Boccaccio! You dog!

June 29, 2008 § Leave a comment

Finished: The Decameron.

I lied, I have one more comment on this.

In his epilogue, Boccaccio defends himself against those who will say that he has “an evil and venomous tongue” for his comments on the corruption of the clergy, among other things.  In the penultimate paragraph, he writes:

I will grant you, however, that the things of this world have no stability, but are subject to constant change, and this may well have happened to my tongue.  But not long ago, distrusting my own opinion (which in matters concerning myself I trust as little as possible), I was told by a lady, a neighbour of mine, that I had the finest and sweetest tongue in the world; and this, to tell the truth, was at a time when few of these tales remained to be written.  So because the aforementioned ladies are saying these things in order to spite me, I intend that what I have said shall suffice for my answer.

So, your neighbor-lady says you have a fine and sweet tongue, eh, Boccaccio?  Is this a double entendre?  Or unintentional comedy?  After these singularly bawdy tales, I am inclined to see this as intentional and quite saucy of him, but I couldn’t presume to draw a conclusion without reading the original.  But after all, earlier in the epilogue he says that many of his tales were no less inappropriate than people who use words like “rod,” “hole,” and “stuffing” every day.  It’s the kind of comment that, coming at the very end of the book, makes clear the book’s dual purposes of “instruction”: the potentially duplicitous reason of showing ladies what to watch out for so they can protect themselves accordingly, and the possibly more sincere reason of showing the many ways and means of taking their pleasure, making their loves.

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