or that the “doctors were so ignorant that they… could not prescribe the proper remedy” (Boccaccio 7-8). When faced with this kind of decision it is easier to blame God for not stopping it or to say that He is the cause, over claiming it to be man’s fault. This is where the Catholic Church starts to become less and less important to the common man. There a many different ways you can see the church becoming less important and less trusted, the first is in burial rituals. Before the plague, people would get together to mourn the recently deceased and carry them to the church to receive a proper burial. After the plague people stopped mourning the dead, they did not bury them, they did not bring them to the church, all they would do is drag them do the streets and let the becchini take care of the body. Besides burial, you can see the abundance of sins that people committed showing their lack of faith in the church. One of the biggest was the crime rate. The author describes this as “the authority of laws, both divine and human, had fallen and almost completely disappeared” (Boccaccio 8). Theft was possibly the biggest crime; wealthy families fled Florentine to go to the county side to escape the disease, leaving behind all their positions. Not only did the wealthy flee, the police did too, resulting in no one stopping or punishing crime. Another divine sin that was a problem was gluttony. People who found out they were sick, or people who thought they were going to become sick “did their best to consume what they already had at hand” (Boccaccio 14). They would leave their fields unattended, release their livestock, and binge on their food and liquor. One of the last divine laws broken was when women, no matter their nobility, would show any man she pleased any part of her body that he requested. Not only is this a sin, but it also what led to the looser values of the women who survived. The next issue, and one of the most reoccurring one, is abandonment. Throughout the entire introduction, the author references it many times, the abandonment of the sick, religion, and family. When deciding to leave, Pampinea brings up how they “would not be abandoning anyone; on the contrary, [they] can honestly say it [was them themselves] that have been abandoned” either through dying, or through them leaving Florence without them (Boccaccio 18). All the other women feel the same way, that is how they leave Florence and start their journey to the countryside.
On their journey through the countryside, Boccaccio describes to the reader how the characters deal with the horrors that the plague brought. The first thing they do is rebuild the social structure that they lost and crave. Pampinea, the eldest of the women, says, “I think we should…