The Book of the City of Ladies

Boccaccio's influence

Christine's main source for information was Giovanni Boccaccio's De mulieribus claris (On Famous Women), possibly in the French version, Des Cleres et Nobles Femmes. This text was a biographical treatise on ancient famous women. Christine also cited from Boccaccio's Decameron in the latter stages of The City of Ladies. The tales of Ghismonda and Lisabetta, for example, are quoted as coming from Boccaccio's Decameron.

Boccaccio's influence can be seen in Christine's stance on female education. In the tale of Rhea Ilia, Boccaccio advocates for young women's right to choose a secular or religious life. He states that it is harmful to place young girls into convents while they are “ignorant, or young, or under coercion.” Boccaccio states that girls should be “well brought up from childhood in the parental home, taught honesty and praiseworthy behavior, and then, when they are grown and with their entire mind know what of their own free will” choose the life of monasticism. Boccaccio believes that young girls need to be taught about life and virtues before they are consecrated to God.

While he does not say women should have a formal education, he is still advocating for women to have a say in their lives and the right to be well informed about their possible futures. Therefore, Boccaccio's belief in educating young girls about secular and religious life could have acted as a stepping stone for Christine's belief in female education. Boccaccio's outlook was however, according to Margaret King and Albert Rabil, "sexist in that he praised the traditional values of chastity, silence, and obedience in women, and furthermore depicting women in the public sphere as suffering as in form of punishment for transcending boundaries."

Boccaccio’s text is mainly used for Parts I and II of the book, while Part III is more reliant upon Jean de Vignay’s Miroir historical (1333). This text is the French translation of the historical portions of Speculum Maius, an encyclopedia by Vincent of Beauvais that was begun after 1240.[5][8]

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