The Decameron

Boccaccio's Pre-Renaissance Implications on Morality and Censorship in The Decameron

Writing in Italy during the 14th century, Boccaccio is caught in the historical dichotomy between the blind adherence to the Church that permeated the Middle Ages and the emerging Humanism that characterized the Renaissance. It is clear that Boccaccio chooses to look forward, as he embraces frivolity and gives scathing portrayals of churchmen and women. He brings up the issue of obscenity in his epilogue anticipating a response of moral objection to his stories. While Boccaccio does acknowledge in his epilogue that his stories can be perceived as amoral, he ultimately argues that morality is not the purpose of his book, and that readers can avoid being offended. Nevertheless, Boccaccio does uphold certain values in his short stories, namely a personal morality of action and the significance of trifles and humor in life.

Boccaccio's epilogue is essentially a defense against the charge of obscenity in his work. He first claims the instances of obscenity are slight and do not make the work immoral. His occasional "trifling indiscretion of speech," he argues, is similar to using words that can have amoral connotations such as "mortar" and "sausage," a practice which he states is common in speech. He...

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